Thursday, February 16, 2012

Donna's Digestivo (aka Italian Limoncello)

According to my co-worker Donna, Limoncello is made by little old Italian ladies to sip on during the summer months. It is her favorite after-dinner drink, or "digestivo," served freezing cold when a hot day calls for it. 

Last summer, Donna distributed mini sealed containers of Limoncello to all the ladies in our studio and at first sight I thought we were taking a shot. Oh I see, it's gonna be that kinda day. 

Turns out, it's a much more dainty and dignified beverage that should be savored for a few moments. That's because it's made with an entire bottle of vodka and a bottle of Everclear. Yep, it is gonna be that kind of day. 

I have not actually made Limoncello myself because I'm far too impatient to zest 20 lemons only to wait four months before I can consume my finished product. But Donna, bless her, has patience and not only does she zest the best, she uses the leftover lemon juice to make lemon curd, and the egg white leftovers from the lemon curd to make macaroons. Waste not, want not...

Since I've had the good fortune of sipping Limoncello and going to its happy place (good things really do come to those who wait - thanks Donna!), I wanted to share Donna's fab recipe with all of you Beauties. After all, four months from now we might actually reach a sweltering 70 degrees in the PNW so you better get zesting...

Italian Limoncello


One bottle (750 ml) Everclear (if possible)
One bottle (750 ml) 151 or better vodka (Get 2 bottles if you can’t find the Everclear)
20 large lemons
Four cups sugar
Four cups water


Wash the lemons in hot water and clean with vegetable wash, scrubbing vigorously. Rinse well and dry. (Lemon zest is how you create the drink's flavor and color, so it is important that the lemons are clean. Most are covered with a food-grade wax, so you’re trying to get rid of that too.)

Zest the lemons with a zester or micro-planer, making sure not to peel any of the white part under the peel, otherwise known as pith (which is bitter, and yes…that’s a word). Get all the yellow peel. Peel yes! Pith no! This is a time when that $20 fat, knuckle-buster micro-planer is well worth it!

Divide the lemon zest between 3 quart jars, with the vodka and Everclear divided between them. (If you just can’t get the preferred bottle of Everclear, then go with 2 151 or higher on the vodka, so it doesn’t freeze in the freezer) If you have a glass container large enough, go for it! Cost Plus World Market and Trader Joe’s, and even Pier 1 have great containers. While there, look for cute bottles for your finished Limoncello as well.

Swirl the lemon peel and alcohol mixture together in the jars. Put it in a dark place (I put mine in the guest room closet), and swirl every few days. Do this for a minimum of 2 weeks. Four months is better, and the better your Limoncello will be!

When you feel the time is up, pour through a strainer squeezing out the zest. Some people then strain through a coffee filter, but I don’t have the time.

Meanwhile in a pot, add the sugar and water. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Let boil for 5 minutes. Cool to room temp and add to your lemon/alcohol mix. If you can stand it, let it “marry” for an additional week.

Put in cute bottles. It can store back in the closet, but should be served freezer-cold. YUM!!

Macaroon with your Limoncello, anyone?


  1. In my next life, I’d like to work with Donna! Drinks, lemon curd AND macaroons? Can this wonder woman join us at our next BATF get together?

    Thank goodness someone invented the mirco-plane grater! I’ve made mine earn every penny I spent on it.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. She probably would!

    (Had to repost. My amazing clover tat profile pic was missing...can't have that...)

  4. Do you think that it would be possible to make this into an ice cream kind of product? Wouldn't a little of this, kind of like a tipsy sherbet, be super with fresh berries over it as a summer dessert?


  5. I've always wanted to make limoncello! Maybe this will finally tip the scales! And super impressed with the delicious ways to use all the "byproducts"!