Monday, March 24, 2008

Limoncello, Take Two

With spring, a man's fancy turns to Limoncello.

Last year, I made my first attempt at home-made liquor: a batch of Limoncello—one of my favorite alcoholic beverages and, coincidentally, one of the easiest to make. I used Luksusowa, a Polish brand of vodka made with potatoes, as my base, mainly because the recipe called for 100 proof vodka, and Luksusowa was the only brand I could find at that level. (Most topped off at 80 proof.) The recipe called for Meyer lemons as the closet equivalent to the special sort of Sorrento and Amalfi fruit used in Italian limoncello.

The procedure took 80 days and was split into two distinct periods: 40 days with the lemon peel soaking in half the vodka and 40 days with another bottle of vodka added plus four cups of sugar dissolved in water. I was reasonably pleased with the result, but found the taste of big rangy and not as refined as I would have liked. The batch definitely improved with the months, but I nonetheless resolved to try a different, less pungent vodka the next time around, chalking up the unusual flavor to the influence of the potatoes.

A salesman at a local liquor store confirmed my suspicion that the potatoes might have married strangely with the acid in the citrus. He suggested I try White Nights, a Belgian vodka which is just being introduced to the American market after an attempt by Absolut to run the company out of business in their native country. It's priced quite reasonably, and is good quality for the cost. Though it is only 80 proof, I thought it more important this time to use a grain-based liquor.

I also made a change in the citrus component. A friend suggested added the zest of a couple blood oranges to my usual component of Meyer lemons, and I've done so. The point is to approximate even close the flavor of those glorious Italian lemons. The results should be ready by the end of April. I'm keeping some of the first batch in Limoncello on hand to make a side-by-side comparison. Stay tuned.


Ben said...

I'm always learning new things and you've taught me a couple here. I hadn't heard of Meyer lemons being the closest approximation of the original, nor had I heard of using blood oranges. I'll try both in the future.

We have similar interests. I have a blog on Limoncello making that may interest you at and my wine review site is:

tom said...

Hi Robert,
I make my own limoncello and would be happy to send you some -- from the picture it looks like you use quite a bit of rind -- I really only use the zest of the top layer -- and try not to use the white of the peal -- as that part if quite bitter -- not sure if that might be a good tip for you.


Robert Simonson said...

Tom: The recipe I'm using calls for the zest of 15 Meyer lemons. It does look like a lot of rind, I know. The lemons were bigger this year for some reason. I'm aware that I should keep away from the white pith. I cut the rind pretty closely, and the pieces are fairly pith-free.