Whenever I think of limoncello, I always think of the 1999 crime thriller The Talented Mr Ripley. While they never actually drank Limoncello in the film, the scenery and the lifestyle are so Amalfi Coast that it’s hard to disconnect them.
Limoncello is ubiquitous in the Amalfi coast region, particularly the island of Capri, where lemons grow the size of grapefruits and the fruit is fresh and juicy. The oily skins are just perfect for making this delicate liqueur.
The film director, Roberto Rossellini, when asked why he loved filming on the Amalfi Coast, said, “They are crazy, drunk with the sun! But they live using a power known by few of us: the power of imagination!”
And really, that is exactly what Limoncello is, a liqueur that in taste and colouring is very much ‘drunk with the sun’. It’s bright, cheerful and vibrant, so whether you’re just about to come into Spring or are living in an Indian summer, it’s the perfect remedy to cast the blues away.
Now, if you are not lucky enough to have an Italian grandmother, it’s easy to imagine Limoncello is so steeped in tradition that it’s incredibly difficult to make. Or, like most other Italian liqueurs, has multiple ingredients that are closely guarded secrets.
But Limoncello is none of these things.
It’s as easy to make, it’s easy to drink and just requires a little patience and a zest (get it …?) for a bit of jet-setter chic.
- 10 organic lemons, washed and dried
- 1 750-ml bottle vodka (100-proof preferred, or 80-proof)
- 1 to 4 cups sugar, to taste
1. Peel the lemons: Use a vegetable peeler to remove the peels from all the lemons. Try to remove only the outer yellow skin and as little of the pith as possible. Trim away any large pieces of pith with a paring knife, but don’t worry about trimming every last scrap.
2. Cover the peels with vodka: Transfer the lemon peels to a 1-quart jar and cover with vodka. Screw on the lid.
Infuse the vodka: Let the vodka and lemon peels infuse somewhere out of the way and out of direct sunlight for at least 4 days or as long as a month. The longer you let the vodka infuse, the more lemony your limoncello.
3. Strain the vodka: Line a strainer with a large coffee filter and set it over a 4-cup measuring cup. Strain the infused vodka through the filter. You may need to stir the vodka in the strainer if the flow stops.
4. Prepare sugar syrup: Prepare a sugar syrup of at least 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar — bring the water to a simmer and stir in the sugar to dissolve; allow to cool.→ You can play with the ratios of water to sugar. Start with 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar, taste the limoncello, and add additional sugar syrup gradually until you reach a flavour you like — up to 4 cups of water with 4 cups of sugar. More water will dilute the alcohol base, making a less alcoholic, milder, and smoother-sipping liqueur. More sugar will make a sweeter limoncello.
5. Mix the sugar syrup with the infused vodka: Pour the sugar syrup into the infused vodka. Stir gently to mix. Taste and add additional sugar syrup if desired (see above).
6. Bottle the limoncello: Insert the funnel in the neck of one of the bottles and fill it with limoncello. Repeat with the remaining bottles.
7. Chill and store: Chill the limoncello in the fridge or freezer for at least 4 hours before drinking. Limoncello can be kept in the fridge for up to a month or in the freezer for up to a year (and often much longer!).