Years ago, I spent a lovely weekend with friends in a tiny cabin we rented on a picturesque lemon grove just outside of Sorrento, Italy. We'd asked the kind owner if we could pick lemons to make lemonade. He responded with a grin, told us politely to wait, and returned with icy cups of his homemade "lemonade," a much more potent and delicious form of lemonade than we had in mind. The elixir he shared with us was limoncello (lee-mohn-CHEH-loh), a beautifully sweet digestif made from lemon rinds, alcohol, sugar and water. I don't recall the variety of lemons he grew, nor do I know what type of alcohol he used (though my guess would be grappa), but the exhilaration of that first sip has stayed with me for over 20 years. Indeed, Italy has a way of doing that, especially when staying on the Amalfi coast.
Limoncello is easy and inexpensive to produce, containing only a few simple ingredients and requiring just a bit of time to mature. It's sipped icy cold - but never with ice - after dinner (or in lemon groves with a kind Italian farmer) from small glasses. Cin cin!
Makes 4 bottles
When in season, I love to make this with Meyer lemons as they are so fragrant and deliciously sweet. After the maturation, pour your limoncello into pretty bottles such as swing top ones and give as gifts during the holidays. The recipient will love you!
2 (750 ml) bottles grappa or Everclear (Note: If you use Everclear or some other more pure alcohol, dilute it to about 40%, the strength of vodka. Below that, it will not properly extract all the oils from the rinds)
4 cups sugar
5 cups water