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
- Wash and dry your lemons to remove dirt and wax.
- 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!
- Scrape your zest into a large glass jar, measure out 100ml of Technical Reserve, and pour that 100ml over your zesting tool.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- Congratulations! Finished limoncello – ready to drink, give to your friends, or keep for a rainy day!
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. Homemade ‘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!).