My friend Joey Campanale, restaurant owner of Dell’Anima, L’artusi and Anfora wine bar in NYC, and fantastic sommelier, showed me how they make Limoncello, a refreshing Italian flavored alcohol.
That’s really all it is when you get down to it-flavored vodka or grain alcohol. I’ve seen many recipes for this drink and while they are all similar, when you learn how to make it, you can create your own variations! Joey uses vodka, which I think makes perfect sense, especially if you have a brand you already like (but don’t bother using anything too expensive since you will be infusing it).
So he started by taking a large glass container with an air tight lid and peeled lemon rinds right into the jar until is was filled completed with the peels.
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Once it was full, he poured enough vodka into the jar to surround the peels and fill it to the brim. At this point he covered it tightly and let it sit for three months so the lemon oils from the peels could seep out and infuse the vodka. I suppose you could add a vanilla bean or some other flavor to this but traditional Limoncello has only the lemon flavor. Also, if you only let this steep and did not proceed to the next step of adding sugar, you’d have a delicious lemon-flavored vodka that you could use to make mixed drinks or to serve with simply club soda or tonic water.
After the steeping period, Joe strained the vodka and discarded the lemon peels.
Next he made a simple syrup mixture of sugar and water. You could try to make this with honey instead of the white sugar, which I think would be fantastic with the lemons. He then added the sweet syrup to the lemon vodka to make a sweet concoction-you can sweeten to your liking.
Once you get the flavors right-ecco la! Your Limoncello is ready to be chilled and served cold after a nice big Italian meal!