Are you already thinking about what to make your favorite friends and family members for the holidays this year? I bet you totally are (not) so I’m here to give you the easiest gift idea all of your fancy boozy pals will like. You do need some lead time, so consider this your weekend project! K? K.
Speaking of fancy, I had limoncello for the first time in Italy. It was served freezing cold in a fancy looking shot glass. I was 22 at the time so I did what any 22 year old with what looked like alcohol in a shot glass would do… I slammed it. The waiters did not approve. So, take note: this treat is meant to be sipped slowly. Bonus: your gift receivers will think of how awesome you are for a longer duration than a shot would take!
This is a two step process, each step taking no longer than about a half hour of active time with some waiting days in between.
makes 10-12 half pint jars // recipe adapted from Imbibe
12-15 organic lemons
2 (750 ml) bottles 80-100-proof vodka (one for now one for later, I used Svedka)
3.25 cups granulated sugar
5 cups water
1. Buy the lemons! I found a big bag of organic lemons at Whole Foods for a decent price. I personally wanted organic, but that decision is up to you. Choose thick-skinned lemons, they are way easier to zest. Make sure the lemons are very yellow, not green, brown, etc.
2.Wash the lemons with a vegetable brush and hot water to remove any reside of pesticides or wax; I soaked mine in a big bowl of hot before scrubbing. Pat the lemons dry.
3. 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 ruin your limoncello.
4. Then, stick the rinds and one bottle of vodka in a jar together. Let them sit for anywhere between 10-40 days in a dark area of your house. The longer these are together, the stronger the lemon flavor will be, so I left them for the full 40 days, but I gather two weeks is enough time. The color of the liquid should be very dark and smell very strongly like lemon.
STEP TWO (40 days later)
1. Strain the infusion through a colander or moistened cheesecloth into a clean jar or bowl. Make sure to to squeeze the last drops of liquid from the peels. Add the second bottle of vodka to the lemony vodka.
2.Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved and the syrup just comes to a boil. Remove from heat and let cool.
3. Add the syrup to the infused vodka. If you are impatient, you can add the syrup while it’s still warm to make cloudy Limoncello, but I thought it looked nicer clear so I waited.
4. Pour the liqueur into sterilized bottles (tons of cute options out there, but I used ball jars), seal tightly and let rest another 10-40 days. Additional aging will result in a smoother marriage of flavors. Make sure people stick this in the fridge after a few weeks and drink it cold. It delicious alone, or as a base of a martini/cocktail type thing.
I found tons of free printable labels online, and really loved making this as a gift for lots of summer celebrations; birthdays, housewarmings, engagements, etc.
If you start this this weekend, you would be able to follow step one and let the flavors meld for the full 40 days, complete step two, let it sit for 9-10 days and be able to give this as a Christmas gift that would be ready to drink! Go!