Limoncello is a sweet, sunshine-colored liqueur made with lemon zest. Created in Italy as an after-dinner drink, it’s light and delicate with just the right amount of alcohol intensity.
While you can use any type of lemon you like, Meyer lemons will make a slightly darker (though more fragrant) limoncello. Smooth, thick skins are the best for zesting. Any white pith can turn your liqueur bitter, so the zest is the only part of the lemon skin used in this recipe. A microplane zester is the easiest tool for the job.
You can substitute 100- or 80-proof vodka for the high-proof neutral grain spirit. Using a spirit that is more than 151 proof will make for a harsh end result. Vodka will impart a little flavor of its own to the limoncello, so I’ve read that many people use a water filter pitcher (like Brita or Pur) to “purify” the vodka first. (The vodka “flavor” doesn’t bother me, so I’ve never tried this myself.)
Two weeks is the recommended steeping time, but as little as one week will work. Longer steeping times lead to a more mellow flavor, so feel free to let it steep for up to three months.
Filtering isn’t just for appearance. Small particles can change the limoncello’s flavor over time and may freeze if you choose to store your liqueur in the freezer.
Special equipment: Microplane zester, coffee filters, funnel
Makes about 750 milliliters, active time 20 minutes, total time 15 days 20 minutes
10 pesticide-free lemons
375 milliliters high-proof neutral grain spirit (such as Everclear 151)
1 3/4 cups water
1 1/4 cups sugar
Zest the lemons using a Microplane zester. Reserve the lemons for another use.
Place the zest in a sealable glass container, pour in the spirit, seal and shake. Let mixture steep in a cool, dark place for two weeks.
Once your steeping period is over, bring the water and sugar to a boil in a small sauce pan. Remove from heat and let this simple syrup cool.
Pour cooled simple syrup into lemon steeping mixture, and let this new mixture set for 24 hours.
Filter your limoncello twice: Place a coffee filter inside a funnel, then pour your steeped mixture through it into a bottle or bowl. Repeat.
Once you’ve filtered limoncello into your final bottle, refrigerate it overnight. Store in the refrigerator or freezer and enjoy!