Homemade Limoncello, that beloved Italian liqueur served mainly as an after-dinner digestive, is laborious, almost artisanal. You carefully peel the lemon rind to pithless perfection, and let it steep in vodka for anywhere from 4 to 10 days. But yesterday was supposedly the hottest day in Manila this summer yet. And with no sign of reprieve from this crazy heat, I just went ahead and took some short cuts. I wanted the flavors of limoncello, but like a cocktail, and in a bigger glass.


*Total time including steeping: 2 hours. SERVES ABOUT 5.

For the cocktail
5 lemons plus 1 more for garnish
4 cups distilled water
1 cup vodka
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
Rosemary sprigs for garnish
Large mason jar or pitcher

Wash the lemons thoroughly with soap and water or your favorite veggie wash. Rinse well and dry. Peel the lemon rind using a vegetable peeler or a small, sharp knife. Cut as thinly as possible so only the yellow rind and none of the bitter pith remain. I found it easier to slice wide chunks of the rind and to carefully cut out any remaining pith. Set aside. Remove all remaining pith from each lemon until only the fruit is left. Put the distilled water, the rind, and the fruit in a small pot and heat to almost boiling. Pour everything into the mason jar or pitcher and let cool. After at least an hour, taste the lemon juice to see if it’s tart enough. Remove all the lemons and the rind and strain the mixture. Pour in the vodka. Add more to taste. Make sugar syrup by heating the half cup of sugar and half cup of water in a sauce pan on medium heat. Make sure all the sugar is covered by the water and just keep an eye on it (don’t stir), until all the sugar is dissolved and the syrup comes to a gentle boil, is syrupy, but still clear in color. Sweeten your lemon vodka mixture with the syrup to taste. Chill until ready to serve. Garnish with a thin slice of lemon or a sprig of rosemary.

Simple, sweet, with lots of bright lemony flavor, this refreshing drink is my antidote to the summer heat. Chin chin.

*Photos by Ina Amor Mejia. Also, how to make (almost) perfect ice at home.