Many years ago, long before children were even part of the discussion, my husband and I used to meet friends for dinner a few times a month at a small Italian restaurant in Manhattan. Back then we had nothing but time and spent many a long evening at that restaurant eating, drinking and enjoying our young lives. It was on one of these carefree evenings that I was first introduced to the Italian liqueur Limoncello. The restaurant made their own and after dessert and coffee the owner would often bring over a bottle, pull up a chair and join in on the conservation. Ahhh, those were the days…
Around the same time I made my first trip to Italy. Perhaps it was the idyllic train ride to Florence, while listening to Andrea Bocelli and reading Frances Mayes or the melt in your mouth gnocchi that we encountered upon arriving, but we couldn’t help but feel fortunate to be able to experience such a perfect vacation. Amazing sights, amazing sounds and amazing food. And as good as my NYC limoncello had been, it couldn’t compare with the nectar from the motherland.
A lot of years have passed since those carefree Italian dinners, but sometimes on a quiet evening, with a conversation of “remember when’s” and a little homemade limoncello, it feels like not so long ago.
I’ve heard limoncello referred to as sunshine in a bottle. Sweet, boozy sunshine.
26 thick-skinned lemons
1 1.75 ltr. bottle good quality vodka
2 cups sugar
4 1/2 cups water
- Gently wash and dry the lemons under warm water. Using a microplane, remove the lemons’ yellow zest, taking care to avoid the bitter white pith. (Save the zested lemons for another use.)
- Place the zest in the glass jar with a lid and add vodka. Cover the jar with plastic wrap and then seal tightly with the lid. Let the mixture steep until the peels begin to lose their color and the liquid turns bright yellow and very aromatic, at least three weeks but up to 40 days.
- After the lemon zest and vodka have steeped, combine the sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool completely (this step can be done ahead of time and refrigerated).
- Pour the sugar syrup over the infused vodka. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
- After the limoncello and simple syrup combo have sat overnight you’re finally ready to bottle your liquid sunshine. Strain the limoncello through a mesh strainer lined with a layer of moistened cheesecloth (to remove all traces of peel) and into a clean jar or bowl. Be sure to squeeze the last drops of liquid from the zest. (I did this three times.) Now line the mesh strainer with a coffee filter and strain the limoncello once more to collect any fine lemon residue and oil. (This step is the key to crystal clear limoncello. If you don’t do this final filtering you’ll end up with a cap of lemon oil in each of your bottles.)
- Using a funnel, pour the finished liqueur into clean bottles and seal tightly with a cork or cap and store in the refrigerator.* Or… pour yourself a glass, sit back and enjoy the fruit of your efforts.
*The longer the limoncello is allowed to age in the refrigerator the smoother it will become.
*adapted from imbibe magazine