15 medium lemons
2 750-milliliter bottles of 100-proof vodka
2 cups water
2 cups sugar
Microplane grater or vegetable peeler
1 one-gallon glass (Mason) jar
Bottles for storing finished liqueur
Soak the lemons in warm water for ten minutes to clean, then wipe dry with a towel. Use the grater or vegetable peeler to remove the zest from the lemons, being careful to avoid the bitter white pith. Set the zested lemons aside for use in another recipe.
Place the zest in the Mason jar and add one bottle of vodka. Seal tightly, label with today’s date and the words “First Stage.” Store in a cupboard and allow the mixture to steep for ten to forty days. The longer it steeps, the better it will taste.
After ten to forty days, strain the mixture through a double layer of cheesecloth into a large bowl, gently pressing the zest to extract all the flavored liquid. (You may need to strain more than once to remove all the zest.) Add the second bottle of vodka.
Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved and the liquid is clear. Remove from heat.
Once cooled, add the syrup to the vodka mixture. Use a funnel to pour the liqueur back into the Mason jar. Have another, smaller jar on hand in case of overflow. Label the jar with today’s date or the date it will be ready to serve, and the words “Second Stage.” Return to the cupboard for ten to forty days.
When the limoncello is ready, store it in the freezer so it is always chilled before serving.
- Limoncello makes a terrific hostess gift. Save attractive empty liquor, olive oil, vanilla, or vinegar bottles for storing limoncello. Sterilize before use and keep in the freezer. Use ribbons and labels to personalize.
- Save the juice from the zested lemons for use in another recipe. Freeze in small quantities, or use ice cube trays for small portions. Transfer to plastic zip bag and freeze for up to four months.
- Use limoncello to enhance other beverages, like lemonade and lemon-drop martinis.
- For a treat, drizzle limoncello over cake or ice cream.