Friday, March 8, 2013

Making Limoncello

Recently a friend of mine brought me some fine limoncello from Italy. After one taste I was hooked. Unfortunately for me, I am unable to find a comparable bottle in my local liquor stores. Thus I decided to make my own.

The basic template for limoncello is to soak lemon zest in vodka for a while then dilute with sugar syrup. Be sure to clean off the wax coating from your lemons. You can use fruit wash from the store, or distilled white vinegar. I like to scrub them with a soft scrubber sponge (the blue one) to help get it all off. You can remove the zest with a microplane grater, a zester, or a vegetable peeler. Be careful not to remove any of the white part. It will make the liqueur bitter.

The sugar syrup I use is some home made rich sugar syrup, which is 2:1 sugar:water by weight. This is twice as sweet as simple syrup. In fact, that is the 20C saturation point of sugar in water so if you chill the syrup below room temperature it will start crystalizing. If you want to make the syrup in bulk, the syrup resulting from 1.5kg sugar dissolved with 750ml water  fits inside a 1.75L bottle.

Here is the recipe for my first batch. Note: I measured everything with a scale therefore the liquids are by weight not volume.
  • 36g Lemon Zest (from 5 lemons)
  • 500g (546ml) Kettle One Vodka
  • 11 days rest
  • 500g (385ml) Rich Sugar Syrup
ABV: 23.47%
Luckily enough this batch came out fairly good, though a tad too sweet for my liking. It will make a good reference recipe to compare future batches against. Despite the sweetness, everyone else referred to it as liquid crack which, contrary to the stories of recovering addicts, means it was very good. Let me know if you make a batch.