This is my first shot at making limoncello, the favored Italian after-dinner summer drink. It turned out perfectly, though there were moments when I thought I'd screwed the pooch -- like when it went all cloudy and syrupy after sitting in the freezer for week. But it turns out that's exactly what it's supposed to do. I've been experimenting with perfumery in food for a while, and while this isn't strictly "perfumey", it is flavored with a common perfume ingredient, and I made it in organic grape alcohol, the same alcohol I use in my perfume. So it's relative.
I copied about a dozen variations of limoncello recipes before starting the project. I also toyed with the idea of throwing in something extra, like maybe a few clove buds to give the drink a winter appeal, or a vanilla bean or two, or rose hips, rose petals, or creating the simple syrup using a floral hydrosol, jasmine or osmanthus, or even a tea infusion. But in the end, I stuck with the basic limoncello.
Since I was using an organic alcohol, I decided to also use organic lemons and organic sugar for the syrup portion of the project. Some recipes call for an 80 day "stewing" period before drinking. I think this has been going on for about 60 days now. By the holidays, when the limoncello will debut, it will be the appropriate 80 days plus a few days, give or take a month.
Recipe for limoncello:
3 cups organic grape or grain alcohol (95% alcohol)
rind of 30 small to medium sized lemons (the yellow peel, none of the pith)
Let this duo marry for 15 or 20 days in a large (gallon) clean glass jar with a tightly fitting lid, and keep in a cool, dark place, then add:
3 cups organic sugar
3 cups water (or if you're adventurous, as I was not this time around, use a floral or citrus or herb hydrosol or a floral green tea infusion)
Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan and set it to boil; boil for at least 10 minutes, stirring constantly, to create a simple syrup compound; when cooled, add the simple syrup to the jug of alcohol/lemon peel, stir well and store again for 15 to 20 days
Strain the concoction through a coffee filter or clean cheesecloth to remove all the peel and store the clean limoncello in the freezer in flip-top bottles
After soaking for a few more weeks, test the batch by pouring a small bit into a shot glass. You're checking for bitterness. If there is no bitterness, then you did it right.
I'm planning to add shots of limoncello to sparkling water to cut the alcohol. I'm not much of a drinker, so I'm a little bit frightened at the prospect of actually drinking the limoncello. I'm definitely giving away little bottles of the stuff to family as gifts. The brave ones. I've heard it can be poured over ice cream. I don't know. Contemplating a buzz from a bowl of ice cream . . .
Next time I make it, I'll be experimenting with more flavors, maybe using some grapefruit hydrosol in the syrup, or tossing in rose petals or a few drops of rose eo during the first step stewing. Rose and lemon go well together.