Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Limoncello - Christmas Cheer in a Bottle

Homemade holiday gifts have become a tradition in our home.  I cannot think of a better way to share my love and passion for cooking than by making something for my friends.  There is something intimate and personal about giving a gift that you have made, rather than stopping at the grocery store and grabbing a handful of I-tune and Starbuck gift cards.  Isn’t that just the equivalent of putting money in an envelope?

My first homemade gift for this holiday season shares my love of all things Italian.   It is a little Christmas Cheer in a bottle and a vacation to the lovely country of Italy, all in one.  My gift is Limoncello, an Italian liqueur that is produced primarily in southern Italy.  Its bright yellow color instantly brings a smile to my face and memories of quaint little cafes in Florence and Venice.  Slightly sweet with a zesty citrus flavor, but without the bitterness and sourness of a lemon, this Italian liqueur is perfect to sip on a sunny day or at the end of a great meal.  It is even used in Lemon Drop martinis as a secret ingredient.

This is a super easy gift to make, and you may like it so much it becomes one of your house specialties.  This recipe came from Martha Stewart’s Holiday Handbook  2011.  Martha’s version of Limoncello can be completed in a week or less.  By comparison, Lidia Bastianich’s recipe in Lidia’s Italy requires a minimum of 60 days.  The difference is in the time the mixture hibernates.
Ingredients for a little vacation in a bottle

8 Lemons
1 Bottle (750 ml) Grey Goose Vodka (or any good, non-flavored vodka)
2 ¼ Cups Sugar
2 ¼ Cups Water

Peel strips of zest from the lemons using a vegetable peeler, and reserve the skinless lemons for another use.  Combine the lemon zest and vodka in an airtight container and let stand at room temperature for at least two days or up to a week.  At that point, the limoncello is ready to be completed.

Vodka & Lemon Zest
Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan and add the sugar, stirring until the sugar has fully dissolved and a simple syrup has been created.  Let the simple syrup cool completely, then add it to the vodka mixture and stir until all ingredients are fully blended.  Refrigerate overnight in an airtight container.

Pour the vodka mixture through a sieve into a container and then pour the strained vodka mixture through a funnel into airtight bottles.  Reserve the lemon zest for making candied lemon zest to brighten up cocktails, to add to savory or sweet dishes, or to nibble on as a special treat.

Limoncello can be stored in the freezer up to three months.
Holiday Cheer from the heart!

Buon Natale!


  1. Another beautiful and entertaining post. Thank you for sharing your passion.

  2. What a great gift! It looks so festive! I have wanted to give this a try since I first tried it in an Italian restaurant by me. The owner makes it and brings it out to share with his customers from time to time. I will have to give it a try. Thanks for posting the recipe.

  3. That is really neat.
    Someone gave us a bottle of homemade limoncello earlier this week - my lemondade loving daughter was very disappointed when I told her it wasnt lemonade (but we sure weren't disappointed)


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