Homemade liqueurs are the ultimate gifts that keep giving. They continue to mellow and improve over time, and always trigger fond memories of the gifter when the recipient takes a little post-prandial tipple.
I’ve been making whatevercellos for years now. Limoncello is the most famous, of course, made from large, pungent lemons from Italy’s southern region, but almost any citrus will do. I prefer stronger fruit, and grapefruit is my favorite. (Pompelmo is Italian for grapefruit, hence my fauxtalian name for the liqueur.) Bergamots and citron also work very well; meyer lemons I find to be too mild in flavor. I prefer to grate the rind as opposed to just zest as I like a slightly bitter edge. I also dial down the sweetness of the syrup just a bit.
This liqueur starts out with a high-octane infusion which is then diluted with a simple syrup. By starting with a 151-proof liquor like Everclear and then diluting it by half, it comes down to about 75 proof, which is much more drinkable. Moreover, it will stay liquid in the freezer.
There’s just enough time to get this liqueur infused and mixed; when you give it, put an embargo date on it for 30 days out from when you do the blend. And invite yourself over in a month.
750 ml Everclear
4 c. sugar
5 c. water
Yield: About 1500 ml
Grate peel of grapefruit. Add to large jar and pour Everclear over. Seal and steep at least 10 days (20 is better), agitating every other day.
Strain infusion through a coffee filter. Combine sugar and water in a medium saucepan, and stir over low heat until the sugar is dissolved and the syrup is clear. Allow to cool. Add 750 ml of it to the infusion. Mix and bottle.
Let stand in a cool, dark place to meld for 30 days.
Serve well chilled.
Sean Timberlake is a professional writer, amateur foodie, avid traveler and all-around bon vivant. He is the founder of Punk Domestics, a content and community site for DIY food enthusiasts, and has penned the blog Hedonia since 2006. He lives in San Francisco with his husband, DPaul Brown, and their hyperactive terrier, Reese.