We started making our own Limoncello a few years ago after we returned from a trip to Italy. We spent several days in Sorrento and the Amalfi coast, not missing an opportunity to sample the local Limoncello.
When we returned from Italy, my dad immediately went to work on creating his own Limoncello recipe. The Italian recipes for Limoncello calls for grain alcohol, but my dad uses 80-proof Vodka instead. The jolt from the grain alcohol, he thinks, is too strong. Limoncello aficionados disagree on the number of days the lemon peels should infuse. Some claim that infusing the lemon peels for a mere 3 to 7 days is all that’s needed to extract the lemon oils from the peels. Others believe that the lemon peels must infuse for no less than 40 days in order to reach Limoncello nirvana. A few recipes add an additional 40 days after the infused liquid is mixed with the simple syrup. Truth is, the longer the Limoncello rests, the stronger the flavor.
I prefer the grain alcohol instead of the vodka. I store the infused lemons in the refrigerator, but any place will do as long as the mixture stays cool and is free from direct light. Try substituting 10 oranges, 5 grapefruit, or strawberries (1 pint for every cup of grain alcohol) for the lemons. You can drink the Limoncello immediately after combing the simple syrup with the infused alcohol. It is served ice-cold in cordial glasses, usually after a meal.
- 12 lemons
- 4 cups grain alcohol (75.5% alcohol/vol, 151 proof)
- 4 cups sugar
- 5 cups water
- Scrub the lemons with a vegetable brush, wash, and pat dry. Peel the lemons using a potato peeler, taking care not to get any of the white with the peel. (The white pith will make the liquid bitter.)
- Put peels in a large jar with a tight-fitting lid. Add the alcohol. Close tightly and set in a cool, dark place (free from sunlight) for 40 days.
- When the 40 days are up, remove the lemon peels and strain the mixture through cheesecloth 2 or 3 times until the liquid is clear.
- Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring liquid to a simmer. Heat until sugar completely dissolves and is clear. Let cool. Add the infused alcohol. Store in the freezer until ready to serve. Makes about 2 liters.