Drink Diary: Limoncello Wrap-Up


Limoncello Trio

12-week, Imported, and 4-day Limoncellos

Going into this experiment I was a little wary of ending up with several bottles of undrinkable drek. After all, 12 weeks is a long time to spend on something that you might not even like!

The plan (to refresh all of our memories) was to make 2 batches of Limoncello–one that used the 12-week method suggested over at Limoncello Quest and the other than used the quickie method that every other recipe on the Internet seemed to use. I chronicled each week in pictures, something–anything!–to keep me from forgetting about this project and tossing it out when discovered, ages later.

Based on I don’t know what, exactly, that things that take longer have to be better?, I figured the 12-week Limoncello would far surpass that made in a weekend. That it would be smoother, more mellow, and overall better than the quickie version.

Y’all? You’re not going to believe this.

The 12-week Limoncello had some serious bite. It has the right texture/mouth-feel–silky and smooth. The color is darker than the “real” Limoncello we’d purchased at the liquor store, so that gave me pause. But I wasn’t prepared for the burn at the end of each sip, a sharpness at the back of the throat.

Going into tasting the 4-day Limoncello, then, I was scared.

Keep in mind, folks, this stuff is made with 151-proof Everclear. Not something one would drink straight under normal circumstances. If the 12-week Limoncello had teeth, I was afraid the 4-day Limoncello wasn’t even going to be worth cooking with!

It’s strong, no question, but the bite? Barely even a bark.

What. The. Hell?

Now, don’t misunderstand, it’s not as mellow and smooth as the store-bought Limoncello but it’s pretty darn close.

Grace? Gotta week? You can have all the Limoncello your heart desires!

Seriously, folks, you could have knocked me over with a feather.

After some reflection, and a day to get over the shock, I started to think about the mechanics. The idea is to remove the oils from the zest and fuse them with the alcohol base. One of the quickie recipes did mention that it was important to use a high-proof alcohol because it would strip those oils faster.

If that’s true, could the 12-week version work better if I’d used an 80-proof vodka instead of the Everclear? I’m not sure. The one thing I do know is that there’s not really much of a reason to wait 12 weeks when a single one will produce 2 bottles of very drinkable Limoncello.

Looks like the 12-week will be the one relegated to cooking!

Limoncello, Week 12


Oh, well, another week of nothing doing on the Drink Diary and–

Wait. What was that? It’s week 12? We’re finished?!

Well, almost, there’s a little finishing up that’s needed:

Limoncello, Week 12

Limoncello, Week 12

First we had to strain and filter the Limoncello to remove the zest and anything else that might be hanging around in there other than deliciously-flavored alcohol.

Starting with a fine-mesh strainer over a large measuring pitcher or bowl, pour the Limoncello through the strainer. I did this twice (mostly because I bounced the strainer and a few pieces of zest got back into the mix, but whatever). Return the de-zested liquid back to the container.

Then, line the strainer with a coffee filter (this one for a 4-cup machine fit perfectly inside my strainer) and slowly pour the Limoncello through it again, this time getting out any sediment that may have settled.

Two things I noticed:

  1. One coffee filter was good for about half a batch (or one 750mL bottle’s worth) of straining.
  2. After the initial 300-400 mL have strained, the filter needs a little help. Swirling the mixture around, gently, seems to help–the sediment moves around and doesn’t stop the clean liquid from passing.

Fingertips really are best for this–much easier to tell if you’re about to snag your filter and have to start all over again–just wash your hands well before starting. Granted, even diluted we’re still dealing with some decent-proof alcohol, here, so not much is going to stand a chance.

You can strain this multiple times if you’ve got the patience. I’ve never been so strong on that, myself, so I just gave it one good filtering and bottled it.

Now it’s going to hang out in the chest freezer for a week before we sample it. After 84 days, I suppose we can last 7 more!

Also, this week, we started our quickie batch. I’m giving it 2 nights of just the Everclear and zest and will add the sugar syrup on night 3, give it a full day then strain, filter, bottle and chill.

With 4 bottles of Limoncello soon to be in my possession (plus the bottle we purchased from the liquor store)… whatever will we do? 😉

Limoncello Diary, Part 1


The other week I read somewhere about someone making their own Limoncello. A virtual ear perked up at that–I’m always up for trying something new! Then Grace flat-out asked how to make Limoncello this weekend.

Oh, it’s on!

That was just the little nudge I needed to add lemons and grain alcohol to my shopping list this Saturday and away we go!

First, of course, I did a little digging as to the how to. I’ve found recipes that are done in a weekend all the way up to 3 months and a few points in between.

Limoncello is, essentially, a lemon-infused alcohol sipped after dinner in Italy. It’s fairly simple to make since you don’t need to distill or ferment anything, you just need the patience of a saint to let it sit for up to three months. While the recipes that suggest a weekend or week’s wait is all that’s require are, I’m sure, perfectly fine, the peanut gallery is actually very helpful in persuading me to do it longer, a la LimoncelloQuest.

***I should also point out that, should you play along and make your own Limoncello with me, that you can drink it at home and share it with friends but under no circumstances should you attempt to sell it without proper authority of the Bureau of Alcohol and whatever-else in your area. End public service (and save your ass) announcement.***

Ben over at LimoncelloQuest has been incredibly thorough in practice and documentation of his mission to create amazing Limoncello so I’m going to use his experience and the base for my forray into infused liquor, adjusting as necessary, though his recipe mirrors others I’ve found across the Internet with the exception of time involved.

All we’re using is the zest, so choose lemons based solely on their appearance. I know, I know, it’s not fair to the lemon’s inner beauty but we’re looking for thick skin so I think they can take it. Buy organic if you can. This will save you time cleaning off waxes and pesticides.

Prepping the Lemon Zest

Prepping the Lemon Zest

Zest the lemons avoiding the white, spongy pith beneat the surface. LQ prefers a microplane but I prefer a simple paring knife. Remove strips of lemon peel and then clean up any of the inevitable pith that tags along. Unless you know of a source of square lemons, it’s going to happen.

Mincing Zest

Mincing Zest

While I had no intention of reducing the zest to dust, I do believe if giving the alcohol ample surface area to harvest the cirtus oils from. Once cleaned of all pith I reduced the strips to small matchsticks. I briefly considered freezing the zest strips before slicing them up, going back to my recent observation about ice and zest, and I suppose you could shave off a week or two that way but for this go round I figured we could do it the long way to start.

Lemon, Meet Alcohol

Lemon, Meet Alcohol

I used 8 large lemons for the single 750 mL bottle of 151 Everclear (grain alcohol). Some folks think Vodka is a good base alcohol, others prefer a cleaner grain alcohol. Inside a 2 qt “cracker jar” I picked up at Wal-Mart that morning the lemon zest and the alcohol had their first handshake. The lid seemed fairly tight but it did have a cardboard insert rather than metal or plastic so I placed a piece of plastic wrap over the opening before screwing on the lid.

A Good Beginning

A Good Beginning

It’s going to be cozy for 45 days, give or take, before we add a quart of sugar syrup and let it sit for another 45 days. But for this first week we’re going to be swirling and shaking it around several times a day. We were surprised that within minutes the Everclear had taken on a yellow hue, certainly a positive sign!

Over the next 3 months I’ll be doing a check-in with the limoncello-to-be and post a photo every week so we can see how things develop over time. Once we get closer to the end (early October) and it’s time to start straining and tasting, I’ll do a quickie batch and Todd & I will taste the two and compare.

If you decide to play along and make a batch of limoncello alongside Todd & I, let us know in the comments.

And, in the mean time, turn those now-naked lemons into lemonade! 8 lemons yeilded a smidge over 1.5 cups of juice, a perfect amount to combine with a sugar syrup of 3/4 c sugar and 2 1/4 cups water, making a quart of lemonade concentrate to be combined with equal parts water, sparkling water, soda or (as we prefer) strongly brewed Earl Grey Tea.