Apr 4, 2009

Limoncello recipe

I thought we could celebrate the advent of this sunny spring weekend with Italy's most famous after dinner liqueur. I like mine tart, zesty, not too sugary, ice-cold and dreamy.

The homemade kind is always a million times better than the bottled, so here's the secret to lavish limoncello.

Ingredients will yield 2 quarts of limoncello

9-10 unwaxed large organic lemons - or enough to produce 300 g (10 oz lemon peels)
600 gr (2 ½ cups) sugar
1 lt (4 cups) 95% grade alcohol* (can be substituted with very good quality Russian vodka)
1.2 lt (1 quart + 1 cup) bottled water (not sparkling, I use Evian)

*Grain alcohol (Ethanol) is available at concentrations of 95% alcohol (190 proof) and 75.5% (151 proof). It is illegal to sell the 190-proof variety in some states of the U.S., including California, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington. In some of these states, the 151-proof variety may be sold. In Canada, it is not sold in Saskatchewan but is available in Alberta. The British, Australian and New Zealand retail policies are, like in Europe, quite lenient as far as ethanol is concerned.

Soak lemons in tap water and baking soda for 10 minutes. 
Rinse well several times and pat dry. Peel the lemons as closely as you can, using a curved paring knife to remove any white sponge-like pith, which is too bitter and can spoil the outcome. 

Use the peel for this recipe and save the lemons for granita, juice or other applications. For limoncello, all you need is the skin of the fruit.

only lemon peels are used to make limoncello

Soak the lemon peels in a large tightly closed glass or ceramic carafe or tall jar with the alcohol to macerate for 7 days in a cool, dry place. The rinds will become brittle through this procedure, extracting all their fabulous essence into the spirit.

making limoncello at home

On the final day, in a large stewpot, bring the bottled water with the sugar to a boil. When the sugar is completely dissolved, cover and remove the pot from the stove and allow your syrup to cool to room temperature.

Strain the alcohol with a tight mesh gauze or double cheesecloth, discard the peels and pour the filtered alcohol in the syrup in one single, steady splash. This will ensure opacity to the blend. Proper limoncello should not be clear, rather cloudy and bright pale yellow in color.

Transfer the resulting liqueur in individual glass bottles (makes about 2 liters, or a half gallon). Close each firmly with a natural cork stopper and wait until completely cool before storing in the freezer. On each bottle proudly apply a handwritten label that reads "limoncello made by me." 
Serve chilled in small shot glasses and pat yourself on the back.

homemade limoncello


  1. Clink clink.....

    Looks fantastic. I am like 'unwaxed oranges, I didn't even know they were waxed'.

    Have a super fantastic and magical weekend.

    Love Renee xoxo

  2. Wow, Lola, thank you for sharing this. My husband and I love limoncello and just know that the homemade version will be so much better. Just in time for warmer weather and watching the sunset from my gazebo.

  3. Are you sure it's as easy as that?!? GiĆ  mi vedo a fare un sacco di pasticci e ottenere una schifezza. Uff...
    Bellissimo blog, Lola! Ciao!

  4. Renee - You have a wonderful weekend too, dear.

    Jennifer - Perfect timing then! Enjoy...

    Valeria - Sicuro e garantito, lo faccio 3 volte l'anno e la ricetta non fallisce mai. Grazie! Hai letto l'altro in Italiano? Si chiama forchettine.blogspot.com
    Buon fine settimana

  5. Ciao Lola, Yum Lemons! I always wondered about making Limoncello, thanks for sharing! I will try!!
    For one thing the lemons you are using are exceptionally the best I have ever had! It's the blend of generic and regional environment. Enjoy! :)

  6. I LOVE Limoncello!!! Just can't stop at one :D
    I am so excited to have a recipe - whoo hoo!
    Thanks, Lola.xx♥

  7. You make your own alcohol?! You do not cease to amaze me! Now, pass me one of those, please.
    (And your comment round my back way cracked me up!)

  8. When I was young, my Nonna used to have this slang Italian word for tipsy. Phonetically it was... CHEW-koh.

    When I saw the 95% everclear, I thought, "Oh, oh. Lola is going to get chewkoh."

    Lovely pictures. Great to know how to make limoncello. Who knew!?! You ARE amazing!

    But a disclaimer, the Mellow Yellow Monday post I have in the works is a lemon dessert. I don't want you to think I'm pilfering your ideas:-(

    Have a wonderful Sunday family dinner.

  9. Thank you for taking the time to visit me.
    My paternal grandparents hail from Sorrento :)
    Love your Limoncello post, and your blog template.
    Waving at you from New York

  10. Yay!yay! your going on holiday!!

    and... the limoncello looks amazing, i love lemons, i will try it! and Lola, can you tell me how to make preserved Lemons? I don't want to pay the price here, seems they shoulden't be too complicated!?

    I'm so excited your going to the coast!

  11. Your photograph of the lemons is absolutely beautiful!


    Ribbon :-)

  12. I don't like mine too sugary either. Wanted to say that your first photograph is absolutely stunning. I would happily frame that and hang it on the wall.

  13. Chuck - And now in Sorrento, I'll be stashing up on the best lemons ever.

    Natalie - Salute, sister!

    Erin - Tee hee... (hiccup!)

    Pyzahn - "Ciucco" is one of my favorite Italian terms. In this form it is masculine, I'm often found ciuccA after a few shots of Limoncello! No pilfering, no worries.

    Frances - Thanks for stopping by, you're welcome here amytime. Ciao from Roma!

    Lori - I have to inquire re preserved lemons, I'll report back with the know-how. Nothing homemade is ever complicated...

    Ribbon - Thanks, you're very kind!

    Casalba - Thank you, I'm glad you appreciate. Go ahead, frame it!

  14. Bellissimo post e veramente completo, grazie Lola bella! What nice shades of green in your pictures! Are they shot at your home? I'm a curious guy sometimes.

    I'm only puzzled by the quantity of sugar. 700 grams aren't too much? What if one added only 300? You know I'm obsessed by Limoncello not becoming a dolcetto, which I dislike, and you too, you told me. As I said replying to your comment at my blog, I have two posts in mind I cannot postpone: the third one will be dedicated to your Limoncello.

    Un abbraccio

  15. The common amount of sugar is 1kg:1lt of booze! So I already cut it down by a lot. Feel free to reduce it even more, but you do need a little, otherwise it's like drinking lemon scented eau de cologne.
    Can't wait for your angle on AO&P. ciao amico

  16. Perfection! I must make this. Funny, many of us are thinking lemons today! I have some ready to make a dessert tonight to post. I cannot wait to make this!

  17. Lola, I wrote my post on limoncello and of course I referred to your post, as I said. I wanted to expand the limoncello part, but I could not. The reasons are explained in my post. Ciao, stammi bene.


  18. I live in Washington state and cannot get the pure grain alcohol so I use equal parts 100 proof (steep the rind in this) and then add 80 proof. Do not add water just simple syrup-about 1 cup per 1/2 gallon vodka. The simple syrup is added per taste so start with a smalll amount and add more if needbe. YUMMY!