Dazed and Infused

After making a list and checking it thrice, there was nothing left to chance for my extended stay in Hawaii. Everything was accounted for, from sunscreen to snacks to strobe lights, with a dozen backup batteries in between. Even so, that sneaking suspicion that something had been forgotten stayed with me, like a single dark rain cloud in an otherwise pristine blue sky. Some people worry about leaving the lights on, neglecting to take out the trash, or forgetting to lock the doors, but me? It was only when I decided to extend my stay for a second month that I realized I forgot about something very precious in the fridge.

Climoncello. Yes, you read that right: Limoncello‘s clementine cousin, a byproduct of enthusiastic citrus consumption and an inability to throw any viable foodstuffs away. Tearing through my immense stash in record time left countless peels in my wake. Compost seemed like a cop-out for these highly aromatic remnants, especially when they still had so much flavor left to give.

All it took was a bottle of inexpensive vodka to set the creative wheels in motion. Elevating some undrinkable swill and making the most of my citrus windfall in one fell swoop, it was a perfectly elegant solution. Let the concoction steep for a few days, perhaps a week, and my work would be done.

But there it sat, in the darkened corner of the fridge, while I was living it up in a tropical paradise thousands of miles away. Only when one month became two did I realize my oversight, but little could be done at that point. At worst I would return to a rotting, revolting mess of liquid garbage, so I prepared myself for a potentially unpleasant cleanup effort.

Eternally forgetful but incredibly lucky, it turned out the the extra time didn’t hurt my orange-y brew one bit! Preserved by the alcohol and sugar, those scraps looked as good as new, entirely intact yet spent of their fragrant essential oils. Even if the Pacific Ocean wasn’t standing in between this project and me, I wouldn’t dream of letting it stew for a shorter time now.



Turning trash into treasure, clementine peels transform plain vodka into a bold, citrus-spiked mixer.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Additional Time 3 months
Total Time 3 months 10 minutes


  • 14 – 15 Clementine Peels
  • 3 1/2 Cups Water
  • 2 1/2 Cups Granulated Sugar
  • 1 (750-ml) Bottle Vodka*


  1. Place your peels, water, and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, and cook just until the sugar has fully dissolved. Turn off the heat, cover with a lid, and let cool to room temperature. Use a pestle (or any other blunt instrument, really) to mash the rinds around a bit, bruising them to release more of the essential oils. Pour in the vodka, give it a good stir and transfer the whole mixture, peels and all, into a large glass jar. Seal the lid tightly and stash it in a cold, dark place for about three months. Don’t rush it! If anything, you’re likely to get even greater flavors if you let it steep for an extra month or so.
  2. When the climoncello is ready, the liquid should be a golden orange color and smell of sweet oranges. Strain out and discard the peels, and transfer the liqueur to an attractive glass bottle. Store in a cool, dark place for however long you can make it last. It should keep indefinitely, but you’ll no doubt want to enjoy it before too long.


*Don’t waste the good stuff on this, since you’ll be covering up any unsavory notes with your citrus infusion. Just stay away from firewater like Everclear, and you should be golden. I used Popov, for what it’s worth.

17 thoughts on “Dazed and Infused

  1. Phew! I thought your post was leading towards a sourdough starter you forgot to leave with the sitter.

  2. squeal – this sounds right up mom’s alley. I must show her this. XOXO – Bacon
    P.S. I am so green with jealous – two months in paradise? Sigh – psst – next time can I stowaway in your suitcase?

  3. I tend to put my lemon peel strips into the jar I use for lemoncello with the vodka and stick it in a dark corner and forget about it for two months or more. Once the zest is completely white, I strain it and add the simple syrup I prefer to use to mine. I do not sweeten mine as sweet as is traditional but it is still lovely. And I have done a rhubarb-cello too that is heavenly. Same principle. You get that tang of the rhubarb which I love.

    And I still just got more mandarins so I will need to try this one since I am doing a Peeps infused vodka for a friend. Not my thing but she asked for it nicely so I will make it for her. And since the vodka will be out and I have mandarins, I should make something I will enjoy myself.

    And more time in Hawai’i? Jealous!!!! Enjoy it though

  4. You and I are both on the infusion page today :) How creative to make Climoncello. I have a friend who made Limoncello last summer, and she inspired me to do the same – but now I’m feeling something a bit more orange! :) Looks incredible!

  5. Climoncello,how lovely that sounds! And I am sure I would like that more than limoncello…Did once also some cello from melon….

  6. I have a Kumquat tree so make Kumquatcello. I don’t boil anything, just put a cup of sugar in a quart Mason jar, fill with kumquat peels, then top up with vodka. Leave for months to years.

  7. Sounds so refreshing! Perfect for a late afternoon chill out like on a Friday. I guess I better get cracking and let it brew for a long time too and I promise I won’t use any “Fire water” … You are too funny. Take care, BAM

  8. BTW, I was first attracted by your awesome photos on Flickr and now realising that you are a blogger like me. Nice to see great photography in your blog – same approach here.

  9. I had my first limoncello when we brought back the bottle from Italy few years ago and it was pretty strong! And then someone brought a homemade limoncello with a recipe and it was super, super, super strong (even stronger than a vodka, but I love my vodka!) I love the name, Climoncello, I would love to make that version with kumquats or mandarinquats! Thank you for sharing this, cheers, Hannah or as how the Swedish says: skal ;)

  10. Love that shot! beautiful! Great idea you have there! I tried limoncello in Amalfi Coast and love it.. Great to know that I can make a variation of it at home!

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