January 24, 2010


Infusions are the easiest and most satisfying way to dabble in DIY spirits this side of a bathtub still. Since being introduced to vodka infusions many moons ago by my brother, Bo, I've done a modest amount of experimenting with vodka and even an infused whiskey here and there, but a while ago I read several articles online about making limoncello and was intrigued enough to give it a try. The difference between limoncello and standard infusions seems to be a dilution with simple syrup after the initial infusion and a subsequent marrying period where the flavor supposedly further develops. Regular infusions don't involve dilution and artificial sweetening - just straight soaking.

This is Kyle, by the way.

The first time I tried my hand at this I decided to use limes rather than lemons. My lime-cello was pretty good, but for the second attempt, I decided to stick to the original lemon. As with last time, the recipe I used as a rough framework is on the Washington Compost website: here.

The ingredients are pretty simple: Lemons and booze. I used 22 lemons and 2 bottles of Everclear (95%). Because you basically dilute the limoncello 1:1 with simple syrup, it's best to start with the highest concentrated alcohol you can find or you'll end up with glorified lemonade. I don't know if it's true, but I've also seen it written that the flavor that is extracted from the lemon peels is alcohol soluble, so a higher alcohol percentage will extract it more efficiently.

The first step is to peel the lemons, but there's a trick. You only want the yellow part of the rind, and if you take too much of the white pith underlying the bumpy yellow part you can end up with a bitter twinge to the final product. The good news is that the simple syrup step can knock that bitterness down a bit, but best to spend the time carefully peeling the lemons at the outset - this stuff is going to take a few weeks to mature, after all.

Once I peeled the lemons using a veggie peeler, I stuffed the rinds in the biggest jar I could find and dumped in the Everclear. I think that when I made it last time, I only used one bottle and added the second after a week, but this time I added both. Ehh.

In about two weeks, I'll remove the lemon peels (which should have lost all their color to the alcohol) and remove any additional sediment using coffee filters and a funnel. Removing all the sediment is another way to reduce or eliminate any bitter elements in the final concoction.

Here's a picture of the Day Zero version. And the carcasses of 22 lemons. A jug of fresh lemon juice is a nice by-product of making this stuff.


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