Thursday, December 13, 2012


I tried my hand at something new this year: limoncello. There are countless recipes online and they all seemed somewhat simple: take lemon zest and put it in alcohol and let it steep. Add simple syrup and then put in the freezer. The not so simple part is that there are nuances to the recipes that I think will take a couple of tries to adequately sort out.
For my recipe, I used 15 lemons and a bottle of 100 proof vodka. I steeped for 30 days and then added simple syrup made from 3 cups of water and 3 cups of sugar. I let it sit once more, for three weeks, and then removed the zest and put in the freezer. The result is good... if you use it as a mixer. The taste is a little harsh and very strong on the vodka-side. There is also a slight bitterness.

Further reading told me how important it was to have absolutely NO pith in the mixture. The bitterness in my case is not all that bad and goes away with a little more sweetener. I think that I may try another recipe with more sugar (some I have seen call for as much as 5 cups) to combat this. The piece that seems to be the biggest hangup, for me, is the vodka. The flavor is very pronounced and a bit much. I found a few recipes that call for grain alcohol instead. Actually, some insist on it. I even found a few unique ways of extracting the lemon essence. But since suspending lemons over vats of alcohol seem to be beyond me at the moment, I may just try the grain alcohol next time. When I get to the second limoncello experiment, I will post about it.

Until then, I will find some uses for the bottle of limoncello I have left. So far I have used it as a drink with soda water and a little sugar (very tasty). One of the coolest recipes I've found with it is this limoncello pie. It came out great and I strongly recommend it. For the holidays, I am going to add it to my anignetti.      


Josh @ Bungalow '23 said...

I'm making limoncello for the first time, too. I'm using grain alcohol (151 proof) and I zested the lemons pith-free, though my steeping time will need to be cut short in order to have the product ready to gift by Christmas. Fingers crossed! Thanks for sharing your experience.

Chris said...

Josh, I can't believe that cutting the steeping time a little short would be a problem. The lemon flavor in mine is very good and I think it would have been just as good at two or three weeks.

StuccoHouse said...

I make limoncello every few years using a similar recipe and keep it in my freezer You need to give it a few more moths. It will mellow out dramatically. It will go from a mixer to a really smooth apertif.

Amalie said...

I'm going to try this next year-- I love limoncello! I'm wondering if maybe using a smoother vodka would help if you don't have time to let it mellow more?? What brand did you use? Something like Belvedere (they make a 100proof if that's necessary), or even Russian Standard might be smoother. My in-laws have brought vodka back from Russia that tastes like nothing-- like water that warms your chest. It's amazing and dangerous.

Chris said...

I wish I could remember which vodka I used. I did taste it and didn't think it was particularly harsh at the time. I'll have to report in another couple weeks and sss how the aging fares. I have finished one of the two bottles though and am sure I would use another in the summer so this was worth it.