Limoncello is the easiest to make and you only need four ingredients: lemons, vodka, sugar and water. Bring it as a gift to a dinner party or use to create a tasty aperitif at home.
What is Limoncello?
Limoncello is an Italian lemon liqueur, which is mainly produced in the south of the country around the Sorrentine Peninsula as well as the Amalfi coast and Capri. Lemon peels are infused in a clear grain spirit until the oils and colour have been released. This is then sweetened with sugar syrup.
The outcome is a sweet, syrupy and lemony liqueur. It doesn’t have the tartness of lemon juice, yet the intensity of the fruit is still there.
How to make it
Limoncello is easy to make, although the infusion part will take weeks, so you should prepare early if you are planning on making it for a special occasion or as a gift. It will look beautiful in a nice bottle with a handmade tag and some ribbon or a wheel of dried citrus.
15 Organic lemons
Cup of water (about 250ml)
200g Sugar (ideally white)
I recommend using organic lemons and washing them before peeling. Avoid getting any white pith in when peeling as it will bring unwanted bitterness. Combine the peel with your selected alcohol base and store in an airtight jar in a dark and cool place for at least four weeks. I used Polish Konik’s Tail vodka, 40% ABV, which is a triple-grain vodka made using spelt, golden rye and early winter wheat.
Once the infusion is ready and it has taken on the colour of the peel, it is time to mix in the sugar syrup. To prepare the syrup, keep stirring on a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Do not let the liquid boil. While the syrup is cooling, use a sieve to strain the spirit.
After you have combined the syrup and lemony spirit (use a clean, sterilized bottle), store the limoncello in the fridge for another week or two before drinking as this will allow the flavours to settle and intensify.
The alcohol volume of this recipe is approx. 35% ABV.
Tip: Add fresh thyme or rosemary in with the lemon peel a few days before you finish the maceration to bring a herbal touch to your limoncello.
How to serve it
In Italy, limoncello is usually served as a digestivo after a nice meal, lunch or dinner.
Always serve limoncello chilled, either from the fridge or, if the alcohol volume allows it, straight from the freezer. If limoncello is served warm, it tends to be sickly sweet and not enjoyable. You could also serve it over ice.
You can also use it in many cocktails, for example in Limoncello Spritz made with sparkling wine and soda. I also suggest adding in fresh lemon juice and a sprig of rosemary. See another Spritz recipe suggestion here.
Tip: Make homemade lemonade using the juice from the peeled lemons. It’s great to drink on its own or mix in with tequila and a pinch of salt.
You can make a similar liqueur with other citrus fruits using the same technique. For example, arancello is made using orange peel. Also, meloncello, made using cantaloupe melon, is very popular in Italy. Other recipes use strawberries (fragoncello) or even pistachio nuts (pistachiocello).
There’s also creamy versions available, which are made using milk instead of sugar syrup, making it cloudier and creamier. These are known as Crema di Limoncello (or Meloncello).
Have you tried homemade limoncello or other -cello variations?
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