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The Rita Skeeter

The Rita Skeeter

Or, “how to make 16 bottles of lemony booze, really fast and really cheap”.

Brewers on the internet are wild for a recipe called “Skeeter Pee“, which is made from not much more than bottled lemon juice (eek, really?) and sugar. It was named for its colour, and because it’s supposed to be at its best when the mozzies are at their worst. I’ve been eyeing this recipe off for a while, because a) it sounds super easy and b) almost without exception those who have made it, have loved it. But I’m also a terrible food snob.

What tipped me over the edge? I lost 20 litres of peach wine, and almost took out my foot breaking a glass demijohn. I wanted to try winemaking in plastic. This recipe won’t care that plastic will let a little oxygen in over time. It will be in my belly way before that’s a problem. And if it’s a terrible failure, whatever, I’m out less than twenty bucks. What the hell, let’s see if we can’t make some cheap booze in time for summer, in plastic.

I did, you can, it’s really good. Tasty over ice, as recommended, but comes into its own cut 50/50 with cold soda water for a fizzy, sweet, lemony summer drink at a nicely sessionable 5% alcohol.

Mine took less than a month from pitch to glass and I already have more in the pipeline, it’s that good.

The Rita Skeeter*

Makes 12L, or 16x 750ml bottles.

  • 1900ml bottled lemon juice. I used Woolworths’ ‘Zesty Lemon’. Watch out for sorbate (202) as this might stop your yeast from working – the Coles lemon juice has sorbate. I tasted some as I brewed, and this stuff really is not as bad as I remembered.
  • 2.2kg white sugar
  • 1/2 tspn tannin powder
  • 5.5 tspn yeast nutrient
  • 11.5L water. This was the perfect opportunity to test out one of these 12L BPA free water bottles I picked up at Officeworks for $11. I just decanted 500ml from my new plastic jug, drank it, and used the rest in the brew.
  • Zest of three lemons, tied in a small spice bag, the whole lot dunked in sanitising solution – optional. I’m really not super convinced it made a big difference, but it convinced me I was making something halfway homemade.
  • 1 sachet yeast, I’d recommend ec-1118 because it ferments like a monster truck and has a wide temperature tolerance. Good if you’re making this without temp control in variable spring weather.

Day 1

Bring the sugar to a simmer with some of the water, and stir to dissolve it completely. Put the rest of the water into a clean fermentation bucket with the tannin powder, nutrient, and about 2/3 of the lemon juice.

Pitch the lemon zest bag into the hot water. Give it five minutes to kill off any bugs, then take it off the heat and pour it all into your bucket. When everything is cool, reydrate and pitch in your yeast. Stash it somewhere within the temperature range preferred by your yeast.

Sanitise your jug and cover it with sanitised glad wrap – put it away somewhere clean.

Stir twice daily to degas.

Day 3 or 4 

When fermentation is rolling along, add the remaining lemon juice. This avoids stressing the yeast too much.

When fermentation is complete – gravity under 1

Squeeze and remove your lemon zest bag. Get out your 12L jug and siphon the Pee in, over 1/2 teaspoon potassium metabisulphate and 2 1/2 tspn sorbate, dissolved, and sparkalloid prepared according to the packet directions. Degas really well, to make sure it will clear.  Fit an airlock and leave it.

When it’s clear – maybe two weeks later

Rack into another jug (or the same one, just go back into a bucket first) with 4 cups sugar, dissolved.  Leave for another week or two to make sure it isn’t going to start fermenting again.

Bottle and drink!

As to the plastic bottle? It worked extremely well. I was easily able to move it about, although it did have a tendency to suck fluid through the airlock if moved (because the plastic is flexible, the air pressure changes). Just remove the airlock if you need to move the bottle. My bottle is now full of ginger beer.

*I tried to let well enough alone and do this recipe just as written. But I really couldn’t. I put the zest of three lemons in, and then it needed a new name. A name that reflects its less than wholesome intent (it tastes like sweet lemonade but packs a 10% alcohol punch), and high opinion of itself.

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2 thoughts on “The Rita Skeeter”

  • I’ve got a batch going but I can’t find sparkelloid locally. One person recommended gelatin as an alternative but this seems to require wines with high tannin content and, uh, I used a cup of tea instead of tannin powder.

    I’m not adverse to serving it as a cloudy lemon drink but if there’s anything else you recommend, I’d be happy to try it, either with this batch or a future one.

    • I’ve had success with bentonite, and with a product called Super-kleer. But cloudy is not necessarily a disaster, agreed!

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