DIY Lemoncello

Thursday, February 13, 2014

In the last year I may have unknowingly boarded the DIY train and now I’m not sure how to get off, or even if I want to.

It started off simple with some home-infused vodkas. I then upped the ante by making my own citrus and old-fashioned bitters. Then about a month ago I started two projects at the same time: kombucha and lemoncello. I’m not sure why all my DIY projects are things I can drink. Strange.

Lemoncello is a wonderful Italian liqueur that strikes the perfect balance between tangy, sweet and boozy — making it one of the few liqueurs that I can enjoy sipping straight, yet flavorful enough to mix with some fizzy water for a refreshing cocktail.

It’s the perfect liqueur to have hanging around the house. It can just sit in the freezer and when people come over you can effortlessly offer them a drink that takes about two seconds to make and you come off fancy as hell.

Now you may be asking yourself, “Matt, what about the kombucha!?” Well, it is wonderful. But it looks like a creepy slime mold growing on top of tea. And who wants to see a picture of that? No one.

Louise Emerick for Americas Test Kitchen The Feed


  • 2 lbs. organic unwaxed lemons
  • 1 750-ml. bottle of grain alcohol
  • 1 cup of plain sugar


Lemoncello is traditionally made with grain alcohol — Everclear, as an example — but that can be hard to come by. The next best thing is 100 proof vodka.

Start with organic lemons, to avoid pesticides and the waxed coating of conventional lemons. If you don’t have a choice then just make sure to scrub and clean them very well. Peel the lemons with a vegetable peeler, trying to minimize the amount of white pith. If some pith remains on the zest strip, then take a small sharp paring knife and scrape it off. This part does not have to be perfect but the less pith present, the less bitter the lemoncello.

Place all the zest strips in a glass or ceramic bowl that has at least a 3½-cup capacity. Pour the alcohol over the zest. Cover and store in a cool dark place for four weeks. If you are in a rush, two weeks will make an okay batch, but four is by far the best.

After the four long weeks are up, strain it through a fine mesh sieve, pressing on the zest to extract as much liquid as possible. Make a simple syrup by mixing 1 cup of sugar into 1 ½ cups of water. Heat on the stovetop until sugar is completely dissolved. Let cool and add it to the infused alcohol. It may turn cloudy when you do this. That is completely normal and healthy.

Pour the mixture into the bottles you wish to use, and let rest at room in a cool dark place for at least five days to mellow it out. Then place in the freezer and enjoy.