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About this Cocktail

This is a recipe for homemade limoncello, the refreshing digestif that many Italians drink at the end of meals. There are dozens of simple, passable, somewhat dull recipes online. The one below is more involved, but it's worth the extra effort. I did two weeks of test batches before getting it right. This recipe will yield about 2.5 liters. Adjust as needed.

  • 1 liter of high proof neutral grain spirits
  • Zest of 36 organic lemons
  • Juice of 9 lemons
  • 6 cups of water
  • 4 cups of sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of citric acid (powder)
  • 2 teaspoons of cream of tartar

(The laws vary by state regarding high proof neutral grain spirits. If you can get it, I recommend 151-proof Everclear or 160-proof Devil's Springs vodka. If you can't get it, cross state lines or hit the black market. If the bottle is 750ml, rather than 1 liter, adjust all ingredients accordingly.)

Step 1: With a peeler or zester, remove the rind of 36 lemons, taking care to avoid the white pith, which will add unwanted bitterness. Combine the rind and the spirit in a large glass container. Seal it and let it sit at room temperature for 3-5 days, until the lemon rind appears whitish and brittle. Agitate once a day, making sure the rind ends up fully submerged. Save 9 peeled lemons (ziplock, fridge) to juice later.

Step 2: After several days, strain out rind from spirit, and add the rind to the water and sugar in a pot. Bring to a light boil and stir until sugar is completely dissolved. (You're making simple syrup.) Kill the heat, add the citric acid and tartar and stir again until dissolved, then let the simple syrup cool completely.

Step 3: Combine the spirit (which will be yellow from the lemon extraction), the cooled simple (rinds removed and tossed), and the juice of 9 lemons. Funnel into sealable bottles, seal, and put them in the freezer. You can taste it at this point, but it'll be better once it sits in the freezer for at least 2 more days. Should be good to drink for a couple months, if it lasts that long.


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