Entries in lemoncello (2)

A Little Holiday DIY

I'm very excited to announce that I'll be doing a 3 hour online class through creativeLive next week on Friday, November 8th from 12:45PM - 4PM. I'll be showing you how to make your own bitters and limoncello for holiday gifts. The class with also touch on ways to use both, batch cocktails and aperitifs, as well as fun gift ideas that use what you've made.

The class is part of a series that includes all sorts of DIY holiday projects like crocheted snowflakes and pinecone ornaments. A few weeks ago we all gathered in the studio the shoot a promo video and if that experience was any indication of the classes they're all going to be a ton of fun.

You can sign up to watch all four or just one live the day they're taped for free or you can purchase the option to have unlimited access to the classes. Here's a link to my specific class, Homemade Liquor Infusions and Cocktail Bitters or the whole series, DIY Holiday Crafts & Cocktails. Be sure to check out the video for a taste of kitschy, wackiness that is in store. 


The first time I tasted lemoncello I was traveling in Italy just after graduating college. We had stopped for a few days in a town called Riomaggiore, part of the Cinque Terre on the Mediterranean coast. After finding a place to stay and dropping our stuff, we headed to the main bar in town to get a feel for the place and to cool off with a beer. After hanging out for a bit and making friends we also met the owner of the bar. Upon returning after dinner, most of the same crowd was back, we were introduced to the after dinner custom of a glass of lemoncello. This particular lemoncello was made across the street by the bar owner’s mother. It was tart and sweet, bursting with the flavor of fresh lemons. It also went down quite easy.

Further on in our travels we stayed for a few nights on the Amalfi Coast, an area known for its lemon groves. I remember quite vividly a walk we took from a hilltop town we’d visited back to our hotel. The entire way we followed a steep footpath through the lemon trees. The air smelled of sweet citrus and every once in a while we’d catch a glimpse of the Mediterranean through the trees. That night we stopped into a bar for a lemoncello. The old man who ran the place couldn’t quite accept that we just wanted to enjoy a drink and didn’t want to eat. A plate full of olives and bread arrived at our table along with our second glass.

It was a few years later that my aunt started making lemoncello for the holidays. I had since tried some at various bars in the states, but most of it was too cloyingly sweet or tasted of bitter “natural” flavors. Hers was the closest I’d ever had to what we enjoyed in Italy.

After Dan and I moved in together I made my own batch for the holidays. Dan loved it. I believe he drank most of the first batch by himself within days. I now try to keep at least a liter bottle in the refrigerator and thankfully he’s learned a little restraint, but for a while I was making a 2-liter batch every few weeks.

While you can get good tasting lemons year round, we are currently in the prime of citrus season. I do believe you get a fuller, sweeter flavor when you use in-season lemons right off the tree. There are also advocates of Meyer lemons and this is definitely the time of year for those, but I will caution you. I’ve had some amazing lemoncello made with Meyer lemons, but I also made a batch that was extremely perfumey and to both Dan and my taste, unpleasant. Make sure you know the flavor profile of the lemon’s you choose before you commit.


1.75 liters 80-90 proof vodka (I use the cheap stuff, no need to get fancy)
9 lemons
5 cups sugar

Zest the lemons removing as little pith as possible. I use a potato peeler to make zesting less tedious and I’ve also found that having big pieces of peel keep the end product clearer with less filtering.

Then juice your lemons, setting the juice aside.

In a 4-quart saucepan over low heat, add the vodka, sugar and lemon zest. Heat slowly, stirring till the sugar dissolves, being carful to not let the temperature go above 120°.

Once the sugar is dissolved, let cool slightly (5-10 minutes) then add all the lemon juice. Stir to mix.

Put the mixture into a sealable glass container. You’ll need one that will hold about 2.5 liters. You can also split the mixture up, but make sure to divide the lemon peel evenly between the two containers.

Let the mixture sit for a least two weeks, then strain.

Serve chilled and remember every two ounces is equivalent to a shot of vodka, because it certainly won’t taste like it.