how to make limoncello + 2 limoncello cocktails

Spring is officially a hazy memory here in Denver. The season switched from straight winter to blazing, hot summer in a snap. All of the late spring rain and snow turned the usual, crusty, brown landscape of Colorado into a vibrant splash of bright green. I look back at some of the photos I took in early June, and I can’t believe I didn’t put a filter on them.

When I was flying back home from a recent trip to Napa, I looked down from the window in the plane in pure disbelief that I was, indeed, flying over Denver and not Ireland or some other verdant country. Everything is absolutely gorgeous, and my garden has never looked this good in early July!

I was even off work on the solstice and got to ring in the advent of shorter evenings in my backyard, with a glass of chilled rosé. I’ve been enjoying a lot of chilled rosé here lately. Come to think of it, I’ve been enjoying a lot of chilled everything here lately. Every year, Steve and I find some way to delay getting a swamp cooler for the house. We always seem to have a more pressing expense to consider, and every year, we always shake our heads and regret not making the purchase.

lemon peels in bowl how to make limoncello | holly & flora

I’ve found creative ways to keep my cool. I have grown fond of taking cold showers in the morning. I actually stood in a cooler filled with ice water just yesterday. I even succumbed to the overwhelming urge to strip down to my skivvies and run through the garden sprinkler this afternoon. Thank God for trees and fences to keep it all classy because when heat takes over my brain, I think I lose my sense of appropriateness and my self-control.

Luckily, I’ve gotten very good at seeking out air-conditioned coffee shops, sneaking the rare visit to the movie theater, and finding an excuse to go to the grocery store just to cruise the cool produce department. I am fortunate enough, however, to work at a restaurant, where there is a walk-in freezer on premise. As soon as I exit my {also without AC} car, I make a beeline to the freezer. No hellos. No courtesies. Not until I get my cold-air fix.

I decided to make limoncello back in early March, when I had an abundance of lemons on hand. I followed my obsession with all-things-citrus and made countless cocktails, a batch of preserved lemons {a first for me}, lemon curd, and several marmalade iterations. I figured I’d use the skins of the lemons I was juicing, so logically, I thought about limoncello.

I’d never made the tart, citrus liqueur before. I have had both amazingly delicious limoncello and cloyingly sweet, dull limoncello. I stumbled across a recipe, via the Williams-Sonoma blog, Taste. I followed James Schend’s recipe pretty closely, but I actually forgot about my limoncello down in the basement after week five, accidentally aging it SIX more weeks! Although I don’t know if the extra aging benefited the limoncello, I was not disappointed with my results.


how to make limoncello


  • 20 large, organic lemons
  • 750 mL of vodka
  • 750 mL of Everclear {or other 151-proof alcohol}
  • 4 cups organic cane sugar
  • 3 cups filtered water
  1. Scrub and peel the lemons, using a vegetable peeler. Try your best to avoid including any of the white pith, which adds undesirable bitterness.
  2. Place the peels in a large, clean jar and add both the vodka and the Everclear.
  3. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and store in a cool, dark spot for at least five weeks. I stored mine for 11 weeks. Stir or shake the jar twice a week to integrate the flavor.
  4. After five weeks, remove the lemon peels with a slotted spoon. To test whether or not the limoncello is ready for the next step, take a peel and bend it between your thumb and index finger. If it easily snaps in half, you may proceed to step five; if not, store for at least another week and perform the same test, after the week has passed.
  5. Strain the mixture through a double-layer of cheesecloth into a clean jar.
  6. In a saucepan, heat the sugar and water until dissolved. Remove the sugar mixture from heat and let it cool to room temperature.
  7. Add the cooled sugar-water to the limoncello mixture and stir.
  8. Store the sweetened limoncello mixture for another six weeks, so that the flavor intensifies and becomes more cohesive.
  9. When the aging time has passed, strain the final mixture through a double-layer of cheesecloth and store in a clean, glass jar or in cute, decorative jars like these.
  10. Store your containers of limoncello in the same cool, dark place, or keep it refrigerated for “emergencies” and cocktail creating!

how to make limoncello | holly & flora lemon balm | holly & flora how to make limoncello | holly & flora

Making lemony cocktails that mimic the effects of cool, refreshing lemonade is only a natural response to these high-heat, sweltering conditions. I  know I’ll get some flack from my AZ or FL friends for sounding whiny, but the lack of heat tolerance is all relative. We can all benefit from a cool respite.

These two cocktails not only incorporate my new, favorite cocktail component, limoncello, but they are also summery and herbaceous and perfect served over ice. So, don your flops, find a cute hat {or settle for a bandana, like I do}, and prop up next to a shady tree.


summertime in the garden


  • 1 1/2 ounces gin {I used Boodles}
  • 1/2 ounce limoncello
  • 1/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 ounce St. Germain elderflower liqueur
  • 1 sprig mint
  • 1 sprig lemon balm
  • 2 slices cucumber
  • splash seltzer
  1. In a mixing tin, muddle the mint, lemon balm, and cucumber slices.
  2. Add the gin, limoncello, lemon juice, and elderflower liqueur.
  3. Fill with ice and shake well.
  4. Double strain into a cocktail glass filled with fresh ice.
  5. Garnish with even more lemon balm. Slap it first, in order to release the aromatic oils. Trust me; it really works!
  6. For extra color and flavor and fun, freeze mint leaves in ice-cube trays and use them in the cocktail.

how to make limoncello | holly & flora how to make limoncello | holly & flora how to make limoncello | holly & flora how to make limoncello | holly & flora


lavender limoncello gin ricky


  • 1 1/2 ounces gin {I used Boodles}
  • 2 ounces freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 ounce DRAM Apothecary pine syrup
  • 1/2 ounce limoncello
  • 2 ounces seltzer
  • lavender sprigs for garnish
  1. In a mixing tin, combine the gin, lemon juice, DRAM pine syrup, and limoncello.
  2. Add ice and shake well.
  3. Strain into a cocktail glass, filled with fresh ice.
  4. Top with seltzer and garnish with a sprig or two of fresh lavender.

What things are you doing to keep your cool? I seriously need some advice. I’m making popsicles like they’re going out of style, and I have had to amp up my running routine just to maintain that lavish habit! 😉

On an exciting note, I’m excited that Steve and I are having our garden featured in our favorite local publication, Nourish Magazine, at the end of this month! We have been putting in the extra hours to make sure the garden looks its best. Here is a sneak-peak into what’s been happening in our garden over the last couple of weeks.

Cheers!

Jayme

how to make limoncello | holly & flora how to make limoncello | holly & flora how to make limoncello | holly & flora how to make limoncello | holly & flora


the june garden


spring peas | holly & flora

Creeping spring peas, along the fence. This is the first year I’ve successfully grown spring peas! We have gotten about two serious harvests, and we’ve picked a few, here and there, off the vines.

spring peas | holly & flora

Spring peas from Botanical Interests. We planted these from seed, directly into the garden soil, and they’re just now starting to slow down their production.

bolting chard | holly & flora

Swiss chard, bolting in the 90-degree weather. I just picked this out-of-line stalk of chard and put it in a smoothie.

spring garden | holly & flora

Each spring, we stage our gardening barrels to showcase different micro-climates. Here, butter crunch lettuce is growing alongside Roma tomatoes. When the tomato matures, the plant supplies a little shade, so that the lettuces can grow well into June.

spring garden | holly & flora

Alliums, or ornamental onions, bloom here during the month of May. Their skeletons decorate our June and July gardens with their spiky, orb-like shapes. If I had these, when I was younger, I would have used them as fairy wands. I do that today…

spring garden | holly & flora

Sweet Woodruff, among the snow-in-summer. We line the garden beds in the backyard with this combination. We have to trim back or transplant the Woodruff because it is so aggressive. Its dainty, white flowers are lightly scented and prolific.

spring garden | holly & flora

This is one of my most favorite color combinations of the month! Hot green, teal, and pale magenta. Love this!!

spring garden | holly & flora

We planted a “side yard garden” this year, outside this little garage, which we affectionately call, “the barn.” The new gardening area is just to the left of the building. I love these “steps” outside the door, lined by creeping thyme.

spring garden | holly & flora

Creeping thyme.

spring garden | holly & flora

We have planted multiple spireas within both our front yard and backyard. They are perennial and produce the most beautiful flowers throughout the summer months.

spring garden | holly & flora

Update on my Meyer lemon tree: here is the same lemon that has been ripening over the last SIX months! Come on, now…

the bard yard | holly & flora

Here is a glimpse of the new “secret garden” or “barn yard.” This was once a fenced-in area, which housed a lot of yard trash and building materials. We have since then cleared it out and are using a lot of the materials for summer yard projects. This area is about 4×20 feet and is now a home to two squashes, five tomatoes, four eggplants, six sweet potatoes, ten peppers, and three basils. Oh, and one catnip, three nasturtiums, one leeks plant, and a shasta daisy. I love this little area! Steve built a matching chain link fence just a weekend ago.

tomatillo | holly & flora

Tomatillos.

fennel blooms | holly & flora

Fennel blossoms among the lavender blooms.

sorrel in bloom | holly & flora

Wild sorrel in bloom, attracting lady bugs.

spring garden | holly & flora spring garden | holly & flora spring garden | holly & flora tarragon | holly & flora spring garden | holly & flora pink salvia | holly & flora spring garden | holly & flora

11 thoughts on “how to make limoncello + 2 limoncello cocktails

  1. James Schend (@Dairyfreed)

    Glad to hear you like my limoncello recipe. I’ve been making it for years, and like you, sometimes I forget it’s in the basement aging. The only thing I found in aging longer that I didn’t like was the amount of sediment it produced. But straining it solved that problem.

    Your Summertime in the Garden cocktail sounds fantastic. I’m going to have to try that one. Thanks for posting!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Jayme Henderson Post author

      Seriously, your directions and descriptions were so helpful. I have batches of both tangerine and grapefruit “cellos” working right now. I’d love to send you a bottle! Yeah, I’ve kind of forgotten about the grapefruit-cello, but I can only say that it didn’t hurt the flavor profile.

      You’re right about the extra sediment. I found that using an extra coffee filter did the trick.

      Please try the “Summertime in the Garden” cocktail! So flexible and so reflective of what’s happening in your garden or farmers’ market.

      Do you have any other ‘cellos that you’re working on or recommend?

      Happy 4th, by the way, and thanks SO much for making my summer a seriously memorable one.

      Like

      Reply
    1. Jayme Henderson Post author

      Edie. Okay. I HAVE to borrow your description!!! Lemon Hellooooooooo! That’s just about right! It’s way late-o’clock right now, but I have a lemon hello cocktail in my glass, so time is standing still. 😉 I hope you had the most amazing fourth of July celebration. I want to hang out with you and your friend, when I come down to visit my sister this winter. We will bring summer to Florida in the middle of December………in STYLE! 🙂

      Like

      Reply
    1. Jayme Henderson Post author

      Hi, Audrey! Man, I am late responding back to you! Yes, I am in Denver. When did you move down to the valley, and what are you up to work-wise? I hope you’re doing well! And thank you for the cocktail compliments. I could go for one or two this afternoon. Crazy random rainstorm earlier, right? And now it’s all gorgeousness out! Have a beautiful day!

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  2. Gail Henderson

    Jayme, all the pictures of your garden, which followed your recipes, were so beautiful, but why didn’t you include a caption, identifying each one?

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  3. paulathomas2015

    Finally catching on my reading! i’m definitely considering commissioning the boy to start making some of these cocktails of yours, since i’m useless when it comes to cocktail making.
    Great visuals with your story, and the pictures are great too! With a garden your size i will not have time to work, it looks like a full-time job. The novice garden in me would be terrified of the idea of taking care of so many plants – bravo!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Jayme Henderson Post author

      Hi, Paula! I am SOOOOO behind on my reading. I want to take a week off and just chill beside a pool or beach and just read, read, read. I saw Scott the other day, and he said you were out in Washington. I would love to meet up soon. Yes, have him make a cocktail for you! Okay. I am setting aside a bottle of limoncello for you two, and I’ll give it to you, when we meet up. Deal? The garden does look like a full-time job, but it is really self-sustaining after a while. During the formative weeks of the plants, I am constantly watering or fending off bunnies. Now, however, is the relaxation period. Come August, we’ll be hustling to preserve it all. That’s when the craziness happens! 😉

      Have a beautiful day!

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      Reply
  4. Pingback: summer dill + snap pea shim | tips on growing dill | holly & flora

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