November in the kitchen – Limoncello

Have you ever had Limoncello? It originated in Italy and is considered a digestif, an aid to digestion after a heavy meal. Sounds like Thanksgiving dinner is right up there as an appropriate time to drink it. Thanksgiving, feasting, and overeating go together. Since I am a lazy baker, it’s my friend. I serve it throughout the year as dessert with a cookie (store bought but good quality) on the side. Shortbread is my favorite. No one complains.

Surprisingly, for being something so simple, there are an amazing number of recipes for Limoncello. Following is the recipe that has become my favorite, but it is not traditional. Limoncello usually has only three ingredients…lemon peel, vodka, and simple syrup. The vodka recommended is often 100 proof or Everclear. I’ve tried 100 proof vodka, and found it too strong; I’ve tried regular 80 proof with only the addition of simple syrup and found it neither distinctive or lemony enough. So, I add some squeezed lemon juice at the end. I think it gives a lemony freshness to the final product. I haven’t drunk a lot of Limoncello from commercial companies or in Italy, so I’m biased to what I like rather than trying to copy something.

There are still Meyer lemons on my backyard tree. I use them throughout the year in lots of recipes. Since they are organic, they only need a good scrubbing. Use organic lemons if you can get them. Non-organic lemons often have a coating of wax, which needs to be removed before you peel them. In addition, the alcohol will pull everything from the lemon peel including any insecticides or fungicides on the surface. Meyer lemons make a delicious limoncello, but regular ones work as well.

I’ve found a lovely tool for peeling the lemons (and leaving the white, which will be bitter). It’s made by Oxo and is intended for peeling soft skinned fruit such as peaches. It is a wonder!


Liz’s Limoncello

  • 10 lemons, organic if possible, scrubbed
  • 1 750 ml bottle of vodka, regular 80 proof
  • 1 cup of Meyer lemon juice or ½ cup of regular lemon juice
  • Water to make 1 ½ cups combined with the lemon juice
  • 1 ½ cups of sugar
  1. Peel the lemons, being careful to remove only the yellow peel and none of the white.
  2. Place the peels in a clean glass jar.
  3. Pour the vodka over the peels.
  4. Juice enough of the lemons to make 1 cup of Meyer lemon juice or ½ cup of regular lemon juice. Place it in the freezer to add to the finished limoncello.
  5. Cover the glass container with vodka and peels, leave out of direct sunlight for 4 to 6 weeks in a cool place (not the refrigerator).
Meyer lemon peels

Meyer lemon peel in vodka

Meyer lemon peel

Meyer lemon peel

  1. At the end of the soaking time, make your simple syrup and defrost the lemon juice. You will need 1/2 cup of water for Meyers or 1 cup of water for regular lemons. Combine the water and the sugar in a saucepan; bring to a boil to dissolve the sugar, cool, then add the thawed lemon juice.
  2. Add the combined simple syrup and lemon juice to the vodka and lemon peel mixture.
  3. Let sit for an hour or so.
  4. Strain through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth into a clean bottle.
  5. Refrigerate for a few days to mellow.

Limoncello is often stored in the freezer, but this one will freeze solid. I store it in the fridge (it keeps forever, if it lasts that long). Serve in small, frosted glasses.

Do you have a favorite drink recipe for the holidays?

2 thoughts on “November in the kitchen – Limoncello

Leave a Reply