Everybody knows what Limoncello is. Not everybody knows how it should taste. I don’t. I haven’t been to Italy and didn’t have a chance to get a sip of “as good as Nonna’s” Limoncello. Nevertheless, there is an ideal flavor I am looking for every time I buy a promising bottle of this authentic, imported from Southern Italy liqueur. So far, it’s always been a disappointment. Maybe an authentic Limoncello is about lemon zest, not a lemon? Maybe our local lemons are not good enough?
Last year, a couple of times I’ve been served a Limoncello made by an Italian chef for his or her Italian restaurant in the U.S. Being handmade in small batches by a pro and native, I expected the drink to be exciting. But all Limoncellos I had were lacking the flavor of lemon. They were way too sweet and with alcohol up front. Implying life gave me the best organically homegrown lemons, can I make my version adjusted to my expectations?
Modifications to the Original Recipe
I decided to replace water in simple syrup with lemon juice and see what happens. I also reduced the amount of sugar per amount of alcohol. I used high-end Ukrainian vodka — Shevkoff Black Ultra Premium. The result is a Limoncello I can truly enjoy.
A great tasting limoncello starts with freshly harvested organically grown lemons. Wash them. Using your favorite tool for zesting, remove just the thin yellow skin, or zest, of the fruit.
Combine the lemon zest and vodka in a large glass jar, secure a lid, and let sit for at least 1 and up to 3 weeks. See Recipe Note below for the options with 12 zested lemons.
After infusing the vodka for 1 to 3 weeks, prepare sugar syrup. In a pan, combine water, lemon juice, and sugar and bring to simmer until sugar is completely dissolved. Take it off the heat and let cool to the room temperature.
Add sugar syrup to infused vodka and stir. Cover and let it sit for 1 to 3 days, then strain and bottle. Refrigerate limoncello for at least 1 day before serving.
So, we end up with 12 zested lemons. How to use them?