Sweet & Sunny Lemon Drop Liquor


Apparently, this weekend is cocktail weekend.

Contrary to yesterday’s Bee’s Kiss, though, my Lemon Drop liquor is light and refreshing. It’s a great late-summer-lazy-day-sitting-in-the-yard-waiting-for-the-barbecue-to-be-done kind of drink. If you start a bottle early this week, it’ll be ready in plenty of time for your Labor Day festivities.

I love lemonade, so I guess it’s no surprise that I’ve also always been a big fan of the Lemon Drop cocktail. It’s sweet with just the right amount of pucker.

A few years back, I decided to adapt the drink into something yummy I could have sitting on my bar year round. If you’ve ever had limoncello (Italian lemon liquor), that’s basically what this is.

Making fruit-infused vodkas and liquors is super easy to do. It’s a fun project. The jars look nice sitting on the counter. And you can’t beat the flavor.

Before you start, take a peek at my fruit-infused liquor primer for a little background and quick notes on general technique and food safety.

I’ll never forget the first time I made this. My hands were red and raw from zesting a dozen lemons. You won’t often hear me say this, but put on a pair of rubber gloves before you tackle this one. You’ll be glad you did.

This liquor is also a more-than-acceptable substitution for lemon juice in certain recipes where you don’t mind a little bit of sugar or kick.

Sweet & Sunny Lemon Drop Liquor

8-12 large lemons, washed and dried
4 cups vodka
2 1/2 cups sugar
6 cups water

Zest your lemons, avoiding the bitter white pith. You can pretty much use any kind of zester or grater to do this. I think the first time I made this, I used one of the smaller sides of a box grater. The goal is to get small, thin pieces of lemon peel without losing too much of the lemon’s essential oils.

Put the lemon zest into a large, sterilized glass jar. Pour in the vodka and give it a swish to combine.

Cover the jar tightly and set it aside in a cool place for 2 to 4 days. When the lemon zest turns pale and the vodka has turned a brilliant yellow, strain the zest out and store the vodka in large bowl.

Next, make a simple syrup. Put the water and sugar into your largest saucepan or stew pot. Whisk together. Bring to a boil and cook until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and cool completely.

Pour the syrup into the vodka. Whisk to combine. Taste and bottle. Keeps well for about a year in a cool, dark place.

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Jessie Cross is a cookbook author and creator of The Hungry Mouse, a monster online food blog w/500+ recipes. When she's not shopping for cheese or baking pies, Jessie serves as an Associate Creative Director at PARTNERS+simons, a boutique ad agency in Boston. She lives in Salem, Massachusetts with her husband and two small, fluffy wolves.


  1. So you don’t use the actual lemon–juce, fruit, etc–at all? Just the grated peel?

    I don’t understand cooking AT ALL.

  2. You could use a little bit of the fruit, too, but a lot of the lemon flavor is in the rind. All that lemon juice would make it super acidic. If I made this with a sweeter fruit like, say, oranges, I’d probably throw in some of the fruit along with the peel.

    I’m actually fixing to mix a batch of this up fairly soon. I’ll give a shout when I do.

  3. I love this recipe! After years of searching for an easier way to zest citrus, and ruining my fingernails over and over again,..I found the lemon zester from Pampered Chef. It’s about $10 and worth every penny. A long handle with several curved tines that make the peel just slide off! I’m sure another company makes one like this, but Pampered Chef’s design is perfect for the job!

  4. I just made this but a friend who has been making limoncello gave me the tip of peeling the lemon with a potato peeler instead of zesting. Have tried each way and like the peeler better. Worked like a charm!!!