Lemon extract is easily made at home using just three ingredients: lemon zest, sugar and vodka. The hard part is waiting for the flavors to infuse; it takes at least 2 months for them to fully develop. But homemade lemon extract is worth the wait because the flavors are rich and vibrant, sans artificial sweeteners or preservatives. In this recipe, dried lavender adds a wonderful floral aroma that pairs well with tart lemon.

Start to Finish: 5 minutes, plus 2 to 3 months infusing time

Servings: Makes 1/2 cup

Difficulty Level: Beginner

  • 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon dried lavender
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup 80-proof vodka

Step 1: Zest the lemon

Zest a lemon with a microplane grater, removing as much as possible of the bright yellow zest while leaving the bitter pith behind.

Step 2: Combine the Ingredients

Add the lemon zest, dried lavender, sugar and vodka to a glass jar and screw the lid on securely. Shake the jar until the sugar has completely dissolved.

Step 3: Wait For It

Store the jar in a cool, dark place such as a cupboard. Shake the jar once a day, or at least once every couple of days, for 2 to 3 months. Periodically taste the extract until you are satisfied with the flavor. The flavor of the lemon extract will improve with age.

Step 4: Use It

When it is ready to use, strain the extract through a cheesecloth into another jar. Twist the cheesecloth around the lemon zest and lavender to squeeze out as much liquid as you can. Alternatively, leave the zest and lavender in the jar to continue infusing, straining off only what you need.

Tips

If you don’t have a microplane grater, you can remove the zest from the lemon in thin strips using a sharp knife.

If you’re not a fan of lavender or don’t have it on hand, leave it out.

Customize the flavor of your lemon extract by adding other ingredients. A vanilla bean contributes subtle sweetness, lime zest adds complementary acidity and mint leaves add refreshing herbal notes.

A few drops of lemon extract make a tasty addition to everything from baked goods to ice cream to cocktails.