Limoncello is a sweet, fiery Italian liqueur, traditionally homemade from lemons but also commercially bottled. The cliché is the burlap-wrapped bottle hidden in some shadowy recess of an ancient stone farmhouse, though most drinkers’ experience will be of a more prosaic off-the-liquor-store-shelf variety. The truth is that it’s incredibly easy to make, even if you aren’t a Tuscan farmer, and it makes a nice holiday gift, too. (Your friends will thank you for the tasty hangover.)
Most limoncello recipes require infusing the liqueur for at least 45 days (some go as long as six months), stipulate an unwieldy filtering process and result in a product as thick and sweet as syrup. Our remixed version takes a few shortcuts and adds a surprise – pompelmo (grapefruit) instead of limon, for a more refreshing, bittersweet liqueur that’s perfect mixed with Campari, chilled, or over ice. Drink in moderation – it’s strong stuff.
• 4 pounds (about 18) unwaxed organic
• 2 750-mL bottles grain alcohol (like
• 5 cups sugar
• 4 cups filtered water (not distilled)
• large airtight glass jar
Peel the lemons with a vegetable peeler, being very careful not to include any of the pith (the white part just beneath the yellow). Combine lemon peels and alcohol in the jar; place the jar in a cool, dark place for 45 days. Next, make a simple syrup: Combine the sugar and water and let the mixture boil for three minutes, then add the syrup to the jar. Let rest for another 45 days. Filter through a sieve to remove peels, then filter three more times through paper coffee filters, into a sterilized container each time, then pour into sterilized bottles. Store in freezer indefinitely.
• zest of 4 large unwaxed organic grapefruit *
• 2 750-mL bottles 100-proof vodka
• 4 cups sugar
• 5 cups water
• large airtight glass jar
Combine zest and alcohol. (Don’t worry if there is a bit of pith mixed in with the zest; just know that it will push the pompelmocello more to the bitter end of the flavor spectrum.) Store in a closed cabinet for a week to 10 days. **
Make a simple syrup with the sugar and water. (I prefer a slightly less sweet liqueur so I’ve called for less sugar here; adjust the ratio to your own taste.) Pour the alcohol mixture through a sieve into a clean container, trying to catch all the zest. Pour the syrup into the original jar and add back in the now-grapefruit-infused alcohol. Chill in the freezer for at least a day before drinking, and keep it there for up to a year (like it’s gonna last that long).
* Unwaxed, because you’ll have to filter out wax bits otherwise. Organic, because you don’t want to infuse and concentrate a bunch of pesticide. Best case: The fruit comes from your own tree.
** It’s true that limoncello gets better as it ages, but it will taste great with even just a week of aging.