Homemade Limoncello

…With a Few More Thoughts on Aperitifs

A drinker’s tastes are never static.  Throughout one’s life, our beverage of choice changes for any number or reasons, be it age, price, or season.  What I now prefer I couldn’t afford when younger; what I drink during summer months is not what I drink during winter.  And on and on, year after year.

I found myself considering my tastes and practices as they have changed over time this past weekend as I crushed a few ice cubes for a small afternoon Campari, my latest purchase.  I had been looking for an aperitif and decided on the bitter Italian classic, which I find delightfully complex, an absolutely acquired taste.

This love of aperitifs – and digestifs, of course – as it pertains to my original point, is most assuredly a change in taste, one that has occurred over the last few years.  The highly herbal concoctions are now favorites.  But I’ve noticed another change, one in practice rather than taste: I very much enjoy creating homemade spirits and liqueurs.

First, I tried my hand at creating peach brandy, which was far more successful than I thought possible.  I immediately created another batch.  Two months later I used the same recipe to create plum brandy; both batches – peach and plum – are now sitting atop the refrigerator, patiently fermenting and waiting to be enjoyed.  And then, this past weekend (and largely on my wife’s initiative), we made homemade limoncello.

An important note about making your own limoncello: a seemingly infinite number of recipes exist.  I found more than a dozen after only a few minutes researching the subject online.  This much is certain: there are three ingredients – lemons, a grain alcohol, and simple syrup.  Certainty ends here – how many lemons to use (6-12), what you do with the lemons (peel or zest), which alcohol to use (vodka or Everclear), the ideal absorption time (one to six weeks), and the thickness of the simple syrup and its ratio to alcohol – are apparently the subject of much debate.

For our batch – a standard size – we used the following recipe: wash and zest 10 whole lemons, then add zest to an ordinary 750 milliliter bottle of vodka.  Seal container and let mixture sit for forty days.  After forty days, make a batch of simple syrup (boil a mixture of roughly 2 cups of water and 2 cups of sugar on the stove until thickened).  Cool the syrup completely before adding it to the vodka, then let sit another forty days.  Strain excess zest through cheesecloth, transfer limoncello into a clean bottle to store in the freezer, and serve well chilled.

So now I wait: for the peach brandy, the plum brandy, and the limoncello.  In the meantime, I’ll continue reading, learning, and tasting.  Perhaps at some point I’ll look back on these two preferences – for mysterious, herbal pre-dinner drinks and occasionally creating my own – documented by these words, and feel nostalgia for my tastes, circa summer 2011.

Published in: on June 17, 2011 at 11:49 am  Comments (1)  
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One Comment

  1. Yo THF!

    About three years ago, my friend Rob (he makes wine and also dabbles in homebrewing) had the men folk making Limoncello during the Whisk(e)y drinking portion of our annual Crafty Day gathering that happens every December (the ladies make some Christmasy craft). We used a lemon peeler to carefully remove the outermost skin from the lemon. Everclear was used for batch one. Vodka for batch two. When he eventually bottled it, I believe he brought it down to about 25 or 30% ABV. It tasted really good but tended to get icy very easily. Another friend made pineapple and orange versions which were considerably more potent (about 50% ABV)! Mrs. THF is quite the motivator. Keep up the good work!


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