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May 27, 2006 03:45 PM

Limoncello questions...

  • p

I am going to make Limoncello from a recipe in the most recent Saveur. It calls for the peel to infuse for 48 hours with a pure grain alcohol. My 3 questions are:
1. Does 48 hours seem like a long enough infusion period?
2. Can one use a vodka instead of pure grain?
3. Do you have a good recipe?
Thanks and Happy Weekend.

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  1. 1. Seems a bit short, but the infusion period can vary depending on how you peel your lemons and the strength of the liquor. You can monitor your infusion and see the yellow get pulled out as you go. And of course try to remove all the white pith as it will add bitterness.

    2-3. Yes but try to find 100 proof vodka which will suck those lemon flavors out better. My limoncello was made with lemon zest infused in 100 proof smirnoff (all I could find) + 1 bottle of the cheapest bottle of 80 proof vodka at BevMo that was still pretending to be a premium product plus ~ 2 cups of simple syrup. You will have to double check my recipe and calculate for the booze you buy but you are looking for 30%-32% alcohol in the final product.


    1. 48 hours seems like a ridiculously short time to me. We infuse ours for weeks, and all of the recipes I can find say several weeks as well.

      If you can't get Everclear where you live, get the highest proof vodka you can find.

      1. The late actor Vincent Schiavelli in his wonderful
        memoir/cookbook "Many Beautiful Things" has a
        recipe for Limoncello on pg.251
        Essentially he uses Everclear and lets the peel
        macerate at least 4 days.[* he recommends using
        some green(unripe)lemons along with the ripe
        yellow ones-from unwaxed fruit].He then dilutes
        this with a lite simple syrup(2 parts sugar to 3 parts
        water) to the desired strength(68 proof).He then
        stores,and serves,straight from the freezer.
        I haven't tried it yet,but now you got me thinking
        about doing it!

        1. I did a lot of research before making my first batch of limoncello and the consensus was don't use grain/Everclear. 100 proof vodka makes a much smoother limoncello. I am posting the recipe I use below. I let it sit for 40 days and then add the simple syrup and the other bottle of vodka and let it sit for another 40 days. It is absolutely the best and I am told not to come to certain social gatherings without it! (FYI, I have used regular lemons, oranges and Meyer lemons. In my opinion the regular lemons make the best!)

          15 lemons*
          2 (750 ml) 100-proof vodka**
          4 cups sugar
          5 cups water

          * Choose thick-skinned lemons because they are easier to zest.

          ** Use 100-proof vodka, which has less flavor than a lower proof one. Also the high alcohol level will ensure that the limoncello will not turn to ice in the freezer.

          Wash the lemons with a vegetable brush and hot water to remove any reside of pesticides or wax; pat the lemons dry.

          Carefully zest the lemons with a zester or vegetable peeler so there is no white pith on the peel. NOTE: Use only the outer part of the rind. The pith, the white part underneath the rind, is too bitter and would spoil your limoncello. Check out my web page on How to Zest.

          Step One:
          In a large glass jar (1-gallon jar), add one bottle of vodka; add the lemon zest as it is zested. Cover the jar and let sit at room temperature for at least (10) ten days and up to (40) days in a cool dark place. The longer it rests, the better the taste will be. (There is no need to stir - all you have to do is wait.) As the limoncello sits, the vodka slowly take on the flavor and rich yellow color of the lemon zest.

          Step Two:
          In a large saucepan, combine the sugar and water; cook until thickened, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Let the syrup cool before adding it to the Limoncello mixture. Add to the Limoncello mixture from Step One. Add the additional bottle of vodka. Allow to rest for another 10 to 40 days.

          Step Three:
          After the rest period, strain and bottle: discarding the lemon zest. Keep in the freezer until ready to serve.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Susan

            The fact is, Italians make limoncello using grain alcohol. I'm glad that your limoncello turns out so well, but after years of making limoncello, plumcello, etc., and discussing it with many people who make their own infused liquors, I have found no such consensus on not using Everclear. Absolutely the opposite. If you can get Everclear, it works wonderfully. I feel limoncello should have a little bit of a kick to it, and I think the flavor is more complex if one uses very high proof liquor.


            1. re: KathyR

              I agree. I made it from a recipe in Gourmet (I believe). When looking around Los Angeles for 100% alcohol, I was told we cannot get anything higher than a 51 or 71 or something here, and the next best thing to use is Grain Alcohol = Everclear. I made it and it came out good (strong, but good). I still have a bottle in the freezer!

            2. re: Susan

              I don't like the taste of Vodka, so I am using the Everclear. My next batches will be made with 151 rather than 190-proof, however.

            3. f
              fai jay (fai jackson)

              Strange that I just read this post, the morning after I was looking through an older cookbook, The Flavours of Puglia, and there is a recipe in that book and here it is:

              About 1 1/2 quarts

              8 large lemons, preferably organic
              1 bottle (4/5 quart) 100 proof vodka
              3 cups spring water
              1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

              Zest the lemons. (If not organic, scrub well to remove residues, the dry well)

              Put the rinds and the vodka in large glass jars, screw down lids, and set aside in a cool place (not refrigerator) for 1 week

              Strain and discard rinds

              Make a simple syrup with spring water and sugar. Cool to room temp. and mix with strained vodka. Bottle in 2 pint containers and seal for 24 hrs. Then refrigerate.

              This recipe comes from a restaurant in Lecce.

              I think it may be regional (as are all things in Italy) as to what alcohol one uses.

              I was planning on trying this one out.