A sweet liquor with an intense lemon flavor and aroma, Limoncello brings back childhood memories of refreshing lemonade enjoyed on a sweltering day. It’s a beautiful drink, its color the yellow of sunlight reflecting on the whitewashed buildings of the Mediterranean, where it is a local favorite. It is also remarkably easy to make yourself, and we’re going to show you how!
A Taste of the Mediterranean
There are many stories of how this lemon liquor first came to be. Some Caprese islanders claim that their family invented the recipe a century or so ago; others that the drink has been around since lemons began to be cultivated in the Southern Mediterranean back in the 11th Century. Most likely, similar alcoholic lemon drinks have been enjoyed for quite a while.
Regardless of its origins, this drink has become a fast favorite in many Mediterranean locales, where the heat allows lemons to grow easily. Sorrento, Caprese, and Amalfi all claim this as their drink, but you will find that its popularity has spread throughout Southern Europe.
How to Make Limoncello
- 10 fresh lemons
- 1 liter of 80 or 100 proof alcohol (vodka works well)
The stronger the alcohol, the more lemon essence your drink will have. 80 proof will work, but a higher proof will produce a smoother, more refined product. You want this to be a celebration of lemons!
Meyer lemons are fantastic, but any lemon will do. We do, however, absolutely recommend using organic lemons since we are extracting flavor from the skins. The skin of non-organic lemons may be covered in anything, from wax to pesticides. It’s worth it to spend a few more dollars on good lemons.
- Peel the lemons with a vegetable peeler or use a micro grater (make sure to get mostly the yellow outer skin, and not the inner, bitter, white pith)
- Allow the lemon shavings to sit in the alcohol for at least 4 days, and up to a month for a stronger flavor
- You can taste test along the way
- When you are happy with the infusion, strain the liquid through a cloth or sieve and then discard the lemon rind
Technically you could stop here, but adding some sugar enhances the brightness of the drink and makes it even more refreshing. Luckily, you get to decide just how much sweetness to add and how alcoholic you wish the result to be.
Sweeten to Taste
Create a simple syrup, ensuring that the sugar dissolves completely before being added into the liquor. You can dilute the alcohol more by adding more water and sweeten it more by adding more sugar.
You Will Need:
- 1-3 cups fine sugar
- 1-3 cups water
- Dissolve 1 cup of the sugar fully into 1 cup of water
- Add this syrup to the lemon infused liquor
- Taste and add more syrup as desired, using the above method to make more syrup
Your adult lemonade will keep for up to a year in the freezer, which is a great place to keep it chilled for when you need a refreshing summer drink. Enjoy it on its own or in a cocktail: Think sparkling water, prosecco, and garnishes of mint and lemon slices. This drink is the closest you’ll come to bottling up the summer sunshine.