When a friend gives you a big bag of lemons from their tree, there just aren’t enough lemon recipes. Cytrynówka Polish Lemon Liqueur has always been a favorite, so we’ve made several batches, one for me, one for Ed without sugar (it’s burns a lot more), one for my mom’s birthday, one for the lemon grower.
I still have a lot of lemons to use. There may be lemon curd, lemon brine chicken, or lots of lemonade in our future.
As usual, my inspiration comes from our book the Great Book of Tinctures which is in Polish. If you’d like your own copy, it’s usually available on Amazon via my affiliate link. (That means if you buy it via this link, amazon pays me a few cents.)
There are a lot of variations to make this lemon liqueur. Some recipes will use lemon juice. Some will use a higher proof liquor, but I can say that this is delicous and quick and easy to assemble, and ready to drink in just a few days. It makes for great sipping after dinner or can be used in cocktails.
Cytrynówka Polish Lemon Liqueur
Homemade Lemon Liqueur in the Polish tradition
1 liter vodka
sugar, 1/4 – 3/4 cup
Wash the lemons and submerge in boiling water (I wish I could explain the benefits of the boiling water, but I’m just following directions)
Use a vegetable peeler to remove the zest from the lemons, add to a large jar or divide among multiple jars
Add vodka and sugar (to taste), and top with a lid
Shake or swirl the mixture occasionally over the next couple of days, until the sugar dissolves
Remove the lemon zest after 24 to 48 hours
Refrigerate and serve chilled
An accountant by trade and a food blogger since 2009, Lois Britton fell in love with Polish cuisine during the years she lived in Poznań, Poland. As the creator of PolishHousewife.com, she loves connecting readers with traditional Polish recipes. Lois has a graduate certificate in Food Writing and Photography from the University of South Florida. She is the author of The Polish Housewife Cookbook, available on Amazon and on her website.
This is a lot like the Italian limoncello, which I’ve made, except they let the zest soak in the booze for maybe 4 – 6 weeks until a peel will crack like a potato chip when you bend it. I keep some around the house, minus the sugar, for adding to anything I want to make lemon-flavored. A little bit in lemonade is great. It’s hard to remove the yellow part only and not get any white but it’s worth it. This is supposed to a great digestive aid!
I agree with Laurel – very much like limoncello. I’ve never tried it without sugar – very interesting idea! I wonder if the lemons are boiled to remove bitterness?
Without sugar, the liquid is still yellow colored but not at all hazy. It seems so much stronger.
use honey instead of sugar! tastes so much better
The lemons aren’t boiled, just placed in boiling water and removed. I believe it has to do with maximizing the lemon oils on the peel.
Sounds like the hot water helps the oils in the lemon peel get released into the alcohol qiucker.
Very good thought!
I’m college student, and sometimes make cytrynówka with friends, but after washing in boiling water we just cut lemons and put them it in the pot with spirytus(95-98% alcohol) and sugar. Next day we just squeeze lemons, pour it through strainer and add water.
Its 1kg lemons(~4lemons),
1/2 cup of sugar(sometimes more- add to taste) and
Its little cloudy, but when frozen taste great and thanks to lemon juice usually hangover-free 😉
I don’t know if i read your recipe correctly, but you just put lemon zest not juice? Sounds interesting, must try it sometime.
Yes, just the zest. I’ll have to give your recipe a try too, Piotr if I can find spirytus. Thanks for sharing!
Sounds great . Can’t wait to try it out! Na zdrowie.
I think everyone is craving some cytrynowka
Putting the lemons In boiling water also helps remove the wax covering you sometimes get on commercial lemons.
The boiling removes the food safe wax from the lemon zest. If you don’t boil, you wont get nearly as much flavor from the rind. Could also add the juice of the lemons if you enjoy a very sour sprit juice.
I make a heavy syrup and poke holes in a dense poundcake..pour syup and let it sit for about 2 days. Also, if sugar free mix is reduced on low, it makes a great lemon extract.
Hi, thanks for the recipe. Can your vodkas be bottled and stored or do they need to be used immediately?
Hi Sophia, I usually make them once a year, and drink them until the fruit is in season again the following year.
The reason you put the lemon in boiling water is to remove the wax coating on the citrus
Hi just made your recipe thanks for sharing. I wonder do you need to keep in a dark place for the 24-48 hrs or should they be in the fridge?
You can put it in the fridge, but it’s not necessary, and it might slow down the process.
Is there a recipe for this liqueur with oranges?
I haven’t published one yet, Ann, but just substitute orange for lemon.
My father in law was Polish and his method used a 50cl bottle of Polmos rectified spirit ( Spirytus Rektyfikowany ) which is 95% proof. The lemon zest was soaked in this for a week (minimum) and then the zest strained off. An equal amount (50cl) of water was then heated gently in a saucepan with the desired amount of sugar until the sugar completely dissolved . When that had then cooled to only just warm the spirit was added and the mixture became clearer. I met his brother once who gave me a glass of his. It was a beautiful colour and crystal clear. Like food, the appearance is just as important as the taste. Sadly both brothers died some years ago so I’ll never know what his method was. If anyone knows I’d love to hear it.