The Cottage Smallholder

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Lemon Gin Recipe.

lemons for lemon gin

Lemons for lemon gin

I went to New Zealand for the first time over 30 years ago and Lemon Gin was the pre dinner tipple in one of the houses that we visited. It came in gallon jars and was served neat in small tumblers. This was the first time I’d seen anyone pouring out drinks from such a large container. In this particular house the lemon gin jar doubled as a doorstop in the kitchen during the day.

I forgot all about lemon gin until my sister and I got into making sloe gin. We had made a heady investment of a case of gin and, after picking a vast sack full of sloes in freezing cold winds, decided to find another use for the remaining bottles. My sister found an old recipe for lemon gin; this stated that it would take three years to mature. I must admit I wasn’t keen on waiting three years.

My sister persuaded me to experiment. I did, after all, have five litres of sloe gin to see me through the long gap. I also liked the idea of travelling with a bottle of lemon gin in the boot of my car for three years (see method below).

We made a bottle each and, after a few months of rolling about in the boot of my car, I moved my bottle to the cottage larder where it slipped behind an old mixer and was forgotten. Four years later it was discovered and retrieved by a tall boyfriend who spent a lot of time in the larder as this was one of the few places that he could stand up in the cottage. The lemon peel had totally vanished. The liqueur was unbelievably good. A Dom Pérignon leap from the NZ brew. I hate to admit it but this is better than sloe gin and at least one notch up from our raspberry gin.

When Danny arrived the remains of the lemon gin had been buried again. A couple of years ago he unearthed and secretly sampled it (this was an eleven year old vintage). He rushed upstairs, woke me up and insisted that lemon gin must be made every year from now on, in vast quantities.

If you are patient, have a surfeit of gin or want to produce something exceptional for best friends that drop by, try this recipe. It’s well worth the wait.



Lemon Gin Recipe.
Recipe Type: Liqueur
Author: Fiona Nevile
This takes years to mature but is probably the best of all fruit liqueurs
  • 1 litre bottle of medium quality gin – supermarket own brands are good
  • 200 g white granulated sugar
  • 3 unwaxed lemons (just the rind, avoiding the pith)
  1. Make space in the bottle for the sugar and lemon by pouring off at least 200 ml of gin (reserve this).
  2. Gently pare the lemon rind from the lemon. Be really careful to avoid the bitter pith (at a pinch use a zester – although the results are not nearly as good).
  3. Add the peel to the bottle.
  4. Using a funnel add the sugar to the gin and shake well.
  5. Top up the bottle with the reserved gin. Find a use for the surplus (I usually mix myself a large gin and tonic at this stage).
  6. Label the bottle. Wrap it well (bubble wrap is ideal) and place securely in the boot of your car (The alcohol will not allow the bottle to freeze completely in cold weather).
  7. Drive the car hard for three years.
  8. Remove the bottle. Taste and taste again.

Tips and Tricks:

If you make this every year, within three years you will have lemon gin available annually. Danny has just told me that we have passed the two year mark.

Put an ingredients label on your jar so as to be able to recreate a particularly good vintage. Use decorators tape as this generally peels off easily and can be passed from jar to jar.

Don’t use the cheapest gin. You might not live to regret it.


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  1. Dave Greenman

    Following Fiona Nevile’s lemon gin, I use something similar for making Limoncello at 25% alcohol – ABV
    500 ml 40% – 45% vodka
    6 lemons- unwaxed- peel with potato peeler – rind only
    200g – 300g sugar – (I use 240g which gives moderate sweetness)
    Place in jar or zip lock bag (I use kilner jars)
    sous-vide at 60 deg C for 2 hours.
    cool and strain
    dilute with 500 ml water, bottle and refrigerate.
    Can be drunk as soon as it is chilled
    The juice from the left over lemons can be kept in the fridge, or used for something like lemon syllabub.
    You could dilute the vodka before sous-vide heating, but I believe the higher strength alcohol extracts a little more flavour from the lemons.

  2. Jane Barnes

    What if you don’t drive!!!!

    • Nigel Williamson

      My friend wraps the bottles in bubble-wrap and black bin-liner plastic to keep the light out and every once in a while (when he remembers to, it’s not critical, but it is necessary) he rolls them around on the floor a few times, then stacks them back in their hidey-hole until he remembers to do it again. This more or less approximates the shaking and rolling they’d experience loose in the boot of the car.

  3. I’m minded to try using the ‘sous vide’ method for lemon gin. I use it for other fruit gins including mulberry and raspberry [both singly and together ] and sloe/sloe and blueberry and it works a treat and certainly reduces the infusion time.

    Put ingedients into a zip-lock’ bag and evacuate air usin the displacement method. Set cooker to 70%C for 3 to 4 hours depending on fruit used. I allow to cool in cooker. Refrigerate for at least TWELVE hours before straining [I use TWO or three layers of fine sterilized COTTON handkerchiefs] CAREFULLY and SLOWLY decanting into suitable bottles. BY the way I came accross a recipe for SLIDER that uses LOES after straining. You re-infuse the gin-soaked sloes with a good strong cider and leave for tow or three weeks before, once agian straining ito bottles. It’s an acceptable tipple if well chilled and I don’t see why you cannot use other fruits from you fruit gin trials. I’m givingb it a try anyway.!!

  4. Have just unearthed a bottle of 2001 sloe gin. While it has a very distinctive sludge at the bottom of the bottle when passed through a fine mesh sieve much of that goes away.
    Anybody think it might be worth decanting or should I just throw it out?

    • John simpson

      It will taste wonderful. Never ever throw out sloe gin. The older the better – will taste less like gin and more like a fine Madeira.

  5. The Burley Clan

    We’re really looking forward to trying this recipe. Lemon Gin has actually been outlawed in our provence due to it’s reported “adverse” effect on women’s self-control. So as soon as we heard that, we immediately began searching for our own recipe. Three years seems like a really long time to wait, but we have some nice batches of crab apple whiskey and wine to hold us over until then. Thanks for sharing!

  6. John Strang


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