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The Tippler: Limoncello at Producer Saturdays

A couple weekends ago I had the pleasure of spending a rainy afternoon at a cozy workshop called Producer Saturdays. Conceived by Maggie Spicer, the idea behind the series is to bring together people passionate about food (and drink) culture who have something of value, a specialty or niche, that they’d like to share with a group of enthusiastic folks. Is there a better way to spend a rainy Saturday? Besides being curled up in bed with kitties, books and a fireplace, probably not.

And what an action-packed afternoon it was. Led by the charming Maxine Sharkey Giammo, we learned about nitrous extraction, limoncello-making and homemade tonics. (More on that soon.) We focused on limoncello because our lovely peak citrus season is nearing a close, and this is the perfect way to preserve their flavors. While limoncello is traditionally made with Eureka lemons, the sky’s the limit here. We made a round of bergamot-infused liquor, the same citrus used to flavor Earl Grey tea, and whose heady, bitter perfume is a pretty dynamite starting point for this digestif. You could use any citrus you want, really: oranges, limes, tangerines, pomelos, grapefruit.

Limoncello is one of those processes that doesn’t require a lot of work, but does ask for a fair amount of patience. Ideally, you’ll want to let it cure over the course of at least a month. (I cheated with my bergamot version, though, and it still taste pretty magnificent!)

The Tippler is a monthly column dedicated to cocktail culture.


LIMONCELLO

compliments of Maxine Sharkey Giammo

7-8 organic lemons (if using another type of citrus, scale down accordingly)
1 750 ml bottle grain alcohol (80 proof or higher)
1 cup sugar
2 cups water

First, thoroughly wash and scrub any residue and waxes from your citrus.

Peel the lemons. You’ll want to peel long strips along the length of the lemon, pulling off little to no white pith. If you do peel any pith, scrape it off gently with a paring knife.

Add the lemon peel to a large glass vessel. Pour in the vodka or other grain alcohol, seal tightly, and let sit for at
least one week, preferably longer! (Ideally, give it one to two months.)

After you’ve let your limoncello cure for your preferred length of time, prepare the simple syrup. I’ve gone very conservative with the sugar, although many recipes call for much more. Adjust the level of sugar according to taste.

To make the simple syrup, simmer the water and the sugar over a low heat just long enough to dissolve the sugar. Do not bring to a boil. Remove from heat, and cool to room temperature. When cool, add the simple syrup to the limoncello, tasting as you go. Allow it to rest for another 10-14 days.

Finally, strain the lemon rinds and sediment using cheesecloth or a coffee filter.

Bottle in a beautiful jar, gift to friends, or enjoy it all by yourself. (It probably won’t last long!)

  • Wally - Nice one.
    The first time I ever had limoncello was twelve years ago in Rome at a place called Loro di Napoli. That was one of the best and probably the most memorable meals of my life. I may have told you about it before.
    After the meal, the chef sat me down at the little bar and poured me my first limoncello. It was delicious! I asked him how it was made and he told me, and though he said it all in Italian I understood enough to get the gist of it.
    After that I tried every limoncello I could find, which were all bottled and not homemade, but they were all too sweet. So I made my own. I like to use meyer lemons.
    I returned to Italy at the end of last month. Loro di Napli was no more, but I did make it down to Napoli, the birthplace of limoncello. (Limoncello, being of Southern Italy, is traditionally made with Sorrento lemons, not Eureka, which are native to California. The two lemons are similar, though.)
    One night in old town Napoli we stopped in a limoncello distillery. It was just a little shop, and the proprietor took us through the whole process. It’s more or less what you describe here, just in larger batches. The limoncello was pretty good, but still just a little sweeter than I like it. I’d probably love yours with the minimal sugar!
    I’ve aged mine for up to a couple years. They do just keep getting better!
    Also, limoncello is traditionally served freezing cold. If you have the alcohol balance right it will stay liquid in the freezer.
    Be sure to let us know how it’s tasting in a couple months!ReplyCancel

  • Mika - Wally, you are right! We keep ours in the freezer…I love limoncello, the bottled limoncello are too sweet for me too and not strong enough, they even freeze in the freezer…
    My family has a big lemon tree in the garden, so every year we make limoncello…I spoke with my mother two days ago and they are making mandarinetto too this year…eheh… ^__^ReplyCancel

  • kimberley - @Wally: Thanks for the background and awesome story! And thanks for the lemon clarification too. I also used Meyer lemons for this batch.
    @Mika: How much sugar does your family add? Does that mean that if it were made with pomelos it would be pomelocello? :)ReplyCancel

  • bianca - Nice! I have always wanted to make limoncello or any flavored liqueur for that matter. This will make some delicious cocktails this spring and summer!ReplyCancel

  • NicoleD - I love the electric yellow color! In fact, I just bought a scarf that shade and I have to keep myself from wearing it every day. What a fun thing to do! Definitely a perfect way to spend a Saturday.ReplyCancel

  • Laura Flowers - Kimberley this is the easiest recipe for limoncello I’ve come across. I bet little homemade bottles would make nice Christmas gifts.

    I saved this recipe, and will try it with meyer lemons next time I get a bag from Costco.

    LauraReplyCancel

  • Producer Saturday : Cocktail Culture | maggie spicer - […] One of the attendees summed up the afternoon quite nicely; have a peek! […]ReplyCancel

  • Kankana - what an awsm way to spend the weekend. It looks so refreshing with that beautiful bright yellow color! :)ReplyCancel

  • kickpleat - I made lemoncello a few years ago to give away as Christmas gifts and I used a recipe very similar to this one. They were really well received and I was surprised at how easy it was to make. I used vodka since it was what I had on hand and it worked really well. Yours looks gorgeous and I’d love a glass to sip on – liquid sunshine!ReplyCancel

  • The Culinary Chase - I LOVE limoncello and will make this! Thanks!ReplyCancel

  • iClaire - I tried Meyer lemon limoncello last year and we are savoring every drop. My recipe is a bit different – starts off with lemon peel in grain alcohol which I leave in a dark, cool spot for many months, then mix with Sky vodka and sugar water. It turned out so tasty! Now I have batches of Orangecello, grapefruitcello, and kumquatcello all soaking. MMMMMMM. Can’t wait.ReplyCancel

  • Toby - I’ve made limoncello about a half dozen times with a similar recipe. I use Everclear 151 proof (BevMo). It’s tasteless and when diluted with the simple syrup about 50:50, it still has an appropriately high alcohol content. Always make a few bottles since you’ll want to share. Last time I made it with about 6 different kinds of citrus from the neighborhood (3 different lemons, 2 oranges, 1 lime; Don’t be afraid to ask your neighbors for their citrus. I get clear 1/2 bottles from the local wine/beer making store with replaceable tops. Our favorite drink with this is just mixing it with lemon-lime soda on ice – perfect in the summer.ReplyCancel

  • molly - Has anyone ever used agave or honey as the sweetener in their lemocello? I never use processed sugar in my recipes and I’d like to do this with one of those sweeteners. Thanks!ReplyCancel

  • emy@thehandiworks - Sounds absolutely stunning! I have to try and make some for my hubby who loves citrus flavors!

    Thanks
    EmReplyCancel

  • Juliebythesea - I am making this in the morning, it will be ready just in time for my birthday! Lemoncello Martinis are excellent on a hot South Florida afternoon!ReplyCancel

  • Andrew - One thing I would recommend is to only use grain alcohol, I prefer the 151 proof everclear but it is not available in every state. Vodka, while easier to drink than pure grain alcohol, has an inherent subtle flavor that will be present in the finished product. Using grain alcohol (I bought a brita filter and filter it all through there first but I’m a bit OCD) eliminates that subtle vodka flavor.ReplyCancel

  • samantha - Grandma’s toastReplyCancel

  • Granny Dee - Have never tasted this, but love lemon flavor. Will make this to
    share for Christmas 2012, thanks due to the complimentary comments
    offered.ReplyCancel

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