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Homemade limoncello recipe

Homemade limoncello recipe

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The only thing better than limoncello is homemade limoncello. Use fresh, unwaxed lemons for the very best results in flavour.

8 people made this

IngredientsMakes: 1 bottle limoncello

  • zest of 6 unwaxed lemons
  • 500ml 95% alcohol
  • 800ml water
  • 300g sugar

MethodPrep:20min ›Cook:10min ›Extra time:1day12hr resting › Ready in:1day12hr30min

  1. Place the zest or peel of the lemons into a sterile glass jar, pour in the alcohol and cover with baking parchment. Let sit for 36 hours at room temperature.
  2. After 36 hours combine water and sugar in a saucepan and boil until thickened into a syrup. Let the syrup cool and add to the bottle with the alcohol and lemon zest. Serve chilled.


It may be preferable to use organic lemons. Try not to get any of the white pith in your limoncello as this can result in bitterness.
Traditionally limoncello is made with 190-proof grain alcohol. As this can be hard to find in the UK, in a pinch you can try substituting a high proof vodka instead, although keep in mind that this will taste different to an authentic limoncello. Look for high-proof alcohol at some off-licences or speciality shops carrying Polish goods.

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Homemade Limoncello, Pompelmocello, and Arancello Rosso Recipes

We have the perfect weekend project for you that will pay you and your dinner guests dividends for months to come: homemade Limoncello (the classic Italian liqueur) and it's delicious pals Pompelmocello (grapefruit) and Arancello Rosso (blood orange). How're those for a mouthful? I like to just call them "all the -cellos."

My first experience with Limoncello was during my semester abroad in Tuscany. At the end of one meal, the owner of the restaurant proudly brought up his family's stash of Limoncello from the cellar for us to drink. It was heavenly.

To get started, you'll need some grain alcohol. We had to order ours online, and I literally felt like i was throwing a frat party. You can also use 100 proof vodka (or even 80 proof) in a pinch. Just remember that you'll likely need less sugar syrup to finish it off. And get yourself some good quality citrus fruit — organic if possible — clean the fruit well and get peeling!

Once the peels are in the booze, they'll need to steep. Here's what the mixture looked like when we first combined the the peels and the alcohol on Day 1:

Some folks allow the mixture to steep for just a few days or a week. We waited a month, and I think the result is more authentic. On the next go-round, I think I'd do a comparison, and finish off half after a week to see how it compared.

After steeping, you'll separate the booze from the fruit, strain it, and mix with simple syrup. You may need to modify the ratio of sugar to water until the taste is to your preference. We used a little more water than sugar in the end.

Check out the result! The change in color and clarity is amazing.

I highly recommend mixing up more than one kind of -cello. It makes for such a fun tasting flight amongst friends. The blood orange and the classic lemon were our favorites!


recipe makes 1.25 - 2 liters of liqueur

8-12 of your citrus of choice such as lemons, grapefruit, and blood oranges
1 L bottle Everclear
2-4 c sugar

Thoroughly wash the fruit, as the alcohol will absorb anything on or in the peel. Peel the fruit, avoiding as much of the pith as possible. We used a vegetable peeler. Peel enough fruit to fill a 1 liter bottle about 3/4 full. Completely cover the peels with the alcohol, and put a lid on the mixture.

Let sit for 3-4 weeks in a cool, dry place.

Strain the alcohol through coffee filters into a new container.

Make simple syrup by combining 1 part sugar and 1 part water and heating on the stove until the sugar is dissolved. Let cool, and begin adding to the booze. This is where you'll need to taste as you go. Add a little at a time and change the ratio of sugar to water as necessary. Too sweet? Use more water. In the end we used 5 cups water and 4 cups sugar per batch.

What is limoncello?

Limoncello is a lemon liqueur made by infusing a plain alcohol with lemon zest then sweetening it with sugar.

The sweetening is normally done by mixing the strained, infused alcohol with a simple syrup, so the alcohol becomes less strong at the same time.

Adding simple syrup to limoncello infusion.

It&rsquos a very popular after-dinner &ldquodigestif&rdquo, particularly in the lemon-growing Southern regions of Italy, like the Amalfi Coast and Sicily.

It&rsquos also popular in Rome, Florence and other areas towards the Mediterranean.


Limoncello’s sharp flavor is sweet, not to mention very refreshing. Moreover, limoncello is a superb aperitif or digestive, especially when served cold. The beverage is usually served after meals but is also perfect for every occasion, too. Limoncello liqueur is traditionally prepared in a chilled cordial glass and neat, or no ice. As a matter of fact, limoncello is used as an ingredient for a variety of cocktail and simple tall drinks, as well as martinis.

If you want to sip it in the late afternoon, try adding a lot of tonic water instead. In this way, you will have created a wonderful thirst-quenching drink even if a little alcoholic.

If instead, you want to enjoy it after dinner, the secret is to add Limoncello to a nice glass of champagne or Prosecco.

And finally, and the most unusual serving. Have you ever tried to pour the Limoncello di Sorrento directly on the fruit salad or a huge ice-cream cup? This is definitely worth a try.

Homemade Limoncello Recipe

Limoncello has been popular in the citrus-growing regions along Italy’s Amalfi coast for more than a century.

Crisp and fragrant, mildly sweet and the color of liquid sunshine, the lemon liqueur known as limoncello is a simple combination of lemons, sugar and alcohol, but its intense citrus flavor makes it so much more than a sum of its parts. Native to Italy&rsquos South, where it is enjoyed as a postprandial digestif, limoncello has been popular in the citrus-growing regions along Italy&rsquos Amalfi coast for more than a century.

Commercial brands are easy to find, but for a fresher-tasting liqueur, a homemade limoncello is well worth the effort. This recipe from Katie Parla&rsquos latest book, Food of the Italian South, is inspired by how they made limoncello at a now defunct Brooklyn-based Italian restaurant called Franny&rsquos, where they suspended the lemons in cheesecloth. This allows the alcohol to absorb the citrus aromas by osmosis and makes for a cleaner final product, Parla says in the book, adding that she uses Everclear instead of vodka per the traditional Sorrento style. This recipe makes enough for 8 cups and takes about five weeks to prepare.

Important Notes

What Alcohol/Vodka To Use?

It might be hard to find high proof alcohol at your local liquor store.

But her are the two brands you can look for:

Both of them you can order online.

I did a pretty extensive research online and noticed that most of the recipes call for 100 or 80 proof vodka.

But here&rsquos a problem. The average 80-100 proof spirit isn&rsquot strong enough to extract much flavor and aroma.

If you substitute high proof alcohol with 80 proof vodka you completely dilute the limoncello and go far from what it really tastes like.

So what should you do if absolutely can&rsquot get 190 proof/ 95% vol. quality alcohol?

Don&rsquot worry, you can still use a really high proof vodka.

I&rsquove picked two options for you to go with.

US made 151 Proof/ 75 vol vodkas:

In this case you&rsquoll need to adjust a little bit the ratio for sugar syrup.

Simply type in the liquor quantity in milliliters, its proof divided by 2 and desired limoncello strength. We want it at 38%.

The answer will be the quantity of sugar syrup you need to get the perfect liquor.

So if you&rsquove taken one of the 151 Proof Vodka (750 ml) your calculation will look like this:

If you&rsquove used pure 190 Proof Alcohol your simple syrup quantity will be equal to the one given in this recipe.

What Lemons To Use?

Lemons is another crucial ingredient of the limoncello recipe (dah!).

But it&rsquos even more important to use lemons from your own lemon tree (lucky you if you have one!) or organic, untreated lemons from a trusted vendor.

Since lemon zest will be macerated in the alcohol, it means alcohol will not only absorb the aroma and the flavor of the lemon but it&rsquos also pull any medicine/pesticides/insecticides used on the lemons.

I&rsquove heard really good feedback about organic lemons from the Organic Mountain. Six lb case is enough for 2 portions of alcohol.

If you are buying in late November I suggest you get a bigger 10-12 box.

Limoncello makes a perfect Christmas gift 🙂

I&rsquove also found local organic lemon producers in California. From July to November they are likely to be out of lemons until the next season in November/December.

At the time of posting this recipe I&rsquom also waiting for some information from one of the Italian lemon farms on the Amalfi Coast, mainly on international shipping. Lemons from Salerno are exceptional. Fragrant, with big pulp &ndash just perfect for limoncello.

Once I have all info needed this information will be added to this page as well.

But first, let’s talk Limoncello.

Have you ever had it? I had never had it before I watched the movie Under the Tuscan Sun.
Remember? Her cute Italian boyfriend served it on the beach and told her it was made by his family.
I just love that movie!

Now you can make your very own too!
It’s actually incredibly easy to make.

First, be sure to use ORGANIC lemons. I try to buy organic anyway but you really need to for this recipe.
The alcohol will be sucking all of that wonderful flavor out of those rinds…and any pesticides that are there too.
Ick. So organic only.

Try to very carefully peel only the rind….leave as much of the white behind as you can.
It is bitter and the bitterness will be transferred to your lovely Limoncello otherwise.

Gather them and put them into a glass jar that has a somewhat tight fitting lid.
Pour the bottle of Vodka over the top of the peels in the jar.

Try to use glass, like this juice jar. You don’t want any flavor seeping in from plastic, etc.
I placed plastic wrap over the lid with a rubber band to keep it well sealed.

As you can see, the liquid is quite clear.
But it won’t be for long! )

Now put it away in a dark cabinet and forget about it for a few weeks.
I only had 2 weeks until the holidays so that’s all the time I had to soak mine.
Anything from 2 – 4 weeks would be good I would think.

At 2 weeks I had a very lemony, very yellow liquid.

After the 2 (or 4) weeks, you will need to strain the liquid.
I used a coffee filter and a strainer.

On your stove, heat up 3 cups of water and 3 cups of sugar.
(you can use more or less depending on how sweet you would like the final product to be — so taste and add more, if needed)

Heat just enough to dissolve the sugar crystals. You want this mixture to be smooth and clear.

Once dissolved and cooled, mix together with the lemon/vodka mixture and pour into your bottles.

Then I created some cute labels on my computer.

When life gives you lemons….make Limoncello
. Yep!
(I didn’t come up with that cute saying, by the way, it’s all over the web so I have no idea who did!)

These bottles were perfect. Highly recommend.

I did come across these much larger bottles on clearance at Kirkland’s a few weeks later.
And I snatched them up since I also plan on making some Limecello, Grapefruitcello and Orangecello. (I have no idea if that’s what they call it, but I’m making it ) )
The Limoncello is great straight out of the freezer (it’s a sipper ) ) or used as in mixer in drinks.
I’m looking forward to getting the others made and trying them!
I’ll be sure to share them here on the blog when I do.

This photo is from my other blog … Artsy Chicks Rule.
But the larger bottles I bought on clearance are the ones up top there.

So there it is…Homemade Limoncello.
Easy and fun….and very tasty too!

What can you do with the leftover lemons?

Since making limoncello only uses the zest, you will be left with lots of lemons without skins that need used relatively soon. You can use some lemon juice to make fresh lemonade, or variations such as blueberry lemonade and limonana (with mint).

It's also great for lemon curd, or simply freeze the juice in an ice cube tray ready to use when you need it.

Homemade limoncello is easy to make and is a delicious, versatile liqueur. It's a bright sip of summer any time of the year, and perfect in cocktails too. So gather some ingredients, and with just a little patience, you'll have a bottle of summer sipping that makes a great gift idea too (particularly for some of those hard-to-gift for people!).

Special equipment

While you can use any type of lemon you like, Meyer lemons will make a slightly darker (though more fragrant) limoncello. Smooth, thick skins are the best for zesting. Any white pith can turn your liqueur bitter, so the zest is the only part of the lemon skin used in this recipe. A microplane zester is the easiest tool for the job.

You can substitute 100- or 80-proof vodka for the high-proof neutral grain spirit. Using a spirit that is more than 151 proof will make for a harsh end result. Vodka will impart a little flavor of its own to the limoncello, so I've read that many people use a water filter pitcher (like Brita or Pur) to "purify" the vodka first. (The vodka "flavor" doesn't bother me, so I've never tried this myself.)

Two weeks is the recommended steeping time, but as little as one week will work. Longer steeping times lead to a more mellow flavor, so feel free to let it steep for up to three months.

Filtering isn't just for appearance. Small particles can change the limoncello's flavor over time and may freeze if you choose to store your liqueur in the freezer.

Limoncello is traditionally served as a digestive after a meal because citrus is an aid to digestion. What’s more, the bright lemony flavor cuts through the heaviness of a large meal and leaves you feeling a little more refreshed.

Limoncello is traditionally enjoyed in a small chilled glass, sipped slowly and leisurely after a long or heavy meal. However it can also serve as a lovely building block for a variety of cocktails, among these light and creamy crema di limoncello, which uses milk instead of water. It can also be added to desserts like our chocolate and almond limoncello cake. Limoncello is a light and fruity addition to tiramisu, cookies and even ricotta cake. Try adding it to any recipe that could use a bright dash of this lemony flavor like a lemon semifreddo recipe.