True, authentic Italian recipes are always simple. But the results are beyond ordinary.
Limoncello Liqueur is not an exception.
All it takes is 4 ingredients and some patience.
But if you’ve ever tasted even a store-bought limoncello, you know, it’s all going to worth the wait!
Not to mention that a homemade version is times superior than anything you could ever get otherwise.
In Italy, Limoncello is one of the favorite digestive drinks. It’s a perfect ending to any dinner, meat or seafood based.
There are also many Italian limoncello based desserts that are just out of this world! Let me know if those are also of any interest to you. I’ll be posting my favorites shorty.
So if you don’t have a bottle of limoncello in the freezer, this is your chance to turn things around.
Before you jump right onto the recipe, I encourage you to read some important notes at the bottom of this page. They mainly clarify all confusions on what alcohol to use, so as pointing at good resources where to buy the right alcohol for limoncello and the best untreated organic lemons.
- Limoncello Ingredients
- How to make Limoncello
- Limoncello Alcohol Content
- How to store Limoncello
- How to drink Limoncello
- Important Notes
7-8 organic lemons
750 milliliters/ 3 cups + 2 tbsp pure grain alcohol 190 proof/ 95% vol
3 ½ cups/ 1.7 pounds white sugar
1150 milliliters/ 5 cups water
Using a vegetable peeler or a small sharp knife, peel off the lemon zest as thin as possible. We only need the yellow part.
If you’re using a knife you might happen to cut some white pith together with yellow zest. In this case just trim off any white spots with a sharp knife.
I love using VERTICAL vegetable peeler.
Not only to peel lemons for limoncello but also for any other “peeling job” in the kitchen.
Place all the lemon peels directly into the bottle of alcohol.
Of course, if you have a large bottle of alcohol than required by the recipe you have two options.
You can either measure and transfer the right amount into a separate glass bottle OR adjust the number of lemons, so you can have lemon infused alcohol saved for latter. Don’t worry, it can stay month steeped in the alcohol.
And your next limoncello will only be better. As my label reads – AL COOL ahah 🙂
Make sure to keep the bottle out of direct sunlight.
Leave to macerate for at least 8 days, best 3 weeks or more.
Prepare sugar syrup.
Mix water and sugar in the pot saucepan. On a medium heat continue to stir in the sugar until it’s completely dissolved. Let the syrup to simmer until boiling. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely.
Now begins the actual limoncello making process.
In large saucepan/mixing bow/ or a container large enough add 1 liter of alcohol.
Continuously stirring start adding the sugar syrup. Once you’ve added 3 cups taste.
Limoncello will be pretty strong. Add more sugar syrup and taste again.
I usually add almost all 3 ½ cups and limoncello is still full-bodied.
But it’s a good thing that you can decide what your limoncello will taste like.
If it’s too strong, add more sugar syrup to mild the taste, reduce it for a stronger limoncello.
I don’t recommend diluting the alcohol base too much.
Limoncello Alcohol Content
Authentic Italian homemade limoncello is about 38% vol or 76 Proof.
How to store Limoncello
Once you’ve reached the perfect flavor, bottle your limoncello in a glass bottle using a funnel.
Even though it doesn’t require refrigeration, I always store limoncello in the freezer!
Why? It’ll have an amazing “creamy” texture. Beside, alcohol doesn’t feel that strong and pungent when chilled well.
How to drink Limoncello
When it’s time to serve just pull the bottle from the freezer and pour into liqueur glasses (clear short glasses).
Enjoy as a digestive drink after dinner, in Italian known as “digestivo”.
Fresh made limoncello reaches its perfection in a few days after bottling.
Authentic Italian Limoncello
- 7-8 organic lemons
- 750 milliliters/ 3 cups + 2 tbsp pure grain alcohol 190 proof/ 95% vol
- 3 ½ cups/ 1.7 pounds white sugar
- 1150 milliliters/ 5 cups water
- Using a vegetable peeler or a small sharp knife, peel off the lemon zest as thin as possible. We only need the yellow part. If you happen to cut any white pith together with yellow zest, just trim off any white spots with a sharp knife.
- Place all the lemon peels directly into the bottle of alcohol.
- If you have a large bottle of alcohol than required by the recipe you have two options. You can either measure and transfer the right amount into a separate glass bottle OR adjust the number of lemons, so you can have lemon infused alcohol saved for latter. It can stay month steeped in the alcohol. Make sure to keep the bottle out of direct sunlight.
- Leave to macerate for at least 8 days, best 3 weeks or more.
- Prepare sugar syrup. Mix water and sugar in the pot saucepan. On a medium heat continue to stir in the sugar until it’s completely dissolved. Let the syrup to simmer until boiling. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely.
- In a large saucepan/mixing bow/ or a container large enough add 1 liter of alcohol. Continuously stirring start adding the sugar syrup. Once you’ve added 4 cups taste. Limoncello will be pretty strong. Add more sugar syrup and taste again.
- I usually add almost all 6 ½ cups and limoncello is still full-bodied.
- Add more sugar syrup for a milder taste, reduce it for a stronger limoncello.I don’t recommend diluting the alcohol base too much.
- Once you’ve reached the perfect flavor, bottle your limoncello in glass bottle using a funnel.
- Chill in the freezer for at least a few hours before serving.
Besides enjoying Limoncello as digestive drink you can also make a delicious Limoncello Cake. Super soft and flavorful it’s like a rum cake, but much better 😉
You can also pour it over ice-cream or Lemon Semifreddo.
What Alcohol/Vodka To Use?
It might be hard to find high proof alcohol at your local liquor store.
But here’re 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’s a problem. The average 80-100 proof spirit isn’t 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’t get 190 proof/ 95% vol. quality alcohol?
Don’t worry, you can still use a really high proof vodka.
I’ve picked two options for you to go with.
US made 151 Proof/ 75 vol vodkas:
In this case you’ll need to adjust a little bit the ratio for sugar syrup.
Here’s a really cool tool to help you with that – Limoncello Alcohol Percentage Calculator
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’ve taken one of the 151 Proof Vodka (750 ml) your calculation will look like this:
If you’ve 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’s 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’s also pull any medicine/pesticides/insecticides used on the lemons.
I’ve 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.
Limencello makes a perfect Christmas gift 🙂
I’ve 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’m 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 – just perfect for limoncello.
Once I have all info needed this information will be added to this page as well.
In the meantime, let me know if you have any questions about the process or ingredients, or anything at all 🙂
A wise Italian man once said: “If life gives you lemons – make limoncello!“
And now you even have a recipe.