On my last day kicking around Edinburgh this summer, I stopped for lunch at The Scran and Scallie -- a fabulous gastropub suggested by my local hostess. I got a little carried away with the ordering, and after filling my belly with a sizable Sunday roast, mound of seasonal veggies, and hunks of bread to mop everything up, I waddled to the bar with the remainder of my flight of Scottish beers. As I chatted with the friendly barkeeper, he began to wax lyrical about some of the homemade cocktail concoctions he'd been experimenting with lately, mainly featuring local ingredients. Among them, limoncello.
"Er, that's not really Scottish, sir," I volunteered.
"No. But it is mighty good, miss, and we make it right here," he responded. And then poured me a glass of it. Then he raved about how simple it was to make. It only took four days, some vodka, and a few lemons. Easy peasy.
Well, after a couple of weeks of being home and missing the nightly cocktails of my traveling month, I decided to make a batch. I looked up a number of recipes, finally settling on one from Imbibe magazine. Admittedly, this recipe took more than 3 weeks from start to finish, with daily shaking of the vodka-zest solution, but based on the reviews from my friends at a recent dinner party, who each requested a second digestif, I'd say it's worth it. In fact, I am starting another batch right now....
- 2 (750ml) bottles vodka
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups sugar
- 12-15 lemons
Rinse and then plunge lemons into boiling water for a couple of seconds. (This removes the wax on most store-bought lemons.)
Gently rinse the lemons in cool water and pat dry.
Zest the lemons,* taking care to avoid the bitter white pith. (I use a microplane. Mostly because I love any excuse to use a microplane.)
Place the zest in the glass jar and add one bottle of vodka.
Seal tightly and let the mixture steep. Shake it daily, until the liquid turns bright yellow. I'd say shaking daily for two weeks should do it. This is best accomplished by leaving the jar on your countertop, near the coffee maker, for instance, so you see and shake it each morning. (You can taste it now and again. Just for quality testing. No, not in the morning with your coffee. Geez', some of us have jobs....)
Strain the infused vodka through a double layer of moistened cheesecloth into a clean jar or bottle, being sure to squeeze the last drops of intensely flavored liquid from the peel. (Use spoonfuls of the vodka-spiked zest in a few vodka tonics -- delish!)
Add the second bottle of vodka.
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. This should only take a couple of minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.
Add the syrup to the infused vodka.
Pour your limoncello back into your two empty vodka bottles.
Seal bottles and let rest at least one week. Additional aging will result in a smoother limoncello. (Seriously, it's worth it to wait at least another week.)
*I know, you will find yourself with at least a dozen zested lemons here. Might I recommend making a batch of lemon sorbet? It's tasty on its own, or stirred into a vodka tonic. I'm just sayin'....