June 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

Inspired by my trip to Italy, I wanted to try to make Lemoncello, a citrus-based liquor that is now considered their national drink.  It originated in Sorento (southern Italy – think Amalfi coast and Gulf of Naples) and is used as an after-dinner digestive.  Since only the peel is used, it develops a powerful, zesty flavor.  Most recipes for lemoncello that I’ve found are for large batches and use variable amounts of the staple ingredients.  The zesting of the lemons is the most crucial step in this recipe; you must do your best to only get the zest, or the yellow part of the peel, to avoid making the drink too bitter.  Zesting is the step that takes the longest, make sure you don’t have to rush off somewhere or have a long to-do list.   After the initial lemon prep, this recipe is smooth sailing.  The recipe that you’ll find below is a melding of several sources, according to my personal preferences.  I’ve decreased the amount of syrup by default; I was originally going to use 1 and 3/4 cups of water (about 414 mL) with my 1 and 1/4 cups of sugar, but due to lack of foresight (a wine bottle only holds 750 mL), I used less.  According to several sources, less water is actually more true to original lemoncello.  If you have pure grain alcohol, use this instead of vodka.

Shop in Vernazza


5 lemons

375 mL of vodka (cheap is okay, it will taste better if you can upgrade)

375 mL water

One heaping cup of sugar


a peeler

a clean wine bottle


1. Zest the lemons – again, make sure to only get the zest, avoid the white pith.

2. Place the lemon peels in a pitcher, add lemon zest, and cover well with saran wrap.  Steep at room temperature for 4 days.  The vodka should slowly take on its distinctive, rich yellow color.

3. Combine sugar and water in a saucepan on medium heat until sugar is completely dissolved (less than 5 min).  Cool completely, and combine sugar mixture and steeped vodka and put in the tightly sealed wine bottle.

4. Let the lemoncello stand at room temperature overnight.

5. Pour lemoncello over a strainer (to remove the zest) and put in fridge to chill.

***Enjoy for up to a month!

I'll have to re-label the bottle, but I thought the yellow cap was appropriate. 🙂


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