Intersections: A Pagan View of Modern Culture

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Limoncello: Liquid sunshine in time for Ostara

Limoncello is a glass of liquid sunshine.  As the light grows and we approach Ostara, the Spring Equinox where the light overtakes the darkness, there is no better drink to celebrate the season.  Sweet, tart, strong, and delicious, a little glass of limoncello is like drinking in the growing sun.

Some pagans make mead, others brew beer, others steep all sorts of fruits in any strong drink they can find.  I make limoncello.  I first learned of limoncello while traveling in Italy.  We were staying in Sorrento, a seaside town with much the same climate as my native southern California.  The local drink was this delicious concoction of local lemons, sugar, water, and booze.  I had to try it.  After I did, I had to find the recipe.

I acquired this recipe by purchasing an apron with the recipe printed on it (in Italian)  in a touristy gift shop.  I took it home, translated it as best I could, and started making this wonderful little glass of happiness for myself.

It got even better when the lemon tree in our backyard suddenly started producing mounds and mounds of lemons.  I had to find something to do with them – and, strangely, I had just the right idea.  Every March, local newspapers publish story after story about what do with your proliferation of Myer lemons.  Lemon pies, lemon meringue, lemon bars, lemonade – all good ideas, but not nearly as special as this drink.

Last year, limoncello was the product of struggle.   Our beautiful lemon tree caught a nasty disease, and I fought for half of the summer to nurse it back to health.  This year, it is vibrant and healthy, a beautiful pop of sunny yellow that has grown throughout the winter.

Lemon Tree starts limoncello
Our lemon tree healed from its struggle with illness and produced some of the best lemons ever. There's a lesson there.

So here is my limoncello recipe, loved by everyone who has tried it.  Using lemons off your own tree is wonderful, but you can feel free to use lemons from a grocery store.  The final product is pretty much the same, although our local Myer lemon may be a bit sweeter.  You will need nine days for the lemons to steep in the alcohol, so plan ahead.

Limoncello starts with two major ingredients: lemons and Everclear.  You need the high proof Everclear to really macerate the lemon zest. Later, when the mixture is diluted, you’ll be glad you used the strong stuff.

Lemons for limocello
Our tree's lemons are huge.
Everclear is better than vodka for limoncello
Use Everclear rather than lower proof alcohol. You'll be glad you did.



Zest of four lemons

2 cups of Everclear

2 Cups sugar

2 cups water

Wash the lemons.  Peel the zest off of them.  You can use a zester tool for this, but I find that a regular potato peeler works fine – and it’s much quicker.  Just be sure to use a light touch.  You only want the outer, yellow skin.  Leave the white on the lemon.

Tools to zest lemons
You can use a real zester (left) or a potato peeler. I prefer the potato peeler because it's quick. Be sure to peel only the yellow part of the skin.
Lemons after zesting
Keep the white stuff on the lemons. Use the lemon juice for anything you want: cooking, cocktails, even cleaning.

You’ll be left with a pile of lemon zest.  Place the zest into a mason jar or other sealable jar.

Zest for limoncello
The zest of the lemons is all you need to make limoncello.

Pour the Everclear into the jar.  Seal it.  Label the jar “limoncello” and write the date on it.  Let it sit for nine days.  Shake the jar every day or so.

Lemon zest steeps in alcohol for nine days
Steep the lemon zest in the Everclear for nine days.


After nine days, strain the mixture into a bowl.  Press on the lemon zest to squeeze out as much flavored alcohol as possible.

In a saucepan, combine the water and sugar.  Bring to a full rolling boil and keep it boiling for one minute.  Pour the sugar and water mixture into to lemon-infused alcohol and stir to combine.  While it’s still hot and combined, pour the entire mixture into a bottle that seals.  Let it cool.  Seal it.  Place it in the freezer.

More pictures nine days from now when my current batch is ready!

Serve limoncello super cold, preferably from the freezer, in a cordial glass.  A little goes a long way.

Drink in the spring!

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I am a teacher, theater lover, and witch who loves both reason and magick. I believe that all things are connected, so I strive to write about connections between Paganism, pop culture, science, and the arts. My work was published in the Ancestors of the Craft anthology and in Finding the Masculine in the Goddess’ Spiral.  


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