The only way to end a meal in southern Italy, limoncello is a vibrant, neon yellow, lemon liqueur made from lemon zest soaked in neutral spirits and mixed with simple syrup. It tastes like a boozy, lemon gumdrop. And it’s incredibly easy to make at home.
All you need is a knife or a microplane zester (we prefer the latter), Everclear, a Mason jar and some lemons (while true Italian limoncello is made with Femminello St. Teresa lemons—also known as Sorrento or Sfusato lemons—any lemon will do the trick). The hardest part is having patience while it steeps.
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Tools 2 32-oz Mason jars Fine sieve Microplane Y-peeler or a paring knife Mixing bowls Funnel
Ingredients 15 lemons 1 750-ml bottle Everclear 1.5 cups white sugar 1.5 cups mineral water
Step 1 Pour the Everclear into a 32-ounce Mason jar.
Step 2 Using a microplane, zest 10 lemons into the Everclear (the finer the zest, the better).
Step 3 Cover the jar with a cloth, and let sit in a dark place for up to a week. Taste the spirit after 5 days; the longer the infusion sits, the more the spirit will pick up the bitterness in the lemon pith (which you don’t want).
Step 4 When the infusion tastes bright and lemony, and has a pale yellow color, pour the spirit through a fine sieve to remove all the peel fragments. Reserve the infused liquid.
Step 5 Make an oleo saccharum syrup: Pour the sugar into a large mixing bowl. Zest the remaining 5 lemons into the sugar using a Y-peeler or paring knife.
Step 6 Mix the sugar with the lemon peels and cover. For the best extraction, let the mixture sit overnight.
Step 8 Pour 1.5 cups very hot (near boiling) mineral water over the lemon peel-sugar mixture and stir until the sugar has dissolved completely. Strain out the peels and reserve the syrup.
Step 9 In a large mixing bowl, combine the 750 ml of infused spirit with 375 ml of oleo saccharum (you are essentially mixing two parts spirit to one part syrup, so adjust measurements as necessary). Funnel the liqueur into two 32-oz Mason jars or resealable bottles. Seal and shake to incorporate. Congratulations, you just made the greatest limoncello of your life.
The limoncello will keep indefinitely if refrigerated. Sip it straight as a digestif, or use it as a replacement for simple syrup in citrus-forward cocktails like Lemon Drop Martinis.