If you’ve ever experienced a warm summer evening in Italy, relaxing after a delicious meal and sipping a little glass of ice-cold limoncello, you have tasted a little slice of heaven.
Limoncello (lee-mohn-CHEH-loh) is the generic name for an Italian citrus liqueur and has long been a staple in the lemon-producing regions along the Amalfi and Ligurian Coasts. It is an infusion of lemon skins in pure alcohol and is served in restaurants across Italy as an after-dinner drink.
Refreshing and light, it is tasty on its own but also great with champagne or mixed into the most luscious lemondrop ever. It is also delightful drizzled on ice cream or fruit salads.
Keep your bottles of Limoncello in the freezer until ready to serve. The ingredients are simple and few, and making a batch is as easy as 1-2-3, but you’ll need to allow for about 80 days of steeping time.
Here’s the most authentic recipe we’ve found:
2 bottles (750 ml) 100-proof vodka**
4 cups sugar
5 cups water
* Choose thick-skinned lemons because they are easier to zest.
** Use 100-proof vodka, which has less flavor than a lower proof one. Also the high alcohol level will ensure that the limoncello will not turn to ice in the freezer.
Wash the lemons with a vegetable brush and hot water to remove any residue of pesticides or wax and dry the lemons.
Carefully zest the lemons with a zester or vegetable peeler so there is no white pith on the peel–Use only the outer part of the rind. The pith, the white part underneath the rind, is too bitter and would spoil your limoncello.
In a 1-gallon glass jar, pour one bottle of vodka snf add the lemon zest. Cover the jar and let sit at room temperature for about 40 days in a cool dark place. The longer it rests, the better the taste will be. (There is no need to stir – all you have to do is wait.) As the limoncello sits, the vodka slowly takes on the flavor and lovely yellow color of the lemon rind.
In a large saucepan, combine the sugar and water; cook until sugar is melted and mixture is slightly thickened, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Let the syrup cool before adding it to the Limoncello mixture in the glass jar. Add the additional bottle of vodka. Allow to rest for another 40 days.
After the rest period, strain and discard the lemon peels (you can also use the reserved peels, chop finely and add to bread or angel food cake) and transfer to sterilized bottles–we use decorative bottles with cork stoppers.