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.

49 thoughts on “On a Joyous Zest

  1. i don’t drink (not that i’m opposed to it, nor an i a recovering alcoholic. i just don’t go out very much, and i don’t drink at home), but tengrain over at mock, paper, scissors posted his limoncello recipe there, and i found it very intriguing. i didn’t make it, but i was still intrigued. your recipe intrigues me as well, though i won’t make it either. i’ve never had limincello, but if i do go out to a place where there is drinking, i might order one just to see what it tasted like.

    since i have no booze tips, i’ll offer a household tip instead. if, instead of just zesting a lemon (or lime or orange), you are juicing it, you will get a lot more juice and it will be super-easy to squeeze the fruit if you put it in the microwave for about 20 seconds or so before you cut it in half. if it turns out that wasn’t long enough, you can even put the halves back in the microwave for 5 or 10 seconds after you’ve squeezed them the first time.


    • Nonnie,
      If I ever make it to Florida to meet you, I’ll treat you to some limoncello. I posted this recipe not only for those who may want to try it for themselves, but it does serve as a nice gift any time of year to friends. Since it is served chilled, it is very appropriate for summer … and over vanilla ice cream.

      Although no citrus juice in this recipe, many thanks for the juicing tip, which is one that I did not know. Thanks for sharing and commenting.


  2. I think I might have tasted some of this a few years ago. It was at a family BBQ thing and they pulled this bottle of yellow spirits stuff out of the freezer and started sharing it out.

    I generally don’t like spirits so wasn’t too keen on the taste. I am such an oaf, I only drink beer.


    • Michael,
      I think I got the idea from watching Mario Batalli on Food Network. After the first time I made it, I was hooked by its charm. Although you prefer beer, keep it in mind for friends. Thanks for commenting.


  3. Hmmm….orange zest…that’s an interesting substitute… this sounds like a perfect project for a rainy shut-in kind of day and the week of shaking after. Who knows — maybe “Baying Beagle Orange Zest” will be a hit and we will all be swimming in bones!


  4. I think I’m going to have to make some of this…it looks (and sounds) delicious.

    I’m more of an orange fan than lemon fan, so I may make the orangecello as well.


    • Kay,
      I will say this. Friends of ours gave my version a thumbs up over store bought … actually one a friend brought back for them from Italy. It’s easy … and good. Thanks for visiting.


  5. Congratulations, you just gave us a labour intensive home recipe for Mike’s Hard Lemonade! 😉
    (Yeah, I know it’s not the same. But I gotta give you grief for SOMETHING!)
    Besides, you don’t really want me putting alcohol down on top of prescription-grade opiates, now, do you? 😀


    • John,
      OK … I get the funny … but it’s not labor intensive! Good try. 🙂 But yes, I know you have to hassle me on something, so I think limoncello would go great with the meds. 😉 Thanks for the humor.


  6. Frank,

    When I worked in a Pharmacy, there was a Lab down the hall…Well some peeps were in a rush after waiting for their prescriptions. They forgot about dropping off their (ahem samples) down to the lab. That flask of yours up above, sure looks familiar,

    Hahahaha Just kidding, I’m sure it’s delish!


    • Meesh,
      That jar hold a gallon, so would be one heck of a sample! … but I get the picture. 🙂 And this is one delish drink. BTW – it’s a great palate cleanser. There are times a taste is lingering too long in my mouth, so a shot a limoncello, swish it around, shallow, and cured! Thanks for the chuckle!


      • Frank,

        You can blame John, when I read his comment about medications…. It brought back memories, I recall someone leaving a brown bag on the counter in the store. Well, I opened it up and there inside was a large jar of Orville Redenbacher popcorn filled with bright amber liquid. I wondered how many times it took that person to fill that baby! Ewwwwww True!

        However, I did find your recipe as something that I would love to try out!



        • Meesh,
          I love it when anyone claims It’s John’s fault. Let’s face it – that could be a universal explanation for just about anything! Meanwhile, interesting popcorn story. Not a pretty site, but funny!


    • Rufus,
      I figured you would appreciate this. A friend did it with 2 bottles of grain and I thought it was a bit too strong … and too strong of an alcohol smell too – so I using 1 of each – but using the grain first extracts more oil from the zest. Hope you try it and let me know. Thanks for visiting.


    • Robin,
      Limoncello is a joyous treat at any time of the year … and is perfect while sitting and relaxing outside while staring at the beautiful land that you call home. Thanks for visiting.


    • Kellie,
      For sure it tis a delight … and a refreshing one at that. We refer to one particular friend as the “Dessert King” – and have given her the task to create a limoncello cake! We gave her a recipe, of course I must provide the key ingredient. Thanks for commenting.


  7. Frank,.what a great post! I love it! Thanks for turning me onto this. I’m going to share it with a few of my friends, particularly my buddy, Coco, with whom I’ve had many a wine-related Lame Adventure.


    • Tom,
      Believe me … this is so easy! And tasty. I friend of mine did a blind taste test of mine against a bottle a friend of theirs brought from Italy … and yes, mine won. 🙂 If you try it, let me know the results. Thanks for commenting and good luck!


  8. After reading this I’m so glad I made it. I think it’s as good as any store bought. Our recipes are similar, however you use 1.5 c. sugar more than I did–I also, used the .750 bottle size. My friend uses the larger everclear size. Since it was my first go, I didn’t want to be dangerous.:)
    I looked for a suitable bottle but finally decided on the one half pint canning jars. I like the cork on your bottle…would love to find a more suitable bottle. For gifting, I wanted to communicate keeping it in the freezer — so I bought some frosting spray to frost the jars. I turned them upside down, taped the necks, as to not allow any spray to enter the jars. I think they turned out quite pretty and well–frosty. My daughter tied the pretty bows.
    You’re from Trieste? Interesting. When I lived in a foyer in Paris, my roommate was from Rimini (sp?) and another girl down the hall was from Trieste. Thank you for visiting my site and leading me back to this post. Nice job.


  9. I could have used this recipe when H E Ellis asked me to create a drink for her British Birthday Girl. I was limited to, “Use a bottle opener to remove metal cap from a decent (non-American) beer.” 🙄


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