Making Limoncello

You know what’s totally wack?  That my A.P.* biology lab partner senior year of highschool ended up MARRYING our A.P.* biology teacher. 

Wacky, no??  Not only is that against some rule somewhere…but we ALL (including my lab partner) thought our teacher was SUCH a NERD.  Especially when he would talk about the poinsettia growing operation he had in the basement of his landlord’s house.  Or when he brought in that huge bumblebee-on-a-leash which he flew around the classroom.  (Dork!)  So why end up MARRYING the guy?!? 

You know what ELSE is totally wack?  The fact that I went into college with a declared Biology major.  But then switched to Management and French majors after my run-in with Chemistry. 

Huh?  What’s Chemistry got to do with anything?!  In my college, most Biology majors ended up DOUBLE majoring in Chemistry, that’s how many Chemistry classes were required as part of the Biology major.  So when I got a ‘D’ in Frosh Chemistry (yes a ‘D’ and you can’t POSSIBLY be any more surprised or displeased about that grade than my Chemical Engineer father who yelled down the phone line, “WHAT…don’t you UNDERSTAND…about CHEMISTRY?!??!” when he found out about the grade.  So you others?  You others can just SHUT IT!  It’s all already been said.  And for the record, the answer to Dad’s question is: anything.  I don’t understand ANYTHING.  Not a single thing.  About Chemistry.)

Which brings us to our FINAL wack thing.  Given my history with Chemistry (well…and math – unless chemistry and math are actually the same thing?  Which they could be.  Given my history.), I’m now trying to make limoncello (an Italian lemon-flavored liquor) out of lemon rinds and grain alcohol and sugar-water.  (Neighbors & Friends: please act surprised and pleased if you receive limoncello from me as a Christmas gift.)

I had to phone-a-friend (my Chemical Engineer Dad) for some help figuring out how much sugar-water to add to the grain alcohol to make it palatable.  Here’s the response I got:


It’s not clear to me as to exactly how much of the 190 proof starting material you have.  Is it 750 ml?  If it is 750 ml, you are starting with 3.2 cups.  (946.6 ml = 1.0 qt) and (1 qt = 4 cups).  Therefore 1 cup = 946.6/4 = 236.6 ml.    If you are starting with  750 ml then 750/236.6 = 3.2 cups.  Plugging the 3.2 cups into the calculator, 95 for starting alcohol, and 35 for final  says that you should add 5.5 cups of syrup.  Another way of thinking about it is if you start with 3.2 cups of 95 proof, roughly you should wind up with about 9 cups of 35 proof. (You are cutting it to about a third  of the proof you started with so you should wind up with about three times the amount you started with. ( 3.2 + 5.5=about 9))  Tell me how much of the starting material of 190 proof you have and I will double-check the calculations.  Incidentally I checked the vodka (and gin) in the cupboard and they are 80 proof.  But for a liquour 70 proof should be fine.

Hic, Dad

Here’s what I read:


Math, math and more math.  And now let’s mention things that will give you a flashback to that ‘D’ in college Chemistry.  I won’t directly mention the number of molecules in a mole – or ANYTHING about Avogadro’s constant – but I will allude to it.  Finally, we’ll throw in some more math.  Why were you never good at math?  Or chemistry??  We always let you live another day, so you must have had something going for you.  But your mad math and chemistry skillz?  Terrible.  Just terrible.

His in Christ,  Dad  

Uh…ok.  And for an extra credit homework assignment,  I had to figure out how much STARTING material of sugar AND water I needed in order to END UP with 5.5 cups of sugar-water.  (Math alert!  Math alert!!)  Also?  Does water boiling at a lower temperature here in Colorado have anything to do with anything??  (Chemistry!  CHEMISTRY!!!  Abort mission!  ABORT MISSION!!!)

But no.  I can’t let 750 mls (or 3.2 cups) of God-given grain alcohol go to waste.  So I soldiered on, despite the hitch in my math-and-chemistry giddyup. 

So again, Friends and Neighbors?  Prepare to be AMAAAAZED come Christmas-time!


*A. P. stands for Advanced Placement.  You gotta be pretty dedicated to your field-of-interest to be taking these college-level courses in highschool.  Come to think of it…I also took A.P. French classes – AND took that placement test that allowed me to skip all of those College Freshmen French classes – which put me so far ahead of the curve I was able to major in French.  So screw Chemistry.  Maybe FRENCH was the plan all along.  Now why won’t someone hire me already?  I have a Bachelor’s degree in FRENCH, for Heaven’s sake!!!  Put THAT in your pipette and titrate it!

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