Limoncello is a liquor made from the skin of sweet southern Italian lemons and a very popular drink across Italy. The Amalfi coast is famous for their limoncello, where the lemons are mild and sweet and enormous compared to the ones that we have here in the United States.
Recently I had the opportunity to purchase lemons from Sorrento and my immediate thought was to use them to make limoncello – and boy, am I glad I did. The final product was strong but smooth and I happily gifted it to family, neighbors and friends. After some trial and error, I am happy to share with you the ratios that I used. The recipe has just a few ingredients – the peel of 10 large (or 15 regular sized) lemons, Everclear 151 proof alcohol, sugar and water. Keep in mind that you can adjust this recipe to your taste – to make it stronger, you can let the lemon peel sit for longer with the alcohol, or to make it sweeter, you can mix it with more sugar syrup.
Limoncello is categorized as a digestif, a liquor meant to be sipped after dinner to help you digest your meal. It is best served as cold as possible – you can keep the bottle in the freezer or you can freeze your liquor glasses ahead of time. More modernly, it is often used in cocktails and many baking recipes. However you use it, I assure you, its well worth the minimal effort to put it together!
- 10 Amalfi Coast Lemons, or 15 organic* lemons
- 750 ml 151 proof Everclear
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups water
- Wash your lemons well and dry thoroughly. Peel the lemons and split the peels between two sterilized mason jars**.
- Pour half of the alcohol into one jar and the remaining alcohol into the other. Close the mason jars tightly and store in a dry, cool place (such as a basement) for 10-14 days.*** Every few days, shake the jars.
- After your alcohol has absorbed the flavor and color of the lemons, set a strainer over a large pitcher or bowl and drain the mason jars. You can discard the peel.
- In a large pot on a medium flame, mix the water and sugar. Allow this to simmer together until the sugar is completely dissolved, about 5-10 minutes. Transfer to a heat proof container and cool.
- In a large pitcher or container, mix the cooled sugar syrup and alcohol together. Taste – if you prefer a sweeter product, you can make another batch of simple syrup and mix it in as well. Transfer to bottles and let chill for 4 hours – overnight before enjoying cold.
*It is important to use clean, organic lemons here because the alcohol will strip the lemons of all its flavor and color, and pesticides if the lemons are not organic. I personally used lemons imported from Italy, but have read that if you used American lemons, Meyer lemons produce the sweetest limoncello.
**To sterilize mason jars: bring a large pot of water to a boil, and place clean mason jars in the water and allow to submerge. After 10 minutes, remove jars with a pair of tongs and allow to cool. Dry thoroughly.
***The strength of the limoncello will lie in the strength of the alcohol used and how long it sits with the lemons. Because I used 151 proof everclear, as opposed to vodka as some other recipes use (80 proof) it did not take long for the color and flavor to be extracted. I found 10 days to be plenty.