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Lemons are currently in season and dirt cheap. I'd like to make a homemade Limoncello.

The recipe I'm using calls for odorless, high-ABV (150+ proof) spirit, like Everclear. Unfortunately, my state doesn't allow the sale of high ABV spirits.

Can I use a lower ABV, like vodka, as a stand in? Will this change steeping time?

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I cheated, drove to Connecticut and bought a handle of Graves 95% Grain Alcohol. I'll let everyone know the results shortly. – Jake McGraw Feb 26 '12 at 16:41
up vote 4 down vote accepted

There are plenty of recipes for limoncello/lemoncello out there that use vodka. I would reference one specifically calling for vodka rather than adapting one that relies on either 150 or 190 proof Everclear.

The higher alcohol content means a stronger extract from the lemons (does not necessarily apply to leeching of sugars, just oils), and a corresponding need to be sugared down more. As vodka is easier to just sip and lower in alcohol, it would likely require less simple syrup, and either more lemons, agitation, longer steeping or a combination thereof.

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You should be able to use vodka just fine. I don't know for sure, but I doubt it would severely impact any of the variables in the recipe. I think a little trial and error is your best bet.

This is strictly anecdotal, but my father made a limoncello using vodka, and it turned out pretty great.

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Yes, you can use a lower-proof alcohol to make limoncello. In fact, I've seen vodka used more commonly (1 2) than everclear.

I'm not sure what baseline your everclear recipe gives for steeping time, but with vodka you need to steep for around a week. As for sugar, this is largely going to be a matter of preference, so feel free to change the amount to your taste.

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