It makes sense to learn how to make limoncello if you love the drink. It's not always easy to come by, so why not have it on hand? You have full control over the ingredients, not to mention the strength of the booze. Besides, there's some cachet attached to making your own limoncello. The brew takes a while to mature, however. Getting that potent lemon taste is no overnight job. It's time-consuming, but that's time well spent. Just bear in mind that it doesn't hurt to have a jar (or five) of the lemony liquor seeping at all times. The odds are high that your family members and friends are going to start making requests once they catch wind of your homemade concoction.
Get all the ingredients you need first.
The first step in learning how to make limoncello is to realize that it's a time-consuming, multistep process, so you have to get together everything you need several times. To start out with, you need 15 organic lemons. For a fresh, tart taste, pick out Meyer lemons—this is limoncello, after all, and it deserves the best. You also need a bottle of strong alcohol, 151-proof or 190-proof. Everclear is best, but vodka, the most versatile spirit, works, too. You actually need two bottles of booze, but you only use one for the first part of the recipe.
Gather your tools.
You have the ingredients for the first phase of the recipe. Next, get the necessary bar tools you need. For this part, it's not much. Find a glass jar with a lid that screws on tightly. Snag yourself a wooden spoon. You also need a vegetable peeler. It seems odd, but you'll understand once you're ready to use it.
Wash the fruit.
This is pretty simple, but it's an integral step in making limoncello because the lemon peels are essential ingredients. Use warm water. It's up to you whether or not you use soap, but make sure you rinse the lemons thoroughly. Pat them down until they're dry.
Carefully peel the lemons.
Now the vegetable peeler will make sense. You need to peel the lemons—but do it carefully. Try to remove the peels in single spirals. That's why a grater or a zester won't work. For one thing, you don't want to zest 15 lemons that way. For another thing, knowing how to make limoncello authentically means having lots of lemon zest, but no white pith. You have more control over that with a vegetable peeler. On that note, however, always leave the pith on the lemon. It's bitter, and it makes the liquor taste bitter, too.
Prepare your jar.
The lemon peels go in your clean jar, along with one of those high ABV bottles of alcohol. Use the wooden spoon to push down the peels. They need to be entirely submerged in the Everclear or vodka, just like other times when you infuse your alcohol with fresh fruit, spices, herbs, and botanicals. Next, screw on the lid as tightly as possible. Sealed glass jars work just as well if that's your preference. Just borrow a canning jar from a friend.
Find the perfect spot.
The old tricks about how to make limoncello are still the best ones. Homemade limoncello needs to sit in a cool dark place for an extended period of time. Some recipes say to seep the lemons for 4 hours, which is ridiculous. Others suggest 24 hours, but that isn't long enough, either. Store the jar for at least 20 days, but no longer then 40 days. The longer it steeps, the stronger the lemon flavor.
Add more alcohol.
After that first chunk of time, you can check on the progress of your concoction. In between, there's no need to stir it or anything like that; you just let it sit still. Once 20-40 days have passed, open up the jar and add the rest of the alcohol. Patience is the secret ingredient that won't be found in any other recipe telling you how to make limoncello, but you won't be successful without it.
Gear up for the second part.
This is also the point at which you prepare for the second phase of making limoncello. At this point, you have to gather some more ingredients and tools. For this part, assemble a large saucepan, seven and a half cups of water, and four cups of granulated white sugar.
Make a syrup.
Your next step is to make a simple syrup. That's what it's called, but fortunately it really is simple. Dump the water and sugar in your pot, turn the burner onto high heat, and stir as it comes to a boil. Stir steadily to dissolve all the sugar. After the water reaches a boil, turn down the temperature and let it simmer. That ensures that all the sugar dissolves, but keep an eye on it and stir as needed. After the sugar has dissolved, take the saucepan off the burner and leave it to cool completely. Once the sugar syrup cools—it shouldn't be any warmer than room temperature—add it to the lemon and alcohol mixture and replace the lid.
Wait some more.
Ask anyone who already knows how to make limoncello, and they'll tell you that waiting is the hardest part. Return the jar to its dark, cool place. That's right, it has to seep for 20-40 more days.
Look for the yellow hue.
As the mixture absorbs the lemon flavor, its color changes. Peek in on it from time to time. You'll notice a vivid yellow patina that grows more intense the longer the lemons seep into the liquid.
Strain into bottles.
You know the best part of knowing how to make limoncello? Drinking it. Once it's ready, use a coffee filter, mesh strainer, or cheesecloth to strain the limoncello into a bowl. You need to add water, but it depends on the proof you used. For 151 grain, pour in one and two thirds cups of additional water. For 190 grain, you need two cups of water. This creates a paler yellow color and slight cloudiness, but that's precisely what you want. Next, use a funnel to fill clean bottles with your homemade limoncello, and it's ready to drink.