On a Joyous Zest

Regardless of the good feeling one gets from using a bar of Zest while bathing, this post isn’t about soap – nor is it about Zesta saltine crackers. I’m also not passing on an inspirational message for a zest for life. Since, I’m running out of options, maybe citrus zest – but no – well, at least in terms of food.

Alright – it’s the holiday season – and even nonChristians participate in some form of a season of giving – so here’s an idea for using zest for your holiday zeal.

Limoncello is an Italian liqueur – and yes, lemon zest is an important ingredient in producing this wonderful treat. It’s primarily produced, but not limited to, the Naples and Amalfi areas of Italy. This sipping drink is lemony, sweet, and potent – although I wonder if serving limoncello in a small glass simply is for ease of refills. For those wanting to know more history, here’s a link.

Now the holiday connection. Large bottles of limoncello typically sell for $25-35 per bottle (wine bottle size, 750 ml). For a not that many more dollars, it’s easy to make about three times as much – and then by putting it in small bottles makes a nice gift friends.

Below is my recipe, which makes about a gallon (4 quarts).


  • Zester (I prefer the type with the small prongs that removes the zest in small ribbons. Rasping type is fine, but it’s more work & requires better filtering)
  • Large jar with screw-top lid. (Inexpensive is fine. My jar is about 9″ tall, 7″ wide, with a 4.5″ lid.) (about 1 gal capacity)
  • 7-8 small glass bottles with a screw cap (for bottling) or 3 standard wine bottles
  • Strainer (fine)
  • Cheesecloth


  • 8-12 lemons (limes or oranges are substitute)
  • 2 bottles (750 mL) of spirits (either 2 vodka, 2 grain alcohol, or one of each – I prefer the latter)
  • 4.5 cups sugar (Stage 2)
  • 5 cups of water (Stage 2)

Instructions: Stage 1

  1. Wash the lemons
  2. Remove the peel (or use the zester), and then place the zest in the jar. (Note: the white pith behind the zest is bitter, thus don’t want)
  3. Add 1 bottle of spirit. (Note: If using my suggestion of alcohol and vodka, add ONLY the grain alcohol)
  4. Cover the jar, shake to mix, then put it to rest in a dark place as a cabinet or closest
  5. Occasionally shake the jar during the next 7-10 days

Instructions: Stage 2

  1. In a large pan over high heat, boil the water.
  2. Add the sugar, and then stir until all is dissolve.
  3. Boil together for 5 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and let simple syrup cool to room temperature.
  5. Add simple syrup to the jar.
  6. Add the remaining bottle of spirit to the jar.
  7. Close the lid, shake, and return to the dark place.
  8. Occasionally shake during the next 7-10 days.

Instructions: Stage 3 (Bottling)
Note: This stage involves 2 key processes: straining & bottling. Failing to remove the fine particles will create sediment & floaters in the bottles.

  • Pour the limoncello through a fine strainer. Note: Depending on the jar, it is possible to keep most of the zest in the jar.
  • Strain again through 5-8 layers of cheesecloth. Additional straining may be necessary.
  • Pour into individual bottles and store in refrigerator. Serve chilled. Note: Small bottles are great as gifts.