Homemade Limoncello Liqueur
Homemade liqueurs are really easy to do; the hardest part of making this Homemade Limoncello Liqueur is the wait!
Limoncello. ‘The Elixir of the Gods.’ Tart, sweet, served bracingly cold; it’s the perfect liqueur for sipping after dinner. Add some Prosecco and berries like I do in this Limoncello Cooler and you’ve got a gorgeous apertif. It’s well known the very best is made in Sicily but that should not stop you from making your own! Truly, the best is when you make your own Homemade Limoncello Liqueur!
I love making liqueurs and it’s not about saving money; making your own allows you to not only control the quality of the end result but you can also determine taste based on the quantity of ingredients. Like something a bit less sweet? It’s in your hands.
The added plus for me is that I love to offer guests a liqueur I’ve made and they’ve become so popular with my friends and family that holiday gift giving has been made much easier. I’ve done Limoncello, coffee, chocolate and cranberry liqueurs that I think I could bottle full-time if my friends had their say.
This Limoncello is made with plain Eureka lemons, the ones found most often in supermarkets. The Sorrento lemon with a zest high in lemon oils is preferred for making Limoncello in Italy but I’m happy with the results from the Eureka lemon; maybe the end result color is not quite the yellow from commercial brands, but the taste is what matters to me.
The commercial brands of Limoncello I’ve purchased have included a dye for their coloring anyhow…so do that if you want but I’m good with a product that is not so yellow as long as the result is a bright, lemony flavor and this definitely measures up to that standard.
More important I believe for overall quality is using good organic produce. Since you will be steeping the peels for some time in vodka I strongly recommend using organic lemons that have not been doused with pesticides. The ones I used also had a thicker and yellower rind…all conducive to making a superior product.
You want peel, not pith!
Although Limoncello is made with the peels of lemon, it’s extremely important to not include any of the white pith that is next to the peel or it will impart a bitter taste. If there is any pith on a slice, scrape it off with a knife or spoon.
I used a vegetable peeler and when necessary, a very sharp paring knife to scrape any pith from the peels. Some people prefer to grate the peels with a Microplane grater; though that does expose more of the peel to the vodka to extract the lemon essence I also think it’s more conducive to having some of that pith get included so I don’t recommend it.
Recipes for Limoncello are all over the map. Giada de Laurentis has a recipe that only takes 4 days, I’ve seen others that require the peels be steeped for months. I’m not sure how much lemon flavor will come from 4 days and I’m way too impatient to plan months in advance, so my favorite recipe takes 3-4 weeks (all depends on how impatient YOU are!).
I’ve also seen several recipes that call for Everclear which is 195 proof alcohol; it’s true that the aromatic elements are leached from the lemon peel by alcohol so it stands to reason that the higher the proof of the vodka, the better. But Everclear is a harsh ingredient and I simply don’t like it; add to that fact that some stores won’t carry it because of that high alcohol content so I want something that is a bit smoother and more readily available.
Additionally the European recipes I’ve seen don’t use it and simply specify equal quantities of pure alcohol and water which is the equivalent of 100-proof vodka.So that’s what I use. Smirnoff 57 is 100-proof vodka; combining it with the others ingredients will result in a liqueur that is 60 proof which is what commercial varieties offer. If you can’t find 100 proof vodka, use the more common 80 proof and be sure to steep the peels for 4 weeks total to extract their flavor; your end result liqueur will then be 50-proof.
The high alcohol content is one reason Limoncello can be kept in the freezer without turning to a block of ice; the lower the alcohol content, the more ice formation you will see. If you do use 80-proof vodka; be sure to not overfill your bottles as you may see some ice crystals form; allowing some room for expansion will insure that you don’t have an explosion in your fridge!
Don’t limit yourself to just Limoncello; the same recipe can be used with limes, blood oranges, mandarins and more (next season I’m absolutely making Blood Orange Liqueur). Using grapefruit or their related fruits will result in something with a touch of bitterness, more akin to Campari or Aperol. Campari is just a bit too herbaceous for my tastes but I just love Aperol and the Aperol Spritz is a favorite cocktail so I need to put that on my own to do list.
By the way, the biggest expense I’ve found when it comes to making liqueurs for gifts are the bottles. I’ve begged for people to return them and some do but still, each year that I bottle up gifts, I’m flummoxed at how much I have to spend on bottles, often in the neighborhood of $8-10 each. Until now.
Not only can I find smaller sizes than those available locally but the unit price for bottles at Specialty Bottles is so much lower. I bought 2 cases of these 8.5 oz bottle with a gold lid and these shrink bands for the top since I ship items over the holidays. Cost including shipping? About $2/bottle! I thought I would share this with you in case you want to start running your own brewing facility too!
While I love Limoncello cold from the freezer, I also love using it when I bake; check out these tempting recipes on Parade Magazine’s Community Table that include my Limoncello Pound Cake and more great desserts from some talented bloggers. Make this now…and be enjoying some with friends by the 4th of July…cheers!
PIN ‘ Homemade Limoncello Liqueur’
Homemade Limoncello Liqueur
- 12 organic lemons
- 1.75 liter bottle of 100-proof vodka divided
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups sugar
- Wash the lemons well with soapy water, rinse and dry.
- Remove the yellow part of the lemon peel with a sharp peeler being careful to avoid any of bitter white pith. If any pith remains on the back of a strip of peel, scrape it off with a sharp knife.
- Put the yellow peels in a jar or bottle, add half of the vodka and seal tightly. Leave the bottle to steep until the peels lose their color, at least 2 weeks.
- Combine one cup of the water and all of the sugar in a saucepan and heat on medium high just until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat, add one cup of ice cold water and let the mixture completely cool.
- Strain the vodka from the peels. I strain mine by lining a metal strainer with cheesecloth and pouring through both; that will remove the large peels and any smaller particles. Once strained, add the remaining vodka and the syrup.
- Put the liqueur in bottles, seal tightly and store for at least 1 week before using.
- For drinking straight, store the Limoncello in the freezer.
Thanks for the recipe! Quick question: why is only half of the vodka mixed with the lemon peel? Is it okay to add the entire 1.75 liters to the peel at the start of the process?
I thought that half of the vodka was sufficient enough to cover the peels and extract the flavor but of course you can add it all at once if you prefer.
Have you ever used Meyer lemons?
I have not but there is no reason you can’t try them…they have a bit different flavor but I love them and think they would make a delicious liqueur.
Can you add a bit of chocolate or raspberry to change the flavor?
I wouldn’t recommend that Jody. Limoncello is supposed to be very lemony but if you want something raspberry or chocolate I have recipes on the blog for different liqueurs that include those.
Really awesome and informative content! Appreciate you for spending time to share!
I just ordered some organic Honeybell Oranges. Would you recommend using the same recipe?
I have yet to try oranges but want to Will so yes, at least to start off I would just do a substitute. Please let me know how it works out; now I’m jealous!
Thank you for a wonderful blog!
Your recipe is almost exactly what I have been making for years, based on my William & Mary Sicilian Italian professor’s recipe which takes about a month. One needs time for the peels to steep for maximum extraction of flavor (Rome wasn’t built in a day!). One suggestion: during steeping period would stir daily.
I lived in Naples, Italy & experienced the frequent jest of hospitality, the gratis “liquore della casa” at the end of the meal. There is much discussion in that area over who has the best lemons and most authentic limoncello: Sorrento, Capri or Amalfi!! Your recipe is pretty much a match for the those I sampled.
Want to share that we made a fabulous take on this: Honeybellcello!
Purchased Honeybell oranges while camping in Florida in February two years ago. The season is only about 5 weeks long and they are usually not shipped anywhere (too soft & fragile)…bell-shaped, extremely juicy and a unique honey-like flavor. Used same process as yours with fabulous results!
We coveted those bottles & shared very sparingly.
Going back in February….
You are wonderful in giving prompt responses to peoples’ problems with theirs.
Auguri (best wishes) and grazie!
Laurie I love hearing this…I certainly want authenticity! I want to do orange too…might still try it before the end of this week. I’ve always thought blood oranges would make a beautiful liqueur!
Since I was lucky enough to find this recipe, and you’re site, a few years ago… I have no clue how many batches I’ve made of this amazing recipe! I’ve shared the finished product with friends from Italy – each approved wholeheartedly! Two were from Sicily! I’ve also shared the recipe countless times! So. In. Love!!
So glad you love it too! And what a great thing to know; wow if this one recipe can meet the approval of real Italians? Deb I’m in heaven; thanks for making my day!
I just made this beautiful looking limoncello and I added the juice from the lemons to the peels + 100 proof vodka. Since I added the lemon juice, is it safe to leave at room temperature – will the vodka still preserve it?
I’ve never done it Judy but if I had to guess I would say it should be fine; both the acid in the lemon juice and the alcohol in the vodka should keep it safe. Let me know how it turns out…I’m imagining you’ll need a bit more sugar?
Thanks, I was thinking of using a honey simple syrup solution after it sits for 3-4 weeks. If you think it would be safer, I could store the limoncello in my refrigerator.
I’ve been reading some of the comments here and have a few suggestions to add. Yes,it’s true that Limoncello is made with grain alcohol,but it’s not readily available in some states and it has a kick. A very good vodka will do,but the taste will be off slightly. To add more of a lemon flavor,squeeze the lemon juice(no seeds) from your peeled lemons into the container that has your peels and alcohol. And let that sit for at least a month,yes a month. Your looking for peels that have turned white and crisp and that means all the color & oil has been extracted. You can use honey to sweeten like it was done in the old days of Sicily or sugar water,the choice is yours. My family uses honey, as they are from the coast of Sicily. This version is what your most likely to find when you visit a mom & pop establishment in your travels. Salute!
Thanks Sherry. It’s true…grain alcohol can be hard to find; I have yet to locate any in Denver, CO so I’m assuming it’s a state to state issue. I will try adding some lemon juice though and love the idea of honey. It’s almost time for me to consider a new batch so perfect timing!
Nothing was wasted in the old days,not even the juice. If adding honey,add 1 1/4 -1 1/2 cups,more if you like it sweeter to every 750 ml. of alcohol. Maybe a cup of water if you want it thinned just a bit. Some forget that sugar wasn’t always available,but honey could always be found. This is about true old world as it gets and not many recipes can be found using honey and the juice together. There is one other out on the net that is like this,and our families are from the same region in Sicily.
I’ve done this with organic LIMES too, (limettacello) the yield is much smaller, but definitely worth it. BTW.. I always use 195 proof GRAIN. True that it burns more, but if you rejig the dilution ratios, it’s not that bad, In addition, putting the finished product in the freezer is a MUST.
I would try it but truth is all the liquor stores near me don’t even carry grain alcohol. I’m happy with the results so haven’t made a trek to far off lands (Nebraska?) to see if another state is more open to carrying it. 🙂
And yes, I should add that tip about freezing it if I didn’t include it in the post. It’s the ONLY place to store it. I LOVES limes, actually more than lemons so limettacello is definitely on my radar…maybe I’ll move it up now that you’ve reminded me, thanks!
This recipe looks fantastic!!! I’m about to give it a try but I had a quick question. Some recipes I have seen call for steeping the whole bottle of vodka with the lemon peels. Could you explain how the taste is different using half the bottle as your recipe calls for, to steep? Does it tone down the sweetness in the finished product, when you add the remaining half bottle at the end? Thanks 🙂
To be honest Katherine I’m not sure exactly why I went this route it’s been so long since I first starting making it. It might have been something as simple as only having a half bottle on hand when I decided to try my hand at homemade! So, either way should work fine.
About how many 8.5 jars does the recipe yield?
I followed the instructions and let it sit for 7 weeks – it came out very sweet – not tart. What did I do wrong? Thanks
I sent you a response via email Rick…I should have answered here. I don’t think you did anything wrong but there are some variables. The size of lemons can make as much of a difference as your own personal preferences. Next time? Just add the simple syrup to the vodka and stop when it’s sweet enough for you. You could try adding a bit more vodka now too to lessen that a bit; if you do would be best if it could sit a bit being being consumed to let the vodka mellow a little.
I just want to make sure that you add the simple syrup mixture after the vodka and peels set for two weeks. Thank you!
Yes! – I sent you a response via email too but wanted to answer this comment in the online conversation.
Hello! I would like to make this for Holiday presents. If I make it this week, October 2015, will it still be good around Christmas?
Thank you for any response you may offer
It will last for quite a while if you keep it chilled, the alcohol is a preservative. I just keep mine in the garage if I’m making a lot for gifts. Have fun!
Hello Heather – I made a bottle of this right after getting your response and left the vodka and the lemons sit for about 7 weeks. I tried some after I put it into decorative bottles to give for Christmas and it is very sweet. What would cause it to be very sweet and not tart?
i I absolutely must finally make limoncello and I don’t doubt yours is a perfect recipe. I never drink the stuff but it is excellent in mousse, macaron filling, etc.
I find it a bit cloying Jamie as a straight up after dinner drink but I LOVE it combined with prosecco; you should try that. And yes…try making your own, label it from your hotel!
What do you do with the rest of the vodka? The recipe says to add half to the peels. But, I missed what you do with the other half! Thanks. Sounds great and planning to try this recipe.
Step Five indicates you add the strained mixture with the rest of the vodka…Barb
thank you 🙂
I do not have glass jars or containers to “brew” the limoncello. Can I use large screwtop plastic containers?
As long as they don’t have any odor from previous brews you’ve had in the jars. The vodka works to extract the flavor of the fruit; I wouldn’t want it to work it’s magic on plastic with leftover scents.
Hi LOVE your site!
The way you convey your fun and passion for making these liquors comes through and it’s contagious!!!
I had forgotten that I had made a batch of Orangecello last December 1st. I did not add the simple syrup to it, it’s just orange peels and vodka (80 proof).
Do you think it it is still okay to continue making and bottling it or is it a goner and I should just start again with a new batch?
THANKS SO MUCH for your inspiration!
Thanks so much Betty; love hearing that!
I would sure try to rescue it. It should have been preserved by the vodka so just mix up a batch of simple syrup and add it and I bet it will be fine. Simple syrup is half water, half sugar that is heated until the sugar dissolves. Cool before adding to the vodka mix. Let me know…I want to make orange too!
I use pure alcool 90%, can’t you find it in USA?
It’s difficult to find grain alcohol and even if I could I think the results are too harsh. I’ve found 80% which is higher than normal and have been happy with the results.
I have been using everclear 95%alcohol that i run through a charcoal filter several times. This has removed the “harshness” that people have complained about in regards to grain alcohol. The end product has been wonderful. Its a trial and error thing. My first batch was so- so at best. After reading what other people have done,taking the good with the bad,i finally came up with something that has been wonderful…
When I first decided to make Limoncello Dan I followed popular wisdom and wanted to try Everclear but couldn’t find it. So I found some 100 proof vodka. The higher alcohol content does extract more from the peels so I just offset that by steeping it longer (which is NOT easy!). Have you ever had creamy limoncello? That’s next up on my agenda for holiday gifts this year. I know it sounds weird to consider adding milk but it is SO good!
I would absolutely agree with you! The fragrance, the taste, the crisp, all worth it!
I love your receipe “the best Limoncello is homemade” Last year I gave several bottles of this
as gifts. I read on your website that you also make different liquers at Christmas. I read
with interest that you make Chocolate, Coffee, and cranberry Liquer. Would it be possible
to obtain some of your receipes……
I would love to sign up for your publications….however I am having horrible computer
problems and have not been able to complete the info to get this started….Help !!! thank you
so much for your beautiful web site…it has become one of my favorites.
Good to hear Sue; thanks for letting me know. If you’ll just put any of those into the search bar you should have the recipe display for you. I can try to input your email but my service has some issues with some folks not delivering it and I think yahoo might be one of them. I’ll enter your info; you should get a confirmation in your email box and we’ll try it out.
Authentic Limoncello is made from pure grain alcohol, as any Italian knows. This is lemon flavored vodka.
I’ll take my lemon flavored vodka any day; the efforts I’ve tasted from folks that have been able to find and use pure grain alcohol (not available in all states) has been harsh and unappealing, not at all like the finished product I’ve purchased from Italy. I’ll stand by my recipe in a heartbeat.
I like the recipe and i will try it soon.
I putt the lemonpeel and vodka in 2 jars and add some cardamompods ( about 6 )
to one jar .
My compliments for your website
May i ask where you bought the glasses in the picture. I’ve seen the straight up and down ones, but not the sweet fluted ones. My daughter has those, but she lucked out and found them at TJ Maxx. I haven’t tried your recipe yet, but i will. Thank you.
Shoot Bea I wish I could help but I’ve had them for so long that I just don’t remember. I mean like 15 years if not more! Check World Market and Crate and Barrel and Pier One…those are some of the places I go for glassware if that helps!
Hello Bea , i just came along on this site and saw your question about the glasses . Here in the Netherlands we call them jeneverglas , I translate this in english to gin glasses but they look completely different
I use the micro grater with excellent results. Once the outside peel is off, it can’t pick anything else up. I’ll looking for a recipe that uses only raw honey with no cooking. Still looking.
Help!!! I plan on giving Lemoncello as Christmas presents this weekend. I used 15 organic lemons and followed the directions above. When it came time to make the sugar syrup, I followed the directions except instead of mixing with the other half of the vodka, I mixed it in the lemon vodka since I was worried about it tasting too alcoholic. It’s been about a week since that step so I decided to taste my product. It does not taste good 🙁 It tastes like lemon flavored vodka, which technically it is, but I assumed it would be a bit sweeter and easy to take down. I made the classic strong alcohol taste when I took a taste.
Any suggestions on what to do? I thought about adding more simple syrup but wanted to see if anyone could help before I took the batch down any paths.
If the alcohol seems too strong tasting it should continue to mellow out so maybe ask folks to wait a bit before opening but it might also need a bit more simple syrup. Lemons and vodka both can vary enough that yours might need more and adding more won’t hurt. If it’s bitter it means you got some pith in the mix; more sugar might help that a bit too. Since we all have different palates; fiddle with it a bit til it works for yours.
Thank you for your recipe and comments: I’ve made limoncello and petsovka both, adding a
few drops of glycerin to make it smoother on the palette. I’m in my eighties, and think you
might enjoy the smoother texture – just for a change. With the petsoka, I use a jalapeño and
let it macerate about 5 days: it will be hot enough for my not-so-brave taste.
Nice…I’ve never added glycerin so might have to test that one. Truth is that getting everclear is not always an easy task here in the states; I think some don’t allow it so I also suggest higher proof vodka because it’s more readily available.
My first batch of limoncello will be ready in about three weeks after a very long 90 day waiting period…i cant wait! Anyways, i am getting ready to bottle and ship and wanted to ask you about the bottles you use (listed above). Have you ever had any problems with them leaking in transit? I love how cheap they are!
I bought plastic sleeves that go on them and then are tightened with hot air (I used my blow dryer). I don’t think I would have felt comfortable with the caps when I shipped them without that step because they do twist on with just a single turn, but once the cap was twisted tightly and sealed with the plastic I didn’t worry and they all arrived at their destinations fine.
I appreciate the tips! I made my first batch of lemoncello after my one-year old lemon tree gave me 15 lemons the first year I planted it. I like to think it was because I buried the cremains of my beloved Shih-tsu a month before the tree was planted. Anyway, I zested 15 lemons, put them in a jug with four bottles of ever clear, left it in a dark cubbard for six days, shaking it three times a day. The last day, I boiled three cups of sugar with two cups of water. (This was a recipe I saw on television on my yearly five weeks in Paris). Well, the sugar water tasted weak so I added a bottle of light Kayro syrup to the sugar water, boiled it for a couple of minutes, then let it cool to room temperature. I then added the lemon/ ever clear mix to the sugar water, filtered it through a coffee filter (although it didn’t really need this step), and then put it in the swing-top bottles I bought from Amazon.com. Aafter “tasting” this over a period of three weeks, (well, maybe a tad too much a couple of times, hangover), I decided that it was le money, sweet, but with a “bite” from the ever clear which wasn’t over-powering. Hope this helps someone since I am an adventurous cook. But you have to have the ever clear, with the right balance of sweetner and lemon for this to work. My sons, who consider themselves wine and liquor connoissoirs, loved it.
My limoncello came out to strong .i used ever clear.what can I do to make it taste better.
I’m not totally surprised Pat; I see recipes for Everclear and think it’s just way too harsh. What I would try first is adding some simple syrup; equal parts water and sugar boiled just until the sugar is dissolved. I don’t have a clue in what proportions to add it, but make some maybe with 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water and try adding a bit at at time and see if you can make it more palatable. The other thing you can do is let it sit longer; it should mellow over time.
I have not made it with everclear but know what it is and don’t recommend it; next time try 100 proof vodka; that is plenty strong and not harsh like everclear. If you can’t fix it; then serve what you have as a cocktail; add it to some prosecco or even sparkling water as an apertif…and then make some more to sip!
Best of luck.
can you make lemoncello from starfruit?
Limoncello and orangecello are made from the rinds of citrus; they extrapolate the oils for their flavor. I would think that with starfruit you would be better off to just make a fruit infused vodka; not totally unlike them but the fruit wouldn’t sit in the vodka for very long; maybe just a couple of days, before adding simple syrup. I’ve not done it so I’m sort of guessing myself; maybe a Google search would result in someone who has had the experience?
I am making this recipe and am confused if is ok to leave out of the fridge until time to use
(1 week before using).
Sorry for the delay; I’ve been packing and cleaning my home to put it up for sale…the blog has suffered a bit!
Sure…fine to keep out as long as it’s not a warm spot. I put mine in the garage while it’s brewing during the winter and in my cooler basement if I’m making a liqueur during the summer months. Hope you enjoy it!
I just made arancia rossa (blood orange) -cello today! I want to make limoncello too, but didn’t think that the recipe would only require 4 lemons as it did blood oranges. Glad to see this and thanks for the tips about the alcohol content. It’s good to know! Now to be patient for the weeks it takes until this is ready…
How funny…cause guess what I’m making next? If you guessed blood orange too! I want to buy every single one of them and juice them and have them all year long.
This is an elegant recipe which we shall surely attempt. Thank you for posting it on your equally elegant site.
Thank you for the great tip on the bottles as they will make lovely gifts!
You are most welcome Jo…it is a great resource and has saved me a ton of money in lieu of buying locally. I love making liqueurs for gifts and friends/family love receiving them but the bottle expense was killing me. 🙂
My parents are from Italy and for the past 4 xmas’ we’ve been going to Emilia-Romagna. The cuisine of this part of Italy is regarded as the finest in Italy by the Italians, but most Americans don’t know anything about this region or of the cuisine. Americans seem to think Italy is Tuacany. Tuscany is beautiful, but the region along the Adriatic coast has many of the same hilltowns with dramatic mountains that Tuscany has, but is not overrun with tourists (except europeans ).
Shh…don’t tell anyone else OK? It’s my dream to go to Italy but the idea of visiting and being surrounded with tourists has never been appealing so let’s keep it that way until I get there, OK? Sounds perfect and I’m perfectly jealous!
I don’t usually need the juice from 12 lemons at once, so I start a batch of limoncello and every time I need a lemon or two for a recipe I zest it first and add it to the batch. When I get enough zest I let it sit two weeks and I’m ready to go. Also, to keep the alcohol level up enough to avoid freezing I dissolve the sugar in vodka instead of water before adding it.
What a great idea…when I make I do end up freezing the juice; it’s a bit too much lemon curd at one time.
So happy to have found your blog. Limoncello is my favorite! A friend went to Italy a couple of years ago. She went to a restaurant where the owner served homemade Basilcello. She was so sad when she could not find it here. I used the basic recipe that you show, steeping the basil leaves for about 2 weeks. It turned out really well and now she looks forward to getting a bottle every Christmas. This year I made the recipe using cranberries. It is such a beautiful red, and given with the basilcello makes a great red and green christmas gift!
Ooh would love to try that Rebecca…how much basil did you use?
Your post is fantastic! I truly wish I had seen this before I made roughly a gallon of limoncello last Spring when my Meyer and Eureka trees were in overdrive, using the two bottles of Everclear I had tucked away to use for another project. You are soooo right about the harshness of Everclear! That batch has a very harsh burn to it, and it must be mixed with ice, seltzer, or iced tea to be drinkable…the flavor is amazing but the burn is incredible. I will definitely follow your advice and use 100-proof vodka for next year’s batch. Might also try making a small batch of mixed citrus liqueur using the fruit from my trees (lemon, grapefruit, tangerine/mandarin). What ratios of fruit (lemon to grapefruit to mandarin to lime) would you suggest, if it’s OK to ask? How did the blood orange liqueur turn out? It sounds lovely!
can’t wait to start making some of your liquors!
Thanks for your writeup on this.
I love making liquers, and though I enjoy drinking them,
the most fun is sharing them and seeing other peoples enjoyment
and amazement “you made this from stuff out of your garden?”
With limoncello, I find that I get plenty of extraction within a few days and 4days is enough to get flavour and colour without too much bitterness from the pith if you happen to have a bit in there.
it can depend a lot on alc% and temp, agitation (gentle mix every day).
one lime to every 6-10 lemons adds that little extra dimention to the final product as does a lemon leaf or two.
when the colour is almost bleached out of the lemon leaf,
it tells me to procede to the next step with sugar etc.
another favorite variation of mine, although not strictly Limoncello,
but moving more in flavour towards another famous yellow Italian liquer in tall slender bottle is roughly as follows…
add to the above recipe while macerting before adding sugar,
a couple of vanilla pods,
some coriander seeds,
dried liquorice root and
a bit of aniseed or star anise
and a small piece of cinnamon quill
a few cardamom seeds
leave sit till extracted (1-4weeks depending on alc strength )
add sugar, then age to mature.
the maturation is important no matter how smooth the base spirit as it takes time for the ‘elements’ to come together as one.
the flavours tend to ‘stand apart’ for a while as soon as it’s mixed.
if you want higher proof final product add straight sugar without water,
it just takes a few days to dissolve.
Nocino is delicious too.
In mid summer, or just before (when walnuts haven’t quite hardened their shells)
pick green walnuts and prick with a stainless steel pin or needle to allow alcohol to extract flavour
for 1litre of spirit (40%… though 50% is better)
a cinnamon stick
1/2 a nutmeg
Rind of 1 lemon
1cup of sugar
leave for a month, and adjust sugar to your taste if you want.
strain and bottle
home made grape spirit is good,
make it strong and clean.
or find someone who makes it.
grain or cane spirit is good to , depends where/what cimate you live
and what raw materials are available for making it…
where it’s legal to do so of course 😉
I’ve heard of Nocino…now I just have to get out and get some walnuts don’t I? Thanks for all of the information!
What do you think about storing/steeping in mason jars (classy, huh?) Wondering how airtight the container should be. If metal lids are an issue, I have lots of older jars with glass lids, although not sure if new rubber rings are available for a truly airtight seal. What say you?
I’ve done that Susan without a problem; as a matter of fact I’ve got some cranberry liqueur from Christmas in them. Although keeping them closed is important, the fact is that it’s the alcohol that prohibits spoilage, not a hot water bath or a tight lid like most things put into canning jars. I do keep mine stored in the fridge though once I open one.
I am so excited to try this, and I love the idea of preparing these items for gifts!!
My only warning? It will be hard to give them something ongoing that will measure up! I do a cranberry liqueur that’s on the blog too…now I just alternate. 🙂
We have friends here in France who make this. So delish! So Italian!
And the best part? So easy! Not easy waiting but worth it.
Do you know where I can get the labels for homemade limoncello?
Recipe looks good(:
Definitely gonna try this with blood oranges! Thanks for sharing 🙂
“Spice it Up”
I would so do them NOW if they were available…but then I love them so much next year I’m juicing dozens and freezing the juice so I’m not limited to the short season of getting them fresh. Won’t they make a gorgeous liqueur?
Barb: What an informative and great post on this homemade limoncello. Luv it! I will definitely be trying this. I like the recipes you have on your site too that use limoncello! 🙂 Adorable glasses you’ve used to present them.
Thanks Cristina and thanks for stopping by; nice to see your face…err, camera. 🙂
This looks fabulous Barbara!! I love limoncello but have yet to make my own. Also your suggestion of a mandarin version is timely as I have an abundance of mandarins at the moment.
Would love to try manadarin…you HAVE to let me know if you do!
Just awesome – i can’t wait to make my own!
It is awesome! You have to let me know if you do make it, promise?
Can’t wait to try it!
Aren’t you the lucky one? I’ll have sparkling lemon soda available too if you want to keep the booze portion limited; you know, for the Little Dipper.
I’ve been dying to make limoncello and now I have a recipe! I can’t imagine how wonderful it is homemade! I’m drunk just looking at it!
Someone mentioned in the comments that they felt the Limoncello from Italy was better but I’m not sure how I could ever agree…but then we know how making our own anything elevates the experience in a different way, right? I think this tastes great…and so far so does everyone I’ve gifted some too…do it, make it! 🙂
must try this at least once and see if it works Love mine in the freezer Makes it extra special
Of course it works! I will be ‘testing’ some again soon. Probably another reason to not store and test for 3 months. I would have nothing left after 3 months of ‘testing.’
Wow Limoncello! If anything can get me to make my own it would be this! Beautiful… and I agree that 4 days is nuts but months would drive me crazy. A month would work and how I love using Limoncello in desserts! And I love the idea of making this with other citrus fruits.
Soon I will have to do a room addition just for my bottles of liqueurs…I’m a bit obsesses. DEFINITELY make blood orange liqueur when they become available at the end of the year but before then? Limecello has to be done, stat! The thing about the timing is this…I’m not finishing off the bottle overnight…it will continue to age once I’ve started on it, right? I’ve got about 2 liters of liqueur…that will actually take me quite some time to get through so I’ll know if there is a significant change in timing and I’m betting not enough to wait for 2 additional LONG months!
As the ingredient you are extracting from the rind is the lemon essential oil, do you think you could skip the steeping process entirely and simply just add pure (organic) lemon essential oil for an instant result?
Well I suppose you could but I see these issues: First, your result would have no color at all; though my photo of the limoncello in the glass was not indicative, you can see in the bottle of it that it’s definitely got the expected yellow color. No biggie really. More importantly, part of that steeping process also mellows out the alcohol. Not giving the limoncello any time to breathe and meld with the lemon essence would most likely result in a harsher tasting product. More aging is better than less. Last…there is always something better about using fresh ingredients in my opinion; I’m wondering if the extracted liquid would come close to the effort using real lemons?
If you decide to try it; please let me know. Would be interesting to know what you think of the results.
It’s an interesting experiment, one that I will try and subject my friends to blind tastings for comparison. In theory:
a) starting with a good quality vodka would mean it wouldn’t be harsh and therefore wouldn’t need aging;
b) the EO would disperse fully and immediately into the vodka, so aging shouldn’t be required for full flavour dispersal or potential;
c) using an EO would mean that you could *exactly* replicate the results with the same batch/bottle of EO, rather than having varied results depending on steeping time, size of lemons, species of lemons etc;
d) you could tweak the taste to suit on the fly, drop by drop, getting immediate feedback, rather than waiting 2 weeks only to record the results for adjustments in later batches
The insane ramblings of an aromatherapy junkie at work :o)
I love it…and now you MUST let me know when you get results, OK? Using a better vodka will absolutely help!
I can’t wait to make this! Looks and sounds so delicious! So easy I don’t know why I have never made it before!
I think a lot of folks have no idea how easy it is to make your own liqueurs. Be sure to check out my site for cranberry liqueur for the holidays; it is also so good and so gorgeous!
You are so right…home made lemoncello is so much better. I also make French 44 and Nocino, which is made from green walnuts; almost time to make that soon.
I’ve never heard of that Mary; how interesting…would love to know if you post something about it.
I have been making this since visiting the Amalafi coast several years ago. I first bought several bottles from Capri and positano , then I noticed all the bartenders were making their own and started collecting their recipes. I returned home and started making my own. My recipe is VERY similar to yours and I do use the 100proof vodka. Everyone I have given it to loves it, and since I live in Florida I use Meyer lemons ,the best. For bottles, I save any small wine bottles and beg and borrow them friends. I do keep several fifths in the freezer and go from there. Love your site and all you do, many thanks,M
Mari…so good to know I have a compadre! And ever better to know you’ve had the real deal and this version works too. What differences are there between our recipes?
I love limoncello too. A couple of years ago I made a big batch that I didn’t quite finish off. I wonder what 2 year old buddha hand citron vodka tastes like? I bet it just might be pretty good. Yours looks so refreshing. I can’t wait to try one of those Prosecco coolers sometime.
Bring it to Girls Nite In and we can ‘test’ it for you. I’ll be making Limoncello coolers that night…it won’t be long!
Okay so now I need to get some 100-proof vodka. I’ve got a few French recipes that call for eau de vie and never thought you could find anything that strong here. First thing I’m making is this limoncello!
I’ve found both Smirnoff and another brand called Wolfschmidt which is a tiny bit cheaper. Both have worked equally well. I’ve had someone comment I really should make it with Everclear but I would guess it would have to mellow MUCH longer to be drinkable. Beyond that, it’s not available everywhere; one fellow I talked to said they refuse to carry it and I think I’ve read that some states won’t even allow it so that sealed the deal for me. Good luck; let me know how it turns out for you Sylvie.
I can’t wait to try this. This weekend! Thank you for sharing this, I really appreciate it!
You’re most welcome Sarah…enjoy!
Homemade Limoncello is such a fantastic idea Barb and its pretty simple to put together too! In my world, any recipe that calls for almost 2 bottles of vodka should be tried immediately. 😉
I think that calls for a Limoncello muffin don’t you think? I do use it with pound cake and cheesecake; why not muffins?!!
Love the photos! Try making it once with everclear. I bet you never go back to vodka 😉
I think with Everclear the wait time would have to substantially increase to make it palatable Julie…it might extract more of the lemon goodness but it’s so harsh that I prefer using a lower proof when I make mine. Beyond that? It’s not that readily available; I’ve talked to some liquor store owners who won’t carry it due to the high alcohol content and it’s popularity with kids so I thought it best to share my process that doesn’t make procuring of ingredients difficult!
yum; love limoncello.
I love this recipe! Just take a look on these pictures, they are amazing. Thanks for sharing this one, will have to try it out. Keep up with excellent work. 🙂
Thanks so much Danijela; I hope you do try it!
I have been waiting on this post since the moment you brought it up in a previous recipe! Although you know that I am not much of drinker, I adore Limoncello and can’t wait to make a huge bottle of this for summer! Gorgeous photos, Barb!
I made that Limoncello cooler two weeks ago using Prosecco but since have also had it with just lemon sparkling water Jamie. It is the lightest and prettiest drink…perfect for ‘not much of a drinker’ like you. I love this stuff; I’ve always loved Limoncello but have to tell you I think this is the best…so fresh and it shows!
Barb, this is just lovely. I’ve never made my own liqueur before and I’ve been wanting too. After reading this and how easy it all sounds, I officially declare I will be making my own Limoncello! And soon 🙂 Wonderful post
Thanks so much Kate…they are really so simple I’m only upset I didn’t start making them decades ago. But maybe just as well…I would by now have no room at the inn for anything but bottles of my latest concoction I suppose huh?
This has got to be the *go-to* post for making your own limoncello! Thank you for writing this, for your beautiful photographs and for your enlightening preparation tips.
Awww…love that Paula, such a sweet compliment. I’ve done the tasting and the testing and this one, for the time involved is not definitely my ‘go to’ for sure.
You’ve inspired me to try this – I love limoncello! Time for summer cocktails. Your photos are stunning, too.
Thanks so much Hannah and yes, hoping I got in done in time for readers to get it done…there is NOTHING quite like a freezer cold Limoncello on a hot evening; promise.
My MIL makes limoncello and keeps it chilled int he freezer. SO good! I really need to get on it and make some myself!
Yes ma’am you do…it’s so easy…get to it girl!