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November 25, 2013

Clemencello for the Holidays

Food gifts are great to give and receive during the holidays, but if we're going to be honest, we think boozy gifts are kind of the best. This Clemencello recipe -- a clementine riff on classic limoncello -- is a pretty, tasty, hassle-free gift to make and give this holiday season.

Limoncello is a sweet Italian liquor usually served well chilled after a meal as a digestive. It's made by infusing lemon zest in grain alcohol to release the lemons natural oil. A simple sugar syrup is then made and added to the resulting lemon alcohol. Clemencello uses the same principals, but it takes advantage of the other citrus coming to market this time of year: clementines.

Clementines are a member of the mandarin orange family (often confused with tangerines and Satsuma oranges.) You can use any sweet orange in this recipe, but shy away from navel oranges as the resulting liquor will be a bit bitter. Clementines are generally available from mid-November to January and sometimes labeled Cuties or Christmas Oranges."

Clemencello can be served straight up in cordial glasses as a digestive between dinner and dessert. Pour it over ice and top with seltzer water for refreshing spritzer that can be served any time of day!

Makes 32 ounces – approximately 4 (8 ounce) gift sized servings 
  • 1 pound clementines, about 6
  • 1 pound lemons, about 4 to 5
  • 750ml vodka, 100 proof     
  • 2/3 cup water          
  • 2/3 cup sugar           

Carefully remove the zest from the clementines and lemons using a rasp grater, staying clear of the white pith. The remaining fruit can be juiced and used for flavoring water, making cocktails, or making salad dressings. We recommend you juice the clementine and freeze the juice for a cocktail we will be bringing you later this season...

Combine all the zest with the vodka into a lidded glass container that is at least 2-quarts in size. Set the mixture in a cool dark place for 7 days.

After 7 days, strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer lined with several layers of cheesecloth and return to the container. 

Combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan set over high heat and cook, stirring continually, until the sugar is completely dissolved, approximately 3 minutes. Cool the syrup completely before adding to the strained vodka mixture.

This liquor will keeps well at room temperature, so feel free to make some now and store it in your pantry. For serving – make sure the Clemencello is as cold as possible by stashing it in the freezer for at least 4 hours. Clemencello can be stored in the freezer for up to a year.

For gift giving: funnel a cup of Clemencello into a clear bottle or jar (we used these) and label with a gift tag. You can download the Clemencello gift tags we used below!

Download the Clemencello gift tag printables [HERE

Happy Holidays! --Natty + Meghan

Recipe c/o Meghan Splawn of Stir and Scribble
Tags designed and illustrated by Natalie Kilgore of Natty Michelle Paperie
Photos and styling by Meghan Splawn and Natalie Kilgore

Meghan Splawn is a professional recipe developer. She works full-time as part of Alton Brown's culinary team. Her work can be seen in the Good Eats series and on Her personal blog, Stir and Scribble, is full of clever cooking, classic cocktails, and useful kitchen tips.


  1. Your styling looks awesome - I am totally downloading the tags for the batch I made for myself!

    1. Thanks for the recipe and for EVERYTHING, sweet friend! You're the best.

  2. Replies
    1. Anything related to "cuties" is great, right? :)

  3. I've always wanted to try something like this. I can't wait to whip up a batch for myself (quality control purposes, of course) and then make a bunch for gifts. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Awesome! If you post photos on Instagram or Facebook, tag @stirandscribble + @nattymichelle! We'd love to see!


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