One of two bottles from our first attempt. Photo taken after substantial sampling had occurred.

A while back we ran an article about our first foray into crafting homemade limoncello. The process of making the liquer took two and a half months, and the end result was quaffed down in less than two weeks. Now it’s been years since I had even a taste of store-bought limoncello, so my basis of comparison is not what you’d call unbiased, but I can’t imagine that Danny DeVito’s Premium Limoncello Original could possibly be more delicious than our concoction.

Out of our large steeping jar we were able to get two mid-sized bottles of limoncello: one for  us, and one to give to friends. And let me tell you, once you hand someone a bottle of delicious homemade booze,  you’ve made a friend for life. Before we even finished our first bottle we put together a fresh batch which will come of age early next month, and our boozy yellow harvest is likely to become a bi-monthly tradition.

Of course immediately I began thinking of ways to mix our new creation and having a nice bottle of brandy on hand, the Vespa was born. I was rather surprised to find that there wasn’t already a cocktail with this name, but I thought it apt here for a number of reasons. 1) It’s somewhat similar to a Sidecar. 2) It’s a decidedly European drink. 3) It packs a surprising amount of zip.

The Vespa

1 1/2 oz  Limoncello

1 1/2 oz  Brandy

1/4 of an orange wheel

This drink is best served in a rocks glass over ice. There’s no need to stir or shake, so you can simply mix the limoncello and brandy in the glass and swirl with the ice. Add the orange wheel garnish to the edge of the glass, and Bob’s yer uncle. Can also be served up, in a cocktail glass.

Homemade Limoncello

Here at IPTB headquarters (our tiny apartment), Shanna and I have embarked on a new and bold boozological experiment. After a fair amount of research we are attempting to make our own homemade Limoncello. This lemon flavored liqeur is a traditional Italian drink that can be mixed into a variety of cocktails, but is most often enjoyed on its own. It’s the sort of drink that seems like it was invented just for long summer evenings with a few close friends.

We’ve found a few different websites each with their own tips and tricks but the general idea is the same. Essentially the process is this: 1) Add lemon peels to vodka (or Everclear if you’re willing to pay that much) and let it sit. 2) Add simple syrup and let it sit some more. 3) Strain the peels out, chill, and enjoy. However, the ratio of peels to vodka to syrup depends on where you look, as does the amount of time you should allot for each step. We’ve seen the process range anywhere from two days to two months, but general consensus says that the longer you wait, the better your result will be. Think of it as an exercise in patience, a zen meditation, but instead of Nirvana your reward is delicious lemon flavored hooch. That’s why we’ve decided to allow the full two months for step one and an additional two weeks for step two.

Choosing and preparing your ingredients is also a very important part of the process. Organic lemons are said to work best with any wax or dirt washed off. When peeling your lemons, be sure to get only the yellow rind. The white pith will make your limoncello bitter. (We were perhaps not as vigilant on this front as we should have been, but that’s why it’s an experiment.) We used the peels from 10 lemons and almost an entire 1.75 liter bottle of Crown Russe vodka. Cheap vodkas are supposed to work better, but I personally hold hangover-induced grudges against Vladimir and Banker’s Club.

Once you’ve let your peels steep as long as you can stand, make about 2-3 cups of simple syrup with equal amounts water and sugar. (2-3 cups of each. If you remember back to high school chemistry, when sugar dissolves in water, it retains the same volume as the water.) Add this to your alcohol and peels, and allow it to sit some more, generally around two weeks.

Once these two weeks are up, you’re officially done! Time to sit back and enjoy your delicious homemade beverage.

Additional tips: At some point in the process you’re bound to end up with 10 peel-less lemons. Rather than let them go to waste, squeeze the juice out of them, throw it in a bottle, and you’re set for as many Sidecars or Jack Roses as you can handle.

For more info, this is the website we found most useful: Homemade Limoncello Recipe