Limoncello. Such a simple yet refreshingly delicious liqueur. Limoncello is one of those after dinner drinks that makes you wonder why it isn’t always “after dinner” time, and has you scheming up more Italian-style meals just so you can get to the digestivo.
While just taking a sip of limoncello can transport you to a leisurely state of mind, bringing up memories of slowly strolling through Sicilian lemon groves, the process itself doesn’t need to be so sluggish. Traditionally, limoncello is made by infusing a grain alcohol with lemon zest (the skin of the lemon) for at least 3 months, and then adding simple syrup to give it its characteristic sweetness.
However, because we understand the chemistry of what is going on in the infusion, we have methods today that can make this process go much faster. Using the process of nitrogen cavitation (explained here: Nitrogen Cavitation Explanation), we can infuse the alcohol with the lemon zest in a matter of minutes.
500 mL ethanol (Chopin potato vodka in our case)
Simple syrup to taste (made by dissolving sugar in water)
Using a cheese grater, the skin of the 4 lemons was grated off to create zest. Traditionally, only the yellow outer portion of the skin is used for the zest, because it contains most of the flavor and the inner white region can cause the limoncello to become bitter. However, with this method, we decided to try using both and didn’t find any negative consequences. After the zest was all grated off, we peeled the lemon and cut the remaining skin into small pieces.
Now to the fun part, instant infusion via nitrogen cavitation. The lemon zest was added to the 500 mL of vodka. This mixture was placed in the cream whipper container, and a nitrous oxide canister was loaded in. The mixture was allowed to sit under pressure for about 5 minutes (completely arbitrary, but it seemed to generate good results) before the N2O gas was released. The result was an instantly infused lemon vodka!
The last step was to add simple syrup by taste until the end result was a delicious limoncello, reminiscent of any great Italian limoncello, and completed in under 10 minutes!
Strain, serve, and enjoy!