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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. Anne Lester

    Just bought my seville oranges to make the gin, despite the three year wait! I’m also curious about the lemon gin, and am wondering how this differs from lemoncello, it’s made with vodka rather than gin but I can’t imagine that’s the main reason that lemoncello is ready to drink in two weeks rather than a wait of three years, my brother has been raving about the results.

  2. susanbuzz

    Hello all,
    well I read all the above posts with delicious intrigue and finally I did it! Yes I have 2 x 70cl bottles of lemon gin ”slow cooking” in the boot of both of our cars since last Tues – Valentines day. That’ll be my cue for the grand opening, Valentines day next year for the 1yr old vintage and so on, so that we can compare the taste as time passes.
    Juiced all the lemons afterwards and made lemonade – yum!
    Thanks for an inspiring blog and roll on the summer so I can further increase the value of our cars by adding Raspberry Gin to the cache in the boot 🙂

  3. mowdrops

    Just made 2 lots of lemon gin.Hope i last 3 years to try it. Juiced the remaining lemon and froze it,for hot toddies in the winter.

  4. Thank you for this gorgeous recipe! I’m in New Zealand with an enormous lemon tree and a real glut of fruit. I made the lemon gin from some revolting tasting stuff. I had a sip when my lemon gin was a month old (yes, I know its supposed to be 3 years but it became the colour of sunshine and was just too tempting…) Completely delicious! Obviously the lemon zest has not completely disolved but the taste is perfection. I have sealed it up though and will exercise patience….maybe leave it another year!

  5. Gooseberry gin was mentioned last weekend and am delighted to have found out how to make it. As I’ve just come back from shopping with unwaxed lemons – I’ll now have to go back to get some more gin and make that one too. I’ve an insulated bottle carrier in the loft I can make use of to put it in the boot of my car. Am looking forward to Gooseberry & raspberry gins and much much later lemon gin!!Thank you

  6. I don’t know about using Whiskey, although the lemon should produce quite an intersting combination of tatses! I personally believe that clear, non-sweet spirits (such as Gin, Vodka, Schnapps etc) provide for a fresher, more sophisticated taste as the lemon is not competing with a more complex flavour base such as one would get from sweet spirits like Scotch, Bourbon, Brandy or Rum. I think I also agree with the notion that the florals and juniper pair well with fruit infusions; I’ve noticed that people who infuse fruit with sweet spirits tend to regard the spirit as a flavour infusion for the fruit, rather than the other way round, and re-use the spirit to infuse more fruit, almost as though the fruit has given nothing to the spirit base (although I may be wrong here, cue shrieks of outrage…)

  7. Jackson

    Thank you for the information. I will try putting the gin in a styrofoam cooler, thank you for the idea. And thank you for the information on zest. I had read on a website about limoncello that zesting makes a cloudier liquid that could be clarified later, but did not realize the loss of essential oils.

    Is gin the spirit that produces the best flavor? I was just wondering, as gin is a more, well, British drink(yes, I realize that it is technically Dutch), whereas we are more a whiskEy or applejack place. Most all these recipes here use gin as a base. Is it because gin is the traditional spirit used in the United Kingdom, or do the juniper and other florals pair well with fruit based infusions?

  8. Jackson,

    Firstly, I would hold off on using a scraper or zester, as it ‘bruises’ the lemon skin and sprays the essential citrus oils into the air instead of keeping them locked in the skin – after all, it’s these oils that interact with the gin to give it such a unique depth of flavour – carefully paring the outer skin keeps the oil in the skin cells intact and in place.
    Secondly, I use a London Dry Gin (Gordons, for preference), although one year I did use Bombay Sapphire; the result was exquisite, and only gets ladled-out to the very oldest and closest friends…
    Thirdly, if you keep the bottled mix wrapped in black plastic and stashed in a small insulated ice-chest or picnic cooler in the car it should be fine. The thing about keeping it around the house and occasionally shaking it is that eventually it becomes a chore, and then becomes forgotten. my friend did this, and after 2 years re-discovered them in his toolshed, only to find he’d ended up with bottles of slightly acidic, vaguely lemony gin, with a harsh undertow and a sludgy yellow goop pasted to one side of the bottles; attempting to rescue them by shaking them vigorously (‘to mix in all the goodness…’) didn’t help; shaking the gin vigorously for a few minutes is only going to bruise it, not do the work of two years of gentle stirring!
    Eventually we re-bottled the whole lot, with a fresh infusion of Beefeater London Gin and a couple of pieces of crushed lemongrass in each bottle (as well as fresh lemom peel) to mellow and freshen the aftertaste. Here’s hoping…

  9. Jackson

    I am terribly sorry to make two posts in a row, I know it is considered bad manners, however, I have a question that occurred to me upon while reading some of the comments here.

    You mention leaving the gin in you trunk for 3 years to agitate it. I was just worried(after reading the post from the lady in Cyprus) about the temperature as well.

    In the summer time, it usually idles at 96 F(35.6 C), but has been known to get above 103 F(39.5 C) here. As well, the humidity is always high. Heck, its 90 F(32.2 C) here now, and 60 F(15.56 C) this afternoon in London. Would the gin be adversely affected by the higher temperatures? Would it be better if I stored it in the cupboard, and shook it weekly/monthly? Or is daily shaking required?

  10. Jackson

    Out of curiousity, why do you pare the lemon peel? Then you have to scrape out the pith every time you mess up. Why not use a Microplane rasp to scrape off just the zest?

    I know you said it is not as good, but why not? Afterall, you are just looking for the zest anyway, and by zesting it you would increase the surface area of the zest many times over. Wouldn’t that cut down on the time it needs to mature as well? Or do you want minute amounts of the pith in there, to give it some bitterness as well?

    And one last thing: When you say “medium quality gin,” do you mean a less expensive gin that isn’t really any style, or a London Dry Gin, a Plymouth style gin, a Dutch or Genever gin?

    Sorry for the odd question, but you must understand I come from a place where “cordial” means an alcoholic syrup, lemonade is lemon juice water sugar, and tea is always sweet and ice cold(with lemon). I don’t want to get the wrong kind.

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