Learn how to make homemade limoncello with this easy recipe. A couple of simple ingredients, an easy prep, and you’ll have an Italian drink ready to transport you to the Almafi coast.
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Summer means patio season and sitting outside with a drink in hand.
And I’ll be honest, for me that means a fruity one, particularly one with lemon flavor.
My Italian roots pretty much dictate that I enjoy limoncello, and like other flavored liqueurs like this Homemade Candy Cane Vodka it’s so easy to make.
Just peel some lemons and soon you’ll be on your own personal trip to the Italian coastline.
Or at least we can pretend right?
What is limoncello?
Limoncello is an Italian lemon flavored liqueur.
It’s popular and originates from parts of southern Italy, namely Sorrento and the Almafi coast, which are just south of Naples.
Limoncello has a fresh, lemony flavor thanks to the days of soaking lemon in alcohol.
This bright citrus liqueur is often served as an after dinner drink and used to make desserts.
Ingredients and Kitchen Supplies
To make this you’ll need:
- Lemons– Just the lemon peels. Make sure you wash the lemons well.
- Alcohol– Plain vodka is perfect for this. Make sure it is at least 80 proof.
- Simple syrup– White sugar cooked with water until it dissolves.
Kitchen supplies you’ll need:
- A vegetable peeler– To peel the yellow skin off the lemons. Do not use a zester.
- A small sauce pan and whisk
- A mesh strainer
How to Make Homemade Limoncello
1. Wash and peel the lemons.
Wash the lemons well to remove anything that may be on the skin including the residue from produce stickers and pesticides. Then, use a vegetable peeler to peel just the yellow part off the lemons. Reserve this.
2. Soak the lemon peel in alcohol.
Divide the lemon peel evenly among the jars or if you are using a large enough jar, put it all in the one jar. Pour the alcohol over the lemon peels and seal the jar. Let the lemon peels soak in the sealed jars at room temperature, out of direct sunlight, for at least 3 days but up to a month. Gently shake the jar every day or so.
3. Make the simple syrup.
Whisk together equal parts sugar and water over in a sauce pan over medium low heat and cook it until the sugar dissolves. Remove it from the heat.
4. Finish the limoncello.
Set a bowl up underneath a mesh strainer. Pour the liqueur into the strainer so the strainer catches the lemon peel. Once you’ve strained the liqueur, whisk in the simple syrup and taste. Add more simple syrup if you want it sweeter. If you are happy pour the limoncello into jars. Enjoy on its own or in cocktails and desserts!
Store homemade limoncello in sealed bottles or jars for up to 3 months in the fridge.
Is it legal to make homemade limoncello?
It depends on where you live. In some states, like California, it is technically not.
How long does homemade limoncello last?
It should last for at least 3 months in the fridge and even longer in the freezer!
What if my homemade limoncello is too strong?
If it’s too intense, add more simple syrup to dillute it.
Why is my limoncello bitter?
If your limoncello turns out bitter, you likely included too much of the white part of the peel.
Is limoncello better the longer it sits?
Yes. The longer it sits the more the edge from the alcohol mellows out and lets the bright lemon flavor shine through.
Why is my limoncello cloudy?
What kind of alcohol did you use? We found using vodka results in a clear finished limoncello but other kinds of alcohol like everclear may make it cloudy. Also if you use a lot of sugar, your final result may be cloudier.
Do I need to use a certain kind of lemons to make limoncello?
No, though you can certainly use Meyer lemons if you prefer. Meyer lemons are a cross between mandarin oranges and lemons and have a sweeter flavor with a hint of orange. The white part is also less bitter so it won’t negatively impact the flavor quite as much if you include it.
Tips and Tricks
- Because you are using the lemon peel to infuse the flavor into the alcohol, you need to wash the lemons well first to remove any pesticides, stickiness from the produce stickers, etc.
- Do not soak the white part of the peel, known as the pith, in the alcohol. It will result in a bitter unpleasant flavor. Use a vegetable peeler or even a microplane to carefully remove just the yellow portion of the peel.
- The longer the lemon zest sits in the alcohol the better the final result will be!
Recipes to Use Limoncello
Looking for ways to enjoy your homemade limoncello besides as an after dinner drink? Try it in these recipes:
- Boozy Lemonade Slushies
- Easy Lemonade Cocktail (Spiked Lemonade) Recipe
- Boozy Frozen Strawberry Lemonade Slushies
- Boozy Arnie Palmers
- Italian Limoncello Cheesecake (with Ricotta and Mascarpone)
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- 10 lemons
- 770 mL of 80 to 100 proof vodka
- 1-2 cups of sugar
- 1-2 cups of water
- Wash the lemons well and peel the yellow part off of them using a vegetable peeler.
- Divide the peels between 2 jars.
- Pour vodka over the lemon peels in the jars, dividing the vodka evenly.
- Seal the jar tightly and let the jars sit on the counter, out of direct sunlight for at least 4 days but up to a month.
- Gently shake the jars every other day or so.
- After the lemons have soaked, whisk together 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water in a small saucepan set over medium low heat.
- Cook the mixture until the sugar has dissolved stirring constantly.
- Set a mesh strainer over a bowl and pour the lemon liqueur into the bowl so the strainer catches the lemon peels.
- Discard the peels.
- Whisk in the simple syrup.
- Give the limoncello a taste. If it isn't sweet enough or too strong of an alcohol taste, make another batch of simple syrup with the remaining sugar and water and whisk it in to the liqueur.
- Serve and enjoy or store!