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.
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!)