Etrog Liquor

October 13, 2010

Once the holiday of sukkot is over I always look for tasty and creative ways to use up my etrog (citron). Some years I have made preserves. Other years I have made candy. A few years ago my friend Dan gave me a taste of some delicious etrog liquor he had made, and I knew that I needed to make some for myself. This liquor requires a few etrogs, so it may be necessary to beg them from friends, but if you return the favor by giving them a bottle of this liquor they are sure to be willing to give you their etrogs year after year.

The liquor is basically a limoncello recipe made with etrogs rather than lemons. Like most liquor it needs to steep for quite a while before it is ready to drink, but the active time required to make it is quite minimal. It makes great presents and keeps extremely well, so I always make as big a batch as I can depending on how many etrogs I am able to collect. It is great as an after dinner drink and a splash added to fruit salad really makes for something special.


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Ingredients & Quantities

  • 5-6 Etrogs (citrons)
  • 1 (750 ml) bottle 100-proof vodka*
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups water
*Use 100-proof vodka, which has less flavor than a lower proof one. It also keeps the finished liquor from being too sweet and the high alcohol content ensures that the liquor will not turn to ice in the freezer.

Preparation Instructions

Wash the etrogs with a vegetable brush and hot water to remove any reside of pesticides or wax. Pat them dry.

Pour 1/2 the vodka into a large glass jar with the vanilla bean. Carefully zest the lemons with a zester or vegetable peeler so there is no white pith on the peel. Use only the outer part of the rind. The pith, the white part underneath the rind, is too bitter and would spoil your liquor. Add the lemon zest directly to the jar as it is zested.

Cover the jar and let sit at room temperature for at least ten days and up to forty days in a cool dark place. The longer it rests, the better the taste will be. As it sits, the vodka will slowly take on the flavor and rich yellow color of the zest.

In a large saucepan, combine the sugar and water. Cook until thickened, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Let the syrup cool before adding it to the vodka mixture. Once the syrup is cool pour it into the jar with the vodka. Add the remaining vodka. Allow to rest for another ten to forty days.
After the liquor has rested for the second time strain the mixture, discarding the lemon zest and vanilla bean. Pour into bottles. The liquor is best served chilled, so store it in the freezer until ready to use. It will keep fine at room temperature as well, but should be chilled before drinking.

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  1. I collected Etrogim to make this delicious recipe but then someone suggested that the etrogim have the highest levels of pesticides since they need to turn out prefect…. any truth in the rumor?

    • I have heard that as well, but I don’t know for sure. I make sure to wash them well and figure that I am only using them once a year so the total impact of the pesticides is minimal.

  2. wow! what a good idea! i’ve made other flavored vodkas before, but never thought of making etrog liquor – i will DEFINITELY have to try this after next sukkot. i might have to start begging my friends for their etrogim from now…

  3. I hunted a while to find the best recipe and this sounded most true to a liqueur. I tried it and WOW this is a perfect ratio and I am so pleased with the results. My husband took a bottle to shul to share the good and one of the guys bought it he liked it so much. LOL Thanks for posting such a great recipe. I will enjoy it every year. Be well. Hazlacha rabbah.

  4. This worked out unbelievably. I made it last succot and had the hot of using it for the sholem zochor and brit this succot for our firstborn son born on kol nidrei night :-)…. You may even say is a Segulah…

  5. I’ve got two batches of this going (though i think i added a little (10-15%) too much vodka to start). I was planning on trying to sweeten one of these using truvia instead of sugar. Truvia is a lot sweeter than sugar so wondering what makes sense.

    Truvia publishes a simple syrup recipe – without boiling water just warm water mixed with truvia and shaking it. How much of the 2 1/2 cups water in the original recipe boil off? if you measure the simple syrup in the original recipe before putting it in is it 2 cups versus the original 2 1/2? or much less?
    Using the Truvia guide, 1 cup of sugar is 24 packets, 2 cups is 48. Using their recipe for simple syrup (Which may not be syrupy enough – not sure!) that would be 2 cups of warm water. Thoughts?

    • I have never used Truvia in cooking so I can’t say for sure, but based on what you say it should work to make the syrup using the 48 packets and 2. Not too much of original water boils off so that should be fine. I would add 2/3 of your truvia simple syrup, taste it, and then add more if needed. If you have a bit more vodka than the original you may need a bit more sweetener than the original, but it really is to taste. The liquor will taste a bit harsh at this point but you should be able to tell if it is sweet enough. It will mellow once it ages a bit more. I hope this helps, please let me know how it turns out!

      • Will do – is it really better to let it sit for the first stage 40 days? I’ll admit i’m fairly impatient but with only two batches going and i’m hoping the right amount of etrog (i had 9 but 4 were quite large so i did 4 for one and 5 for the other) It’s not even a day the the 5 small ones already looks quite yellow but i know its going to get diluted substantially. In the end if done right, its 750ml vodka and 450simple syrup since a cup is about 225ml.

        My secondary problem (that i realize after the fact) is that i used former liquer bottles which means i can’t get the etrog zest out ( i think, it was hard to get in but i could be wrong). So i doubt i can transfer the zest, vanilla bean and vodka into another container to add both more vodka and the simple syrup. Im leaning toward just adding the simple syrup in at the 10 day mark (or later if really important). If there is room left in the bottle (not likely) i’ll top it off with more vodka. It’s 750ml bottle so i doubt even a full 2 cups of simple syrup will fit in. I may do some experimenting with something else to figure out if truvia simple syrup is sweeter than sugar (a taste test might work but then maybe also try mixing it in something)

  6. Vodka is the only hard liquor I like. This recipe sounds perfect, esp the “not too sweet” part. I’ve only 1 etrog. Can I substitute Meyer lemons? (They are ripening in abundance on my tree.)

    Next year: I’m trying the Apple and Honey Trifle. I love trifle.

  7. I used this recipe last year, adding a little bit of filtered water to make it less syrupy. I divided it into 4 oz mason jars and gave it to the officers and professional staff of the shul in our mishloach manot for Purim . It was such a hit that I was given all of the communal etrogim to make a double batch this year. The plan is to sell it for $1 a shot during Megillah reading, with proceeds going to to tzedakah.

    • I recently updated my site to a new design and it appears that some recipes (such as this one) got a bit mixed up in the process. The preparation directions (the second section listed) should go first. Then the cooking directions (the first section listed) go after. Let me know if that isn’t clear and you want me to email you the recipe. I will get it fixed on the blog soon but not before the chag tonight.

      Half of the vodka is added in the first step (soaking the zest for 10-40 days) and the other half is added with the sugar syrup before the second rest period.

      So sorry for the confusion.

  8. I may have bitten off more I can chew this time. Selling the Etrog-cello during Purim was a huge hit (see comment above). Now, I’m making a quad-batch. I got congregants donating their etrogim and I have all the communal etrogim. All in all, I ended up with 22 etrogim.

    I also had a request to try this with rum, which is brewing now. I’ll let you know how that comes out.

    Just a few pointers to those thinking of trying this. First, let it brew as long as possible. It makes the taste mellower. Also, I’ve never used the whole amount of simple syrup. It gets too sweet. In a pinch, you can use a few drops of vanilla extract in place of the bean.

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