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(Meyer) Limoncello at home

2011 July 21
by Alice

I first tasted limoncello in a dingy basement apartment in Portland, during college. A friend’s mother was mixing limoncello and vodka, and I thought it was delicious.

Meyer Limoncello

Sweet and syrupy, light and citrus-y. Paired with the clear punch of vodka, limoncello delivered everything a drink needed. It was not our time yet, it turned out, and I didn’t run into it again until I was in Italy, slogging through the bittersweet end of a romance. I met up with the fellow in Rome at the end of my post-college Europe vagabonding, as a final hurrah, and spent most of the time crying and having panic attacks in the catacombs. Fun stuff. The only real bright point (besides accidentally finding Saint Cyril’s tomb, I mean, I am a language nerd through and through) was rediscovering the lemon liqueur that had captivated me 3 years prior.

I spent three or four anxious days in the Eternal City, spending my euros more quickly than was wise on frivolous things like, sitting down while eating, and potato rosemary pizza (It’s POTATOES. On PIZZA. So much win!), thinking all the while “I have to leave 15 bucks to get a bottle of limoncello to take home, and salvage this trip”. On my last day, I finally ventured into a liquor store and picked up a good sized bottle of not-rot-gut limoncello. I gently wrapped it in a paper bag and put it in my trusty travel purse to keep safe while I rode the metro back to my hostel. As I dashed up the stairs to escape the crowds in the metro and the usual attempts at groping, I tripped.

SMASH. Tinkle. Tinkle. Dribble.

I sat down and cried, if I remember right, as my last 15 euros pooled gently on the dirty steps. I don’t blame me.

Zoom forward three or four years… (whoosh), and I start hearing about how easy it is to make limoncello. Did I hear, *make it*? I love making things! As I have a bad habit of making things that I never use (cough lemon pickle cough), this was a perfect situation, much like studying a language when you are already interested in the culture. The inadvisability of the reverse is a hard lesson to learn. Last year, when I moved to the land of lemon trees in people’s yards, I knew it was time to finally give it a go.


(Meyer) Limoncello

I made two batches of limoncello. One of them molded before it was time to add the simple syrup. I was in denial for a few weeks, as the blue flecks of mold seemed to disappear back in when I swirled the jar. It always came back though. You may ask, how does citrus and Everclear mold? I have no fracking clue, but if you know, please do share.

Also, the method I’m going to describe involves putting the zest directly into the liquor. There’s another method in which you suspend the zest over the liquor and let the essence drip down into the liquor, but I didn’t try that, so I can’t speak to its effectiveness.

ingredients for limoncello

So, let’s get down to it. Limoncello is nothing but lemon zest, sugar, and the highest-proof, most flavorless liquor that you can find. There is no juice involved. It will take ~ 3 months minimum before you can drink it, so plan ahead. I halved this basic recipe, which I selected out of the plethora of online recipes due to the in-depth extra directions. I doubt I was as careful as that guy, though, because 1) mold, and 2) dude, have you seen his website? He keeps detailed records. I shove things in cupboards.



    8-9 lemons, Meyer or otherwise, well scrubbed
    1 750 ml bottle of Everclear (I used 151) or other high proof grain alcohol
    1.75 cups white sugar
    2.5 cups water


Other Materials

    A Brita pitcher or something else to filter the liquor with
    A 2 quart jar
    Bottles to hold the finished liquor. Swing top is nice.



Stage 1 – steep

Remove the zest from the lemons. I tried both zesting with a microplane, and using a swivel peeler carefully, avoiding all the pith (which will apparently make your limoncello bitter as all get out). The microplane batch molded. This is not a scientific study as that batch used farmer’s market lemons, while the other batch used a coworker’s homegrown Meyer lemons. Once you’ve done this, do something with the lemons, like juice them and make (Bourbon) lemonade. Try not to microplane your knuckles as it’s hard to get wee droplets of blood out of a pile of zest.

zesting the lemons

While you’re zesting the lemons, filter the grain alcohol through your Brita four times. This is supposed to improve the taste. I have a pretty insensitive palate, so I think I’d like to do a taste test before fully endorsing this step, but, ahem, 3 months to completion is more experiment than I’m willing to do.

Wash and sanitize the large jar (put it through a dishwasher, dip in boiling water, etc.). Put the zest into the jar and pour the filtered grain alcohol on top. Label the jar with the date and stage of the process, and screw a lid on tight. Put up in a cupboard (key: away from light) and forget about it for 6 weeks. The liquor will leech the color out of the peels, so you can peek from time to time if you’d like to watch the progress.

lemon zest settling in Everclear


Stage 2 – add sugar

Make a simple syrup by combining the water and sugar in a heavy-bottomed pot and boiling for five or so minutes. Let the simple syrup cool down completely and then add it to the liquor/peel jar. Swirl it to mix, and let the whole mixture hang out for another 6 weeks. Sob.


Stage 3 – filter & bottle

When it’s finally time, filter the limoncello once or twice, depending on your level of perfectionism, through coffee filters into a clean sanitized vessel. Then pour it into bottles, pop it in the freezer, and wait another 9 months. Ha, just kidding, you can try drinking it after 1 week from bottling. I like it a lot better at the 9 month mark though…

limoncello remnants

Never said it wasn’t a long game.


Stage 4 – drink

Enjoy a tad with vodka over ice. Or on ice-cream. It’s your call.

7 Responses Post a comment
  1. July 21, 2011

    How does the finished product hold up in storage? Great post, but ya really nailed me at “Or on ice cream.” If I ride down there will there be enough left to find out how that combination tastes (will donate farm honey for the ice cream)? Might be worth it…

    • July 21, 2011

      It holds up great in the freezer, even improves over time. I’m not sure about storing it out of the freezer though. I bet if you capped it with an airtight seal it would hold up well, but I don’t have any personal experience with that.

      There’s only as much left as is in that picture, so whether there’s any remaining will depend on how soon you visit again.

      • July 21, 2011

        …hmmm. I’m committed until early-mid September doing bike counts for PBOT. Then there’s the 2 or 2.5 weeks to ride there…

        That’s, like, nearly ten weeks that it would have to endure …wait, which picture? The second-to-last one by the bowl of lemons or the last one with the scant inch at the bottom of the jar? Would you actually save that for me if I proposed a do-not-use-until date?

        New ice cream sensations are powerful inducements, y’know.

        • Alice permalink*
          July 25, 2011

          The scant inch is all that remains. I can make a whole new batch in only 12 weeks, if I can get my hands on some more (cough cough free) lemons. Wanna come down in October?

          • July 26, 2011

            Gee, that’s kinda what I had in mind! Cooler weather, I’m guessin’. A chance to practice/test some alternative ride time ideas (versus “conventional” daytime riding slots). Whaddya think? Ice cream shining over the horizon like some lighthouse beacon…

  2. Irene permalink
    July 21, 2011

    Hi Alice,
    Try throwing in a few fresh blueberries with the Limoncello on the ice cream and/or in drink! I just made some squares that were lemon blueberry and that combo is awesome :)

    • Alice permalink*
      July 25, 2011

      That sounds delicious! If my freezer weren’t so full of pork, I’d be freezing berries left and right to use throughout the winter. As I can’t do that, I better try your suggestion before blueberries go out of season.

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