Gifts that you make yourself are the best – because it shows you really care. Here are some tasty things to do with lemon or other citrus and give as gifts NEXT year!


Make Your Own Lemon Gifts

Yes, the holiday entertaining and gifting frenzy is winding down – but I still have a few Epiphany gifts to go, plus some Eighth Night of Hannuka gifts. But all this gifting, plus celebrating with friends means that my back-stock of gifts made, canned, and crafted through the year is seriously depleted. Time to start making more treats for birthdays ahead plus next holiday season!

Since my lemon trees produced prodigiously this year, it’s time to restock the lemony alcoholic drinks. All you need are lemons (or other fruit), inexpensive vodka, sugar, and some bottles.

Why buy the fancy stuff – its more fun to make your own – cheaper too!

If you do not have lemons, these recipes will work with other fruit or even edible flowers. I have successfully used currants, elderberry, orange, blackberry, red clover flowers, and dandelion flowers. Most cordials are half syrup (1 cup juice to 1 cup sugar) and half alcohol.


I use the cheapest vodka there is because aging it with fruits and sugar smooths out the flavor and makes the vodka’s humble origins quite unnoticeable. You could also use the pure grain alcohol, sold as Everclear. All you need is something that is at least 40 percent alcohol by volume (ABV). You want enough alcohol in the mix to kill any bacteria or fungi that might want to inhabit your beverages. Dilution can occur after decanting and before consumption.

Do get rid of the seeds.

These drinks are best aged for a minimum of 6 months. The absolute tastiest I have made is some dandelion cordial that is going on 6 years old now, and every year it just gets smoother and mellower. I imagine that at some point this time advantage will be lost but I only made 8 jars so the experiment has 2 more years to run.

You can remove the marker off glass (with rubbing alcohol) and make a nicer label for gifting.

Always label what you have! Include the date! Sharpie markers write on glass and are easily erased with some rubbing alcohol. You can make fancier labels for gift giving when the time comes.

Flavored vodka is simply infused with fruit or flowers. Cordial is generally sweetened.
Lemon Vodka

One lemon sliced finely and layered into bottle of choice.
Top with inexpensive vodka.
Invert a few times to eliminate air bubbles.
For the first 2 weeks invert every 2 or three days to eliminate air bubbles.
Store it so it can age for 6 months minimum.

I use lemon vodka to create margaritas-like drinks. I can't use tequila because I am allergic to agave. 
Sadly, agave-based tequila, mezcal, pulque and even agave nectar are on my “avoid” list.
For a cordial with lemons, coat the lemon slice with sugar and bend it to slip into the bottle.
Lemon Cordial with Lemons 
Slice lemon finely.
Coat with sugar.
Layer into bottle.
Fill bottle with these sugared lemon slices. 
Top with inexpensive vodka.
Invert a few times to eliminate air bubbles.
For the first 2 weeks invert every 2 or 3 days to eliminate air bubbles and dissolve sugar.
The sugar against the fruit helps draw out the juice.
Age for 6 months minimum.
Freshly juiced lemon, sugar, vodka, plus some time to age into itself – delightful.
Lemon Juice Cordial
Juice lemons.
For 1 cup lemon juice, add one cup sugar and one cup inexpensive vodka.
Shake well.
For the first 2 weeks shake every 2 or 3 days until all sugar is dissolved.
Age for 6 months minimum.
Other Ideas

After I used my last clean bottle, then I wondered these two things:

How about lemon plus ginger? Seems like they might taste mighty fine together. That is going to have to be an experiment for the future!

Honey instead of sugar? (… seeing how Savorist Monica King is our beekeeper!) You can make honey seasoned with lemon zest. Not sure how honey and vodka would combine. If any of you readers try it – please let us know!




To learn to use other savory Sonoran regional products, visit Savorist Monica King Saturdays at the Arivaca’s Farmers Market, or come to one of Savorist Jacqueline Soule’s free lectures. We try to mention both on our Savor the SW Facebook page. We both have copies of Father Kino’s Herbs: Growing and Using Them Today (Tierra del Sol Institute Press).  This link is to Amazon and if you buy the book there we may get a few pennies.

© Article copyright Jacqueline A. Soule. All rights reserved. You must ask permission to republish an entire blog post or article. You can use a short excerpt but you must give proper credit, plus you must include a link back to the original post on our site. No stealing photos.


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