Limoncello

When life gives you lemons, make booze.

We love keeping a bottle of homemade limoncello in our freezer. There’s nothing like pouring a round at the end of a good meal. And making limoncello is easy; you only need a few ingredients: lemons, water, alcohol, and sugar. You can also make variations using any other kind of citrus—in fact, we like using grapefruits even better than using lemons. Though it’s easy, the recipe does take at least a week (longer is better) from start to finish, so unfortunately you’ll have to be patient while you’re waiting for it to be ready for drinkin’.

The key to preventing limoncello from tasting bitter is to make sure you remove as much pith—that white, spongy layer on the rind between the fruit and the peel—as you can after peeling the rinds from the lemons. To remove the pith, lay out the pieces of citrus peel on a cutting board with the pith facing upwards. Hold the peel against the cutting board with one or two fingers and run your knife almost parallel to the cutting board away from you, putting pressure on the front edge and moving the knife in a sawing motion to remove as much of the pith as possible (see the photo in the recipe). But don’t get too crazy about it—a little bitterness in the finished product isn’t the end of the world.

The peels then go into a clean glass container with the booze to steep for a week before diluting, sweetening, and bottling. The number of lemons (or other citrus) you use isn’t too crucial, but we give guidelines in the recipe for lemons, grapefruits, and limes.

You can use any kind of high-proof booze for this recipe. Most liquor stores carry one or two brands of high-proof grain alcohol. You’ll want to aim for a final alcohol by volume (ABV) of around 30%, so if you use booze that is significantly different ABV than what we used in our recipe (192 proof), adjust your water volume accordingly. And we like around 1 to 1.5 cups of sugar per liter of finished limoncello, which will make it pretty sweet but not too cloying.

One final note: you can make the limoncello either clear or opaque, depending on how you add the simple syrup (sugar water). If you just dump all of the simple syrup into the booze when the syrup is still a bit warm, you’ll end up with an opaque drink (which we prefer). But if you want it clear, be sure to let the syrup cool to the same temperature as the booze and then add it very slowly, stirring carefully as you go.

Always store in the freezer. Drink ice cold and often!

See more photos and view the full recipe for Limoncello.