This week we’re taking the final step with our Lemon Infusion (that we started here and finished here) and turning it into Limoncello, an Italian liqueur.
If you do a Google Search online, you’ll quickly find there are dozens (if not hundreds) of videos and recipes for making Limoncello. The recipes often differ in how the sweetener is added to the drink. So that’s what we’re going to be taking a closer look at today.
Limoncello is an Italian lemon liqueur mainly produced in Southern Italy, … Though there is debate about the exact origin of the drink, it is at least one hundred years old.
What You’ll Learn:
- Three ways to add the sweetener to your Lemoncello
- What it looks like to “shake it like a Polariod-cello”
- Which way I felt had the best results (trick question!)
Check With Your Local Jurisdiction!
Before we get started on the fun stuff, let me give you a word of caution. Making your own Liqueurs MAY be unlawful, depending on where you live. Especially if you’re preparing liqueurs for service in a restaurant or bar, it’s super important that you make sure it’s legal to do so. I’d feel terrible if someone used our videos and ended up getting in trouble! (Seriously, penalties are pretty severe too, so definitely don’t skip this step!)
Three Ways to Sweeten the Infusion
& turn it into Limoncello
Attempt #1: Add Raw Sugar & Shake it
The first way we’re going to test is to simply add white sugar to the lemon infused vodka. I’m thinking that alcohol is roughly 60% water, so given enough time and energy the sugar will dissolve into the solution and create a great Limoncello – without adding water or risking evaporation of alcohol. If this works, it has potential to be the best for that reason. If it doesn’t work, we’ll end up with a bunch of un-dissolved sugar in the bottom of the bottle and Limoncello which isn’t as sweet as we may like.
Limoncello 1 – ShakingSo here we add 1/4 cup of plain white sugar to 1 cup of Lemon Infused vodka. I’ve put it in a flip-top bottle so I can close it up and shake it. If you want to see a really awful dance, you’ll have to stop reading and go check out the video. Can’t say I recommend it though, it’s pretty bad!
So we’ll shake this up to try to incorporate all of the sugar (I had to do this shaking a few times.) Eventually we did get all of the sugar incorporated. Once complete, into the fridge (or ideally, freezer!)
Attempt #2: Stir in a 3-1 Ultra Rich Simple Syrup
This was the most common method I saw online for sweetening the infusion, (though most people used a “normal” simple syrup.) My concern with this method is that we are adding water to the infusion again, and I’m concerned about diluting the flavor. To minimize the effect I’ve made a super thick 3-1 ratio Simple Syrup and I’ll be using that. So let’s see how it works out. I haven’t done this technique before, but it seems to be one of the favorites online.
So first (and not shown in the video), make a simple syrup that’s 3 parts sugar to 1 part water. I’d use the usual method, (you can check out our video on Simple Syrup for more info.) I’ve let it cool, then I incorporate it into the Limoncello. I’ve tried to keep my sugar constant, so I’ve made the simple syrup with 1/4 cup of sugar, same as the other methods here. Add that simple syrup to the Limoncello and stir to incorporate.
Attempt 3: Add Sugar to Infusion over Heat
BE VERY CAREFUL WITH THIS STEP. Seriously.
Heating alcohol on a stove is VERY DANGEROUS. In the video I outline a few safety steps but I’m going to recap them here as well:
- Very low heat! You just want to slightly warm your infusion. If you heat it enough to start evaporating alcohol you will both a) risk combustion and b) make a crappy Limoncello because all your booze will be gone!
- Turn your Hood On. If any fumes ARE created, you want to get them outta there, ASAP.
- Use a super tall pan. In this case, my liquid only takes up about 10% of the pot’s height. That’s again to keep any possible alcohol vapor away from the stove’s heat source.
- Have a lid nearby. This is the last-case scenario, but if you DO have a flame-up, immediately put a pot lid on it. This should stop the flame by starving it of oxygen.
What we have done in this step (after following all safety tips above) is we’ve heated the infused vodka slightly over the stove, added the 1/4 cup of sugar (same as the others) and stirred to combine. The benefit of this method is it still ensures the sugar is fully incorporated, but it doesn’t introduce any more water. The process should not take very long, and you want the mixture on the stove for as little time as possible. As soon as the sugar has dissolved, cut the heat and let it cool.
Attempt #1: Shaking in Plain White Sugar
The sugar fully incorporated (which I was worried about), and it tastes great! I’m actually pretty surprised, I didn’t expect this one to work. But I’d say the final product turned out well, and I’d be OK serving this to guests.
Attempt #2: Adding 3-1 Simple Syrup
I can taste a slightly bitter note to it, but only very slightly. I’m uncertain why a different sweetening method would impact bitterness, except perhaps not to cover it up as much. You can tell that it is slightly more watered down than the others, but you’d only ever notice by tasting them side-by-side. This is still a great product and I’d be happy serving this to customers as well.
Attempt #3: Adding white sugar over heated Infusion
Finally, this is the one I usually make (but again, be careful.) I feel like I am tasting a little more vibrancy right in the beginning, and that it carries a little more weight to it as well. The flavor also seems to last longer. But to be honest, you may only taste the difference side by side, and it’s only very slight. I think this is still producing the best results, but it’s not a significant difference.
So there you have it – all three methods produced really nice results that’d be more than good enough to present to your customers. So at this point, I’d say choose the method that you prefer or that is quickest for you!
What do you think?
Have you made Limoncello before? Which method did you use? Let us know in the comments!
Click Here to view the Transcript
Hi! This is Chris from ABarAbove.com and today we’re going to learn how to make our homemade liqueurs! So stay tuned!
So for all of you that have been watching over the last few months at ABarAbove.com, you’ll remember an infusion that we did for lemon vodka. So in that video, I actually mentioned the fact that we’re going to take that product, move it forward and learn some new techniques with it. And that’s what this video is going to be focused on today. We’re actually going to take that lemon infusion and we’re going to turn it into a lemon liqueur or Limoncello. So for all of you that have done this before, you know that there’s quite a few recipes out there and so what we’re going to be doing is we’re actually making Limoncello with three different techniques and analyzing what the best technique is. So it’s kind of a two-fer video: we’re going to learn how to make a homemade liqueur and you’re gonna get some ideas about how to process or how to make the best type. So stay tuned!
So before we go into any of the techniques or information or making your own liqueurs, there’s this one thing I really have to stress to all of you. And that is: just because you know the information and you can make an amazing liqueur doesn’t make it legal to do so. So please check in with your local laws before you even consider doing something, making a liqueur at home. And this is especially true for any place, any business that’s going to be serving this to guests. You don’t want to be breaking laws concerning alcohol; penalty is gonna be very severe. So we’re providing you with a lot of information here at ABarAbove.com and we really want to uplift all this as an industry. Bartenders, mixologists, enthusiasts, cocktail creators—we want to be able to provide u the best information out there. But it’s up to you to look at your local laws to make sure that you’re not breaking any of that.
So the three techniques that I have out here for everyone are three of the techniques that came to mind when I was thinking about making homemade liqueurs. So the first one here is one experiment that I’ve had in my head for a while now and I don’t think it’s work to be completely honest; I think it’s going to fail but I’d like to test it out. So this is essentially lemon infused vodka and sugar. And I’m thinking that alcohol is 60% water, so given enough time or energy the sugar will dissolve into the solution and create a Limoncello and you’re not going to get any evaporation of alcohol and you’re not going to get any dilution by adding water. So if it does work, it’s going to be the best. In my mind, I can see the results being the best possible results for creating cocktails and preserving flavor.
And now the second one here is one of the ways that I see online a lot about how to make you own liqueurs: it is infused vodka plus adding simple syrup to it. The problem I have with this is that you’re introducing water into the equation again, you’re thinning out the mouth feel and you’re kind of diluting the whole thing down a lot. So what I’ve done is I actually created a 3-part sugar to 1-part extremely rich simple syrup, so I’m trying to minimized how much water I’m introducing into the solution here. So let’s see how it works out. I haven’t done this technique before, but it seems to be one of the favorites online, but I like to analyze and see what we come up with.
And the final one here is one that I’ve had a lot of success with in the past. And like I said, you know, I don’t want to introduce any more water into the equation but what I want to do is create that richness and create a really cool rich mouth feel to it. So what I’ve done in the past is I actually add my sugar and add my infusion to a pot and put on a low heat just to incorporate all the ingredients together. And at a very low heat the sugar will actually dissolved into the solution, so you’re not adding any extra water to the equation. The one thing that you will lose is a little bit of alcohol vapor. But Limoncello is typically served around 30% alcohol. Anyway, so there you’re almost kind of relying on a little bit of that burn off to happen for the Limoncello. So we’re gonna analyze all three of these and find out what our best results are gonna be.
Alright, so we’re just going to add our lemon infusion to this bottle with a quarter cup of sugar and I’m adding one cup of lemon infusion to it. And then I’m just gonna seal it and shake it like a Polaroid cello—and for all of you that don’t know how that works, it goes like this. Just kidding, I’ll spare you. Well, we’ll let that settle—we’re probably gonna have to do this a couple of times just to incorporate it and to kind of keep it moving, but we’ll be checking on it from time to time and see how it’s doing. So the next part of this is going to be putting the lemon infusion with the super rich simple syrup that we have here. And its 3-parts sugar to 1-part water; there’s a quarter cup of that sugar. And we’re just gonna put them together and give it a good couple of stirs here. We’re probably gonna have to this, going back and forth just to make sure that we’re getting as much as the sugar out of this cup as possible. I’ll get one of my mixing spoons here to help out. There we go. Perfect. And just gonna give it a stir there to incorporate all the ingredients together. Great. Now we’ll just gonna let it settle for a few minutes here.
So we’re gonna let this liqueurs settle in for some minutes here. We’ll definitely come back for them. But in the meantime, we’ll heat up our lemon infusion sugar and when we get there, we’re gonna give you a few pointers and some safety tips on heating alcohol over open flame.
So what we have in the pan here is our alcohol and our sugar and we’re just going to bring this up to a very low heat. You don’t want this thing boiling because alcohol actually vaporizes at lower temperature than water. So you don’t want to get close to that; you just want to get the sugar dissolved into the solution. So some of the safety tips I have for you is when you’re making your liqueurs make sure they have a really high sided wall pan. If I was doing this is in the production for the restaurant, my pot would probably be a stock pot this tall and my alcohol would go on about at the very most a third of the way up. On this pan here, my alcohol level is about right there, so it’s plenty of clearance, once I turn the flame on, the alcohol will vaporize and start to move up. So the other things is you want to clear the air above your infusion or your liqueurs as fast as possible. So what that means is have your hood on blurring as fast as possible just to evacuate all of the alcohol fumes. Because it has happened to me that if you’re flame goes over the side of it, it will ignite the entire thing, and it won’t explode but it will burn. So the other thing I’d recommend is that you have a lid available, so that way, if it does flare up on you, you can just put the lid over the top, take it off the heat, and let it just kind of burn itself out of oxygen. So no need to overreact and run through a kitchen with a burning pot of alcohol. You know, just keep your senses cool about it and most importantly just take the proper precautions and make sure none of that ever happens. So let’s go and turn this on now and we’ll get started on this process. So now that we have the alcohol over medium heat and we’re just gonna bring it up a little bit, actually go and move it a little higher. We’re gonna bring up the temperature a little bit and just enough to make sure that the sugar dissolves in the pot. Once again, like I said, you don’t want the solution boiling, because if the water starts to boil that means all your alcohol has already evaporated. So you just want to bring it up a little bit until all of your sugar is dissolved.
So now that we’re done with the Limoncello—I actually put them in the fridge over night—we’re just gonna make our way and taste through these—definitely my favorite portion of the video and we’re just actually gonna evaluate them to see which one had the best results. So this here is the one I just shook with a little bit of sugar. This one here is the one I had with the rich simple syrup. This is the one I heated lightly with a little bit of sugar and just dissolved the sugar in the solution.
So like I said now, we’re gonna go ahead and taste through these and let’s start with our first one here. So for all of you at home, cheers! It actually turned out really well. I’m kind of surprised actually that the sugar dissolved completely in the solution, which was the one thing I was really worried about. All I did was shake it, and like I said there’s enough water in there that actually dissolved all of the sugar. This is something I’ll be really happy serving at the bar: it got the rich lemon flavor in there, you can definitely taste a little bit of the alcohol but it’s a great product; I’ll be really happy with that actually.
So here’s the second one, the one I added a rich simple syrup to. Also another great one. This one turned out to have a little bit of bitter note to it, which is I think more of a product of our infusion than anything. It definitely tasted a little bit more watered down but the only way you would notice is by tasting them side by side. This is still a really good product and something that I’d be happy to serve in the bar as well.
Now let’s taste the last one. This is the one that I usually make, the one where I lightly heated to dissolve all the sugar in. This one definitely had a little bit of a vibrant feel to it right in the beginning, definitely carries a little bit more weight to it, and the flavor kind of carries on just a little bit longer. But to be honest with you, tasting it side by side, at this point, it’s kind of really like splitting hairs. So if you wanted the best results, I still kind of think this is probably the best one: I’m still tasting the flavor, it’s still kind of lingering a little bit longer than the rest. But to be completely honest, all three of them would work. So it’s just a matter of how much time you want to put into your product. But to me, it’s literally just a matter of splitting hairs; they’re all really good.
So I hope you enjoyed it and now you have three different methods of making liqueurs under your belt. And I encourage you to try it yourself and see which one works best for you and your style of cocktail. Until then, until the next time, guys, have a great shift, cheers! And I’m probably gonna put these Limoncellos away and probably give them away as Christmas gifts. Have a great shift, guys! Cheers!
Hi Chris & Julia, I love your website, channel and podcast, it really educated and inspires me (a simple cocktail enthusiast) a lot. My question is: what should I do with the 15 lemons after I removed the zest? Might it be possible to macerate the lemon flesh and use that lemon sugar/syrup to sweeten the infusion to make an even more lemonny Limoncello? Would it last long enough to use after 6 weeks or so when the infusion is perfect? Thanks for your answer! Stijn Kuijpers, from The Netherlands
Hey Stijn, great question!
I haven’t tried adding lemon juice to lemoncello – that may become a bit overpowering, but may be worth an experiment. As for saving it, you can definitely freeze the juice to use it later, it just won’t quite have the “luster” it once had. (Freeze in ice cube trays – that makes it freeze faster which improves the quality. They also defrost more quickly!)
When using the frozen juice, let it thaw (no microwave 🙂 and use it OR spruce it up a bit by mixing it with freshly squeeze juice or spritzing the cocktail with lemon oil. (See: https://www.abarabove.com/essential-oil/)
Hope this helps – and definitely let me know how it goes if you experiment with lemon juice in your limoncello!
personnaly my way to do lemoncello was introduced to me by one of my itallian friend and its to infuse 94% alcohol with lemon zest this way you extract all the essential oil of the lemon and cut the alcohol volume with a simple syrup made with powdered sugar for the thickness of the traditional lemoncello