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Posted: 6/27/2015 6:44:28 PM EDT
A few weeks ago I made a thread about homemade hot sauce and it proved very popular. I referenced that, among other things, I also make homemade limoncello, and was repeatedly asked to make a how-to thread. So here goes!

For those who don’t know, limoncello is a strong liqueur native to the Amalfi coast of Italy. It is somewhat sweet, very intensely lemony, but not sour like lemonade because it contains no lemon juice. Traditionally it is served as a digestif after meals but it also makes a great and refreshing summer sipping drink. There are also many great cocktails which require limoncello as an ingredient. It can also be made with grapefruit (delicious), oranges (very good), limes (OK), and other citrus, as well as modified by the addition of rosemary or lavender to the brew. It also is shockingly easy to make, requiring only four ingredients and time.

Without further ado…

Step 1: Zest about 12-14 lemons. You’re only using the outer peel, so either buy organic or wash the lemons well to remove any wax or pesticide from the peels. This is fastest with a microplane tool, but can be done carefully with a knife.



Make sure that you only remove the zest. The lemon should still be yellow when you’re done, like the one on the left. If you go too deep, you get into the white pith, like the lemon on the right. Inclusion of pith in your hooch will make it bitter.



Step 2: Put all the zest in a 1qt Mason jar. Save the lemons and juice them later. I keep a jar of fresh lemon juice in the fridge and make Caesar salads with it and stuff



Step 3: Pour in a 750mL bottle of Everclear or other grain alcohol product. You need at least 151 proof, which is the strongest sold in NC. You can use the 190 proof Everclear if it’s sold in your state, it will work fine, but you will need to adjust the amount of water used in later steps to ensure you get the right %ABV at the end).




Step 4: Wait. Let the bottle sit in a cool, dark place. Give it a shake 1-2 times a day. If you use a microplane zester you need to let it steep for at least 2 weeks, up to a month is OK. If you use a knife to zest the lemons and have larger hunks of zest, wait at least a month, up to 45 days. Eventually, the concoction will change. It starts as a light-colored alcohol over bright yellow zest, like this:



And gradually becomes an intense yellow alcohol over pale-colored zest, like this:



The color change is because the alcohol is dissolving and absorbing the lemon oil out of the zest. I added some fresh zest to this batch after about a week of steeping so you can see the color change going on:



Eventually, when you hit the final day of steeping, you will have a bomb-ass concoction of blazing yellow grain alcohol and old, whitish zest.



Step 5: Now it’s time to make the liqueur. I’ve tried the lemon-oil hooch straight up, it’s not very good, too much lemon and fire and no balance. Here’s where we turn it into limoncello. You will need the following: your Mason jar of booze, two large mixing bowls, another clean Mason jar, a strainer, a measuring cup, a permanent gold coffee filter (available on Amazon for $5), and (not pictured) a bunch of flat-bottomed paper coffee filters from the grocery store.



Step 6: Strain the booze into a mixing bowl through the regular strainer. This will catch all the big zest curls. Don’t try to squeeze them out to get every drop of booze, because the stuff you will squeeze out is actually what we’re trying to get rid of.



Step 7: Using a measuring cup, strain the booze from the first mixing bowl, through the permanent filter, into the other mixing bowl. AFTER EACH USE OF A MIXING BOWL, FILTER, OR MEASURING CUP, CASH IT THOROUGHLY AND DRY IT OFF. This will prevent particulate matter from re-entering the booze. We are basically trying to make a crystal-clear version of the booze with NO tiny particles in it.



You can see that the strainer still leaves a lot of small particles in the alcohol. We want none of this stuff.



Step 8: Filter the alcohol back into the other (now CLEANED) bowl through a paper coffee filter. This is a very slow trickle process but is really critical to making good ‘cello. Eventually a paper filter will clog with particulates and you will have to use another. I use about 3-4 filters to strain the entire 750mL of alcohol.



Step 9: Filter the booze through paper coffee filters a SECOND time, this time back into the clean, dry Mason jar. You will need another 3-4 paper filters for this step. Again, this is slow trickling. Do it while you’re watching TV or something.



At this point you are left with a crystal-clear yellow solution of grain alcohol and lemon oil.



Step 10: Make a simple syrup consisting of around 800mL of clean water (I use the leftover Everclear bottle to measure 750mL and then add a couple shot glasses of water) and 2.5 cups of table sugar. Heat over medium-high heat until the solution turns from milky…



…into crystal clear:



Step 11: Pour the lemony alcohol into a large pot (4qt capacity).



Step 12: Pour in the simple syrup while it’s still hot. The solution will instantly turn cloudy as the hydrophobic lemon oil micro-emulsifies with alcohol molecules into a solution of micrometer-scale microdroplets that scatter light. This is known as the Ouzo effect or the Louche effect.



Step 13: Immediately cover the pot and DO NOT uncover it until the pot is room-temperature. Otherwise the heat from the syrup vaporizes the alcohol and you will let a good deal of the alcohol escape the pot into your kitchen’s air.




Step 14: Bottle the limoncello, store it in the freezer, and WAIT some more. You’re going to want to try it now, which is fine, but trust me, even two weeks in the freezer significantly mellows and smooths it. A month is even better. Some guys swear theirs is still improving after two years. You’ll get almost 2 liters of limoncello from this recipe, with a final %ABV of around 35%, so it lasts a while unless you give it as gifts. Cheers!




Link Posted: 6/27/2015 6:57:33 PM EDT
Outstanding!  

What's the ABV of the final product?
Link Posted: 6/27/2015 7:04:26 PM EDT
Remember when Danny DeVito showed up on The View drunk off his ass on The View?  "I was drinking Limoncillo with George Clooney last night!"
Link Posted: 6/27/2015 7:06:16 PM EDT
Informative! Never heard of it. I thought you made a black kid
Link Posted: 6/27/2015 7:10:19 PM EDT
Tagged
Link Posted: 6/27/2015 7:13:29 PM EDT
Fuck yes.
Link Posted: 6/27/2015 7:14:50 PM EDT
Cool thread. I had the real thing in Positano and didn't care for it.
Link Posted: 6/27/2015 7:19:40 PM EDT
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Quoted:
Remember when Danny DeVito showed up on The View drunk off his ass on The View?  "I was drinking Limoncillo with George Clooney last night!"
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Who put him up to it????????
Link Posted: 6/27/2015 7:19:40 PM EDT
I've had lots of limoncello while working in Italy, but making it has kicked my ass.



I used virtually the same method you have described, but the final result was ruined by the harsh flavor of the Everclear.  The first rush of flavor was what you would hope for, but it was immediately followed by a harsh alcohol taste.



Any ideas where I may have gone wrong?






Link Posted: 6/27/2015 7:21:35 PM EDT
Tag
Link Posted: 6/27/2015 7:21:44 PM EDT
This is so strange to see this.
The woman I've been seeing went to an Italian place tonight and had a shot after they were done eating.




Link Posted: 6/27/2015 7:24:31 PM EDT
Man that sounds good.
Link Posted: 6/27/2015 7:24:32 PM EDT
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Quoted:
I've had lots of limoncello while working in Italy, but making it has kicked my ass.

I used virtually the same method you have described, but the final result was ruined by the harsh flavor of the Everclear.  The first rush of flavor was what you would hope for, but it was immediately followed by a harsh alcohol taste.

Any ideas where I may have gone wrong?


View Quote

Probably too little water and too little sugar. This is meant to be weaker than standard hard liquor, if you use too little simple syrup it ends up too harsh and strong.
Link Posted: 6/27/2015 7:24:46 PM EDT
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Quoted:
Tag
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Link Posted: 6/27/2015 7:27:15 PM EDT
Excellent write up OP!
Link Posted: 6/27/2015 7:28:27 PM EDT
Microplane?



bah, use a veggie peeler. quicker and less messy.
Link Posted: 6/27/2015 7:29:24 PM EDT
Holy I'll-just-go-to-the-local-Italian-joint-and-order-it-from-them-because-that's-a-hell-of-a-lot-of-work, Batman!
Link Posted: 6/27/2015 7:34:22 PM EDT
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Quoted:
Microplane?

bah, use a veggie peeler. quicker and less messy.
View Quote

Most of them go too deep, and the micro planed zest is ready weeks before peeled zest is.
Link Posted: 6/27/2015 7:41:36 PM EDT
Dad and I have been making Lemon, Lime, and Orange cello for years ! You hit all the key points in your write up ! Good write up ! We usually cross the border to SC and buy real everclear ! I think I have 4 gallons of the real everclear hangin around !
Link Posted: 6/27/2015 7:49:33 PM EDT
1P Limoncello
2P good vodka
2P good lemonade

Hell of a refreshing drink served cold as hell (I shake mine with ice)
Link Posted: 6/27/2015 7:53:15 PM EDT
Tag
Link Posted: 6/27/2015 8:04:40 PM EDT
Been making it for a few years, from a tecepie from Italy!

Made lemon, lime, and red and white grapefruit. The grapefruit was interesting because I liked the red more at first, but after a few months I likes the white better. Interesting how it changes. My favorite was lime though. I've had orange, but didn't like it as much because I don't think it had enough citrus to counteract the alcohol. Sometimes you'll have to play with the amounts for different recipes.

Also, a friend found out it's pretty darn good and refreshing with ginger ale. Don't worry, I make my own and have lots sometimes

Unfortunately, because MD hates freedom, I had to buy a case of six handles of everckear before they were outlawed a year or two ago (and now college kids no longer drink to excess, because laws solve these types of problems )

Edit, I only use seven or eight lemons, let it sit for a few weeks, and shake it around every so often. U guess more never hurt but I think it's good anyway. Now I want to make another batch!
I've also had pineapple soaking in everckear for several months since we've been so busy, but im making this one up and will prob half or quarter the sugar. It's also not really a cello since it's the fruit And not the zest soaking.

And wife loves the best homemade lemonade you'll ever have
Link Posted: 6/27/2015 8:04:52 PM EDT
Thanks op.
Link Posted: 6/27/2015 8:12:03 PM EDT
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Quoted:
Dad and I have been making Lemon, Lime, and Orange cello for years ! You hit all the key points in your write up ! Good write up ! We usually cross the border to SC and buy real everclear ! I think I have 4 gallons of the real everclear hangin around !
View Quote


Mandarin orange makes a good 'cello.  

The grandmas in my Italian neighborhood (in Lazio) also taught me to make the "cream dí" varieties, of which lemon and strawberry run neck and neck for the best.
Link Posted: 6/27/2015 8:17:31 PM EDT
I have had a bottle from Italy sitting in the wine fridge for a few years. Time to break er open





Link Posted: 6/27/2015 8:18:46 PM EDT
Can't get Everclear here.
Link Posted: 6/27/2015 8:23:25 PM EDT

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Quoted:


Can't get Everclear here.
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Use Tito's vodka.



 
Link Posted: 6/27/2015 8:23:38 PM EDT
tagged for posterity
Link Posted: 6/27/2015 8:33:52 PM EDT
Excellent post!
Link Posted: 6/27/2015 8:34:57 PM EDT
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Quoted:
1P Limoncello
2P good vodka
2P good lemonade

Hell of a refreshing drink served cold as hell (I shake mine with ice)
View Quote

That sounds pretty good, but I might figure put a way to throw some prosecco or champagne in there.
Link Posted: 6/27/2015 8:43:55 PM EDT
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Quoted:
Can't get Everclear here.
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That is odd, because I go to Michigan to get the weaker Everclear to make mine.  Go figure Indiana only sells the stronger kind.  I cross the border, and get it at the first liquor store or go to Meijer.  
Link Posted: 6/27/2015 9:35:26 PM EDT
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Quoted:
What's the ABV of the final product?
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I don't own a hydrometer, but by the math and the taste it's around 35%.
Link Posted: 6/28/2015 12:11:23 AM EDT
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Quoted:
Can't get Everclear here.
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Meijer has it in the Booze aisle.
At least the Meijer in South Haven has it. Might be some goofy Dutchie Blue laws in GR/Holland though.

I'm coming up on sweetening time for the batch of Lemoncello I started back in January.
Vodka works but the flavor is all wrong. Grain alcohol or nothing.

Link Posted: 6/28/2015 12:14:28 AM EDT
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Quoted:
Microplane?

bah, use a veggie peeler. quicker and less messy.
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This!!!

Zesting 2 dozen lemons is nuts! Plus with zesting, you get too much of the white stuff and makes the Lemoncello bitter.

The Peeler gets nothing but the yellow rind, and I can do a dozen in about 15min.



Link Posted: 6/28/2015 12:25:43 AM EDT
This is a tag! My favorite dessert drink.
Link Posted: 6/28/2015 12:56:16 PM EDT
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Quoted:
Zesting 2 dozen lemons is nuts! Plus with zesting, you get too much of the white stuff and makes the Lemoncello bitter.

The Peeler gets nothing but the yellow rind, and I can do a dozen in about 15min.
View Quote

Microplane gets zero white stuff. Zero. That's what it's best at, it's called a microplane because it removes very thin layers. It takes about 25min to do 12-14 lemons, but as I said above, the booze is ready like 2 weeks sooner. To me the extra ten minutes is totally worthwhile.
Link Posted: 6/28/2015 1:08:48 PM EDT
I will be at Lemon Tree in a week or so. I will bring you back a bottle and you can do a taste test.
Link Posted: 6/28/2015 1:09:58 PM EDT
Tag, because I am make limoncello.
Link Posted: 6/29/2015 2:11:15 AM EDT
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Quoted:

Microplane gets zero white stuff. Zero. That's what it's best at, it's called a microplane because it removes very thin layers. It takes about 25min to do 12-14 lemons, but as I said above, the booze is ready like 2 weeks sooner. To me the extra ten minutes is totally worthwhile.
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Quoted:
Quoted:
Zesting 2 dozen lemons is nuts! Plus with zesting, you get too much of the white stuff and makes the Lemoncello bitter.

The Peeler gets nothing but the yellow rind, and I can do a dozen in about 15min.

Microplane gets zero white stuff. Zero. That's what it's best at, it's called a microplane because it removes very thin layers. It takes about 25min to do 12-14 lemons, but as I said above, the booze is ready like 2 weeks sooner. To me the extra ten minutes is totally worthwhile.




I have used the microplane. They always seem to get a crapload of the bitter pith, even the extra fine. It's a matter of not being able to see exactly when to rotate off the contact patch.

2 weeks?
You need to make bigger batches and work up a surplus LOL!!

The old Ecko peelers, and the dedicated Zesters get zero pith, and the difference is really obvious.
I suppose if a guy wanted to speed things up, the peels could be tossed in a mini processor and chopped up with some grain alcohol, and then the slurry poured into the jar for steeping.
Next batch I might try that, and go for 4 weeks, and then 5 Months with the other half and see.

I was taught to use a Peeler/zester, and just let it sit for 4-5 months, which works out well for catching Lemons in peak when they are cheapest, and having a decent supply by summer.
If the flavor is there faster, it means fewer jars sitting around, and room for other stuff.











Link Posted: 6/30/2015 10:01:14 PM EDT
Yeah, I've never let mine go past 3-4 weeks because the lemon flavor is plenty strong by then. I think it gains more from ageing after you make the finished limoncello than by letting the zest sit in the everclear.

I agree that the microplane doesn't let you see the point of contact, but after some use you get the hang of it. All the pictured lemons above were done with a microplane and came out perfect (except the one I purposefully over-zested for the photos).
Link Posted: 6/30/2015 10:03:47 PM EDT
Hmm, kind of want to try this.
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