Since the Middle Age medicines have been prepared by alchemists and monks by infusing fruits, flowers, herbs and even woods in alcohol and subsequently sweetened. Some of these preparations were believed to be not only invigorating but also aphrodisiac. By the Renaissance the recreational use of liqueurs had become widespread in Europe, a fashion apparently started by Catherine de’ Medici and her court.
Making liqueurs with locally available fruits and herbs is still popular all over Italy, and not only by monks. Limoncello is traditionally made in the Amalfi area using the intensely aromatic zest of Sorrento lemons. However it can be made anywhere as long as one has access to fresh unwaxed organic lemons.
- zest of 1 kg (2 pounds) organic lemons
- 1 litre (1 quart) 95 % alcohol (you can use use grain alcohol)
- 1 litre (1 quart) water
- 800 gr. (4 cups) sugar
Peel the lemons making sure to remove only the yellow part of the zest, transfer in a jar, add alcohol, close and keep in a cool dark place for 2 weeks. Filter and discard the zest. Transfer the infusion in a bottle.
Prepare the sugar syrup. Bring the water and sugar to a low boil until the sugar dissolves completely. Cool. Add syrup to the lemony alcohol. Stopper the bottle and keep in a cool dark place at least 2 months before using.