I recently made some lemon oil. Here's how I made it (question at the bottom): I took the zest of about 12 lemons, packed it in a half pint jar, filled it to the top with 80 proof vodka. Left it in the window sill for about 5 days. Then I strained the zest out of it. I placed the remaining vodka/lemon mixture in the same half pint glass jar, and placed it in a pot of "almost boiling" water to heat it up to evaporate the alcohol off. I monitored the temperature of the solution and it varied between 180-190 degrees. The solution was boiling, telling me that the ethanol was boiling off. I waited till I didn't see any more bubbles in the solution. I then took it out, strained it again. So, theoretically, what I had left was lemon oil.

QUESTION: It didn't really have the consistency of "oil" - it was still kind of watery. Does lemon oil have a thick consistency like vegetable oil?

  • 3
    80 proof vodka is still 60% water (or other non-alcohol). So even if you could evaporate off all of the alcohol, you're still left with a lot of water. It might be possible that the oil and water would seperate if left for a long enough time to decant, but I have no idea how long it would take (if at all, as there's also still alcohol in the mix)
    – Joe
    Sep 16, 2014 at 18:23
  • Indeed - it was still watery because it's mostly water. But don't throw it out! It should have a decent lemon flavor and work as a reasonably effective extract.
    – logophobe
    Sep 16, 2014 at 19:55
  • I think that there are essential oils which use alcohol as the solvent, but they are distilled, not infused.
    – rumtscho
    Sep 17, 2014 at 15:20
  • To add to that, it's highly unlikely that you've boiled off all the alcohol in your vodka. See this thread: cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/659/cooking-away-alcohol Sep 17, 2014 at 17:53
  • You've almost made Limoncello - a classic Italian lemon liqueur. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limoncello
    – john3103
    Sep 17, 2014 at 21:22

2 Answers 2


It appears that you made some type of lemon extract, as opposed to a lemon oil. Probably good, but not lemon oil. There are two ways I know of to infuse flavor into oil. Both involve starting with oil...either a neutral oil or an olive oil. First is to heat the oil with the desired flavor product, thus extracting the flavor into the oil. The other, does not require heat and, therefore, protects the quality of the oil (such as with an olive oil that my be destroyed by heat). That is to use an isi-type whipping canister. Here is the process: http://www.starchefs.com/product_education/iSi/whipper/html/recipe-lemon-infused-extra-virgin-olive-oil-dave-arnold.shtml


I am just now trying the whole "essential oil made at home" thing, so came across your post, and thought I would add a couple of things (even though your post is old):
(1) try putting the remaining "oil" in the freezer to see if the natural oil that was extracted from the lemon rind will separate further from the rest of the liquid (be it vodka or water, or both) - this would be closer to the "essential oil" of the lemon itself;
(2) the post that says that to make lemon oil you must start with oil is basically not talking about essential, or extracted, lemon oil, but rather the author is talking about infused oil (taking an already existing oil and infusing it with the oil or extract of a plant) - this is very different from the "essential" oil of the lemon itself, which is what you seem to be trying to create.

Almost all, if not all, plants have their own natural oils, which can be extracted in several ways, so that you have JUST the oil of that plant, which is called "essential" - the best method is distillation, but it takes a distiller, A LOT of plant material, A LOT of skill and patience to do at home, and A LOT of time - these "essential oils" of plants are what you can purchase in little, dark, glass bottles at health stores, and the reason they cost a pretty penny is because proper distillation, which keeps all of the integrity of the plant oil intact, takes that aforementioned professional equipment, tons of plant material, skill & patience, and time ...

All that said, I plan to try my hand at making my own distiller at home which promises to yield a water/oil mixture which then, once fully cooled, can be decanted for the essential oil (which should sit nicely atop the cooled water). You can find some ideas on how to make your own distiller with basic kitchen equipment on e-how (steel steamer pot, glass bowl to fit inside steamer, large steel bowl to seal the top of pot and in which ice is continually replenished to liquify the steam-oil that boils up through the steamer).

Happy extracting/distilling/infusing! :-)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.