Arizona Limoncello

I recently returned from a trip to Southern Italy, where I became fond of limoncello, a classic digestif designed to revitalize the digestion after a fulsome meal. In Italy, homemade limoncello was much more satisfying than anything you can find here on the market, so I set out to replicate my best experiences utilizing Phoenix fruit. A good friend jumped a fence and hijacked 30 pounds of Phoenix backyard lemons from a neglected tree. Then I did the research and arrived at a potent Arizona Limoncello worthy of the name. If you have enough lemons you can double the recipe and use the whole bottle of vodka. This recipe involves a 10 day waiting period.
By / Photography By Gary Beverly | February 15, 2015


Wash and dry lemons. Using a fine microplane zester, remove the zest from the lemons. Zest is the very outside yellow layer. Be careful to avoid scraping into the white. This will take some time but it is the essence of the recipe and well worth it. Make an alcohol extraction by combining the zest and vodka in a 1-quart jar. Cover tightly. Shake well and let rest in a dark cabinet for 10 days while the alcohol binds to the lemon oils.

Squeeze the juice from the skinned lemons and use in the recipes below or freeze in small quantities. It’s good for lemonade or for recipes that call for a small amount of lemon juice.

After the 10 day wait, heat water to a simmer. Turn off heat and stir sugar in until it dissolves. Cool to room temperature. Press lemon-vodka mixture firmly through a fine-mesh tea strainer. Then take the shavings in your hand and compress further to remove every possible drop of liquid. Add sugar solution to this alcohol extraction. Your Arizona Limoncello is ready to drink and will improve with age, if it lasts. Serve chilled.

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  • 8 backyard or organic lemons
  • ½ bottle (375 ml) 80 proof vodka, unflavored
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (270 ml) spring water
  • ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons (172 gm) cane sugar
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