A while back, I was watching ABC’s The View. Danny Divito was acting very silly and appeared to be drunk. He excused his behavior by explaining how he had been up all night drinking Lemoncellos with George Clooney.
15-20 lemons - clean, unwaxed with nice plump skins. The skins should give off a lemon sent, don't get ones that don't smell heavenly. And try to get organic fresh lemons when you can.
2 (750-ml) bottles 80-proof vodka. The cheaper the better. Or for best results, I try to find Everclear and use one or two bottles of that because it's pure and doesn't have any sugar in it.
2 to 3 cups of water
2 to 4 cups sugar (a 1:1 ratio of sugar to water makes a classic simple syrup, but use more sugar if you want yours a little thicker or sweeter)
For this recipe you also need a large (2-3 litre) glass jar with a sealed lid. The jar should be washed and rinsed very well or sterilized. You don't want anything in your lemoncello but what you put there. So my lemoncello story continues...... I went to the ABC store looking for the Everclear that is used in the recipe. I found out that Virginia does not sell Everclear. So, I contemplated using vodka, until a friend told me that they sell it in North Carolina. North Carolina is an hour drive from my home. So while we were on vacation in North Carolina, I purchased a bottle of Everclear. I made a batch. I put it in the jar pictured below and set it in my closet shelf. Every week or so I would shake and stir it around. Well, around the fourth week I noticed that most of my lemoncello was gone. I realized that it all leaked out at the spout. Just letting you know, NEVER use a spout jar for Lemoncello. Well now I am thinking I better go and get some Vodka and start all over. The Mr. surprised me and took a drive down to North Carolina. He picked me up a bottle and brought it back home.
You will also need the bottles you want to put the final brew in. You can get this from any home brew store or on line.
I use a three-step process.
Step 1: lemon in alcohol
Wash and dry the lemons. Only use the ones without blemished peels or pare off any spots and the stems, ends.
Remove the peel from the lemons with a sharp peeler or fine grater/zester, carefully avoiding the bitter white pith. If you choose to peel your lemons, please note that if any white pith remains on the back of a strip of peel, scrape it off. If you get any of the white part in the batch, the limoncello will be bitter and you don't want that!
Put the peels in a glass jar and add the vodka and/or Everclear, leaving at least two inches below the top rim. Seal tightly.
Leave the lemons to steep in the jar in a cool, dark place until the peels lose their color, at least 2 weeks. I leave mine for at least 2-3 months. (That's why mine is extra yummy). Every couple of weeks I swirl the peels around in the jar to mix up the oils in the alcohol, plus I don't know if that helps, I just like to check in on it!
Step 2: make the simple syrup and add it.
Put the water and sugar in a saucepan, stir and slowly heat until it turns clear and all the sugar is dissolved completely. Let the syrup cool.
Put the cooled syrup in the jar with the lemons (you might have to divide the batch into two jars at this point, depending on the size of your jar).
Put the jars back in the closet for at least two weeks. Longer is fine too.
Step 3: strain and bottle
Strain out the lemon peels through a coffee filter or cheesecloth and pour the limoncello into another container. Press down to remove all the vodka and oils that you can from the peels before tossing them in the trash.
Stir the liquid with a clean plastic or wooden spoon.
Put the liqueur in clean bottles, seal tightly and leave the finished bottles for at least 1 week before using. I told you that I use making limoncello as an exercise in practicing patience!
Lemoncello should be in your freezer with the other staples!For best flavor and drinking it straight, store the limoncello in your freezer. It shouldn't freeze because of how much alcohol is in it and it is simply lovely ice cold.