Technical Reserve might well have been invented to make limoncello! Because of the high proof and clean, neutral taste, you get a beautiful, zest-forward liqueur that smells like a fresh lemon, not peels soaked in high-proof booze. In the following recipe, we’re going to show you how to make your own ‘cello (you can use oranges, grapefruits, really any citrus!) in minutes.

No, we’re not joking. This recipe will take you at most an hour from start to ready to drink and only about 15 minutes of actual work. Limoncello is an Italian lemon liqueur with as much tradition and methods as it has flavor. Made out of only the zest of ripe lemons, this liqueur captures the essence of fresh lemons and concentrates it (literally) into sippable form. Served as an aperitif or a digestif, limoncello is equally at home topping ice cream or adding a lemony kick to a fruit tart.

So how did we take a drink that usually needs weeks or months to make, and reduce that down to minutes? Well, it’s important to point out that this technique will only work with Technical Reserve. Anything else will have too much water in it or will have too strong of an odor to make a delicate liqueur like this. If don’t have a bottle of Technical Reserve handy, head over to our store finder or if you’re not in New York City, you can order it online.

This limoncello recipe has 4 very simple ingredients and yields about 230ml (or 8 oz) so scale up as needed :

  • 150ml of Technical Reserve (A little less than half of a bottle)
  • 9-10 grams of lemon zest (or the peels of 2-3 lemons)
  • 60 grams of sugar
  • 75ml water

and a few tools:

  • a small spoon for stirring and scraping
  • Microplane or zester (or peeler)
  • strainer or filter paper
  • kitchen scale
  • a funnel
  • a 16 oz or larger glass jar for mixing
  • glass bottle with a tight stopper for storing your final limoncello
  1. Wash and dry your lemons to remove dirt and wax.

    prepare your lemons

    Not all lemons are the same size. We always suggest that you use a scale for the best results (and so you can repeat your recipe exactly the next time)!

  2. Zest your lemons with a microplane. If you don’t have a microplane, you can use a zester or even a peeler, but the tiny shavings of the microplane will give you the best results by far. If you don’t have a microplane, get one – you’ll be happy you did!
    the microplane: the ultimate zesting machine!

    Microplanes are super useful and have a pretty amazing story.

    zest your lemons (or other citrus if you're making another 'cello!)

    Watch your fingers! The fruit will start to get slippery as you zest and microplanes aren’t really known for their kind and forgiving nature…

  3. Scrape your zest into a large glass jar, measure out 100ml of Technical Reserve, and pour that 100ml over your zesting tool.
    scrape your zest into a glass container

    A little zest goes a long way! For this recipe you want about 9-10 grams of freshly zested lemon peel.

    wash any zest or lemon essense off your tools

    While you were zesting your lemons, a lot of the lemon oils were left on your tools. Pouring Technical Reserve over them is not only a great way to make sure you get all of that lemony goodness, but it also cleans off those hard-to-remove lemon oils. It’s a win-win.

  4. Using a clean metal spoon, stir the lemon zest in the Technical Reserve. Let this sit for 10-20 minutes, stirring periodically if you want.

    stir the lemon zest and Technical Reserve

    IMPORTANT! Don’t let the extraction sit for more that an hour or the flavors will be a little less “fresh” and more like store-bought limoncello.

  5. After that brief soak, it’s time to strain off all of that lovely lemon essence. We like to filter our extracts, but you can use a strainer or even just carefully pour off the liquid in the jar. Using a strainer is much faster than filtering and will work fine if you’re in a rush. You’ll get the best results from using a filter though – even a coffee filter will dramatically improve the quality of your limoncello. IMPORTANT! try to keep as much of the zest in the glass jar as possible for now, we’re not done with it yet!
    extracted lemon essence ready for straining and filtering

    Bright yellow after only a few minutes!

    strain off or filter your extract

    We like to use lab filters. They’re super easy to find on the web but coffee filters are better than nothing.

    filtering the limoncello extract

  6. Now that you’re removed most of the lemon extract, we’re going to wash the rest of it off the remaining zest with a little more Technical Reserve. Measure out 50 ml, pour that over your zest, mix it around a little with your spoon, and then pour that off.
    lemon extraction #2!

    You can see how much lemony goodness is left after the first extraction. If you’re trying to get the most flavor out of your ingredients, it’s better to “wash” the flavors off with several doses of Technical Reserve than to just let it sit and soak.

    pretty much nothing lemony left

    After the second extraction there’s pretty much nothing left – this pulp is almost white and barely even smells lemony!

  7. Next, you add sugar. Limoncello varies from syrup-like sweetness to astringently dry. I prefer something a bit in the middle but if you want a sweeter ‘cello, feel free to add some more sugar.
    adding sugar to the fresch lemon extract

    sugar doesn't dissolve in alcohol!

    Fun fact: sugar doesn’t dissolve in alcohol! It’s true, alcohol is what’s known as a non-polar solvent and won’t dissolve things like sugar or salts. For that we’ll need a polar solvent like good ‘ol water.

  8. Finally, we’ll add our water. Adding water is pretty critical to the process as it dissolves the sugar and also determines what your final limoncello will look like. If you want a clear limoncello, you’ll need to add very little water, but if you like the look of “creamy” limoncello, you can add up to 50% water. I like a stronger, clearer limoncello. My feeling is that you can always add more water later – or ice! – so for this recipe we’ll use 75ml of water (but for that nice opaque look you can add as much as 120ml).
    adding water to the lemon extract

    Add however much water you want to the lemon extract. IMPORTANT! At the very least you need to add as many ml of water as grams of sugar. If you don’t, the sugar won’t dissolve all the way. *tip!* if you have simple syrup handy, you can just use that instead of having to mix the sugar and water (and save lots of shaking…).

    shake to dissolve the sugar

    Once you’ve added all your water, shake it up. You can also just let it sit and the sugar will slowly dissolve into the water. More shaking will speed up the process.

  9. Congratulations! Finished limoncello – ready to drink, give to your friends, or keep for a rainy day!
    finished limoncello!

    This limoncello is about 120 proof, but it sure doesn’t taste it!

    clear and creamy limoncello

    If you add more water, your limoncello will become cloudy or “louche” due to a fun little phenomenon known as “spontaneous emulsification”. But you don’t have to take our word for it!

So there you have it, the basics of making limoncello. You’ll probably notice that this ‘cello smells and tastes a lot like fresh zest. Because of the low water content of the Technical Reserve, we managed to capture only the essence of the lemons and leave all of the vegetal-tasting flavor behind. The cool thing is that you can apply this technique to pretty much any citrus fruit. Oranges (aranciacello), grapefruit (pompelmocello), even the Buddha’s Hand citron (buddhas…hand…cello?) will work amazingly well with this technique.┬áHomemade ‘cello makes a great gift and it’s amazingly easy to vary the recipes. I personally love using the orangecello as a top note to a classic mimosa and the grapefruitcello has made an appearance at many many brunches (amazing with Industry Standard Vodka and a splash of soda!).

 

aranciacello! (orangecello)

Orangecello made with a single navel orange. Just a dash of this on top of a drink give you an immediate top note of orange zest. Give it a try!

Enjoy!