What is Limoncello?
Limoncello is a strong, sweet, and very lemony dessert liqueur or digestif. It could be an acquired taste for many, but for me, it was love at first sip. I was even more pumped to find out just how easy it is to make your own homemade limoncello.
This limoncello recipe all started in Positano, Italy. We ended up bringing home a few bottles of locally made Positano limoncello. The bottle included their own limoncello recipe, however, I did make a few tweaks after my initial trial run.
I prefer limoncello a little on the stronger side—so I used less sugar than the original recipe. Other than that, it’s the perfect balance of flavor, strength, and consistency.
How To Make Limoncello
Homemade limoncello is made with 4 simple ingredients. Everclear, organic lemon peels, sugar, and water. Steep lemon peels in Everclear for 7 days. On the 8th day, strain Everclear and add simple sugar. Chill and serve. Boom that was easy.
Peeling the Lemons
This is the most critical aspect. You want the thinnest lemon peel you can possibly get. Use a potato peeler to carefully remove the rinds from the lemons, leaving as much of the pith on the lemon as possible (the white part). Too much pith and the limoncello will be bitter.
More importantly, always use organic lemons because they’re free of pesticides. Since they’re soaking in alcohol for an extended period of time, you run the risk of it ending up in your limoncello.
Use Everclear, Not Vodka
Everclear is a grain alcohol that tastes similar to vodka, however, it’s much more potent than vodka. Everclear is bottled at 120, 151, 189, and 190 proof. I used 151, which seemed to be a good balance without being too potent. Don’t go any lower than 151 if you can avoid it.
Using Everclear is so important because you will end up diluting the limoncello with sugar and water, bringing it back down to a more manageable proof. This allows it to remain strong like a naturally flavored spirit and also keeps it freezable. If you use vodka, your limoncello may be too diluted and may freeze in the freezer.
How to Drink Limoncello
Limoncello is usually sipped after dinner as a digestif in a very small glass or tall shot glass. It’s served in 1-2 ounce portions and is best served very cold. It also goes really well in a limoncello martini.
Finally, when life gives you lemons, make limoncello…Print
Authentic Limoncello Recipe
- Prep Time: 25 min
- Cook Time: 8 days
- Total Time: 8 days
- Yield: 2.5 liters 1x
- Category: Cocktail
- Cuisine: Italian
The perfect homemade limoncello recipe made with Everclear, organic lemons, and simple syrup.
- 10 medium or large organic lemons (this is important—no pesticides)
- 1 liter Everclear alcohol* (151 proof)
- 5 1/2 cups water
- 5 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- Using a potato peeler, remove the rinds from the lemons, leaving all or as much of the pith on the lemon as possible (the white part). Too much pith and limoncello will be bitter.
- Place the lemon peels in a covered glass container with the Everclear and let sit for 7 days.
- On the 8th day, strain the lemon peels from the Everclear and discard.
- To make the simple syrup (sugar and water), add the water and sugar to a medium saucepan on medium heat. Stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Let cool to room temp and add to the Everclear. You can serve immediately or place in the freezer to chill.
I store my limoncello in the freezer so it’s always very chilled. Because I use Everclear (151 proof), it will not freeze. Do not substitute for vodka or it will become too weak and diluted when adding the water and sugar.
Keywords: how to make limoncello, limoncello recipe
Can’t wait to try this recipe.
Question: If you start with 151 proof Everclear, after you have diluted it with the simple syrup, do you know what proof it becomes? Thanks!
good question. I’m really not sure but if I had to guess it would still be high around 90-120 proof.
The steeping process needs to be in a dark/fresh cupboard or can it be left on the counter?
I left mine on the counter. Any room temp place is fine. I prob wouldn’t put it some place too hot or too cold. A little sunlight is OK.
As an organic farmer, I have to dispel the myth of “no pesticides, no fungicides, no herbicides”. In order to sell commercially these are all used. Granted the products are organic, but still carry warning labels and are designed to kill insects, fungus and weeds. Ironically, many of the same products are used by non-organic operations. All are regulated by the USDA and require an applicators license to apply. WASH and SOAK all produce for 10 minutes in 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water, rinse well. If you have any questions regarding how these products are used, please talk to an organic farmer who raises commercial crops (crops sold in grocery chains and certified organic). Most will gladly answer your questions.
That’s good to know about the vinegar and wtr soak, thanks
great comment to great recipe, thanks all!
Can I allow the lemon peels to steep in Everclear longer than 7 days?
You can, but not sure there is a benefit to exceed 2 weeks. Try it and let me know what you think!
If I made this and forgot to heat the sugar and water (I was very tired that day!!) can I do that now with the everclear mixed in? It is absolutely delicious, but very thick.
Hey Christina – could you clarify? Are you talking about heating the entire everclear mix with water, lemon, and unmelted sugar?
I’ve never run into this so I cant say how that would turn out. You could try it as I can’t imagine it’s very good with sugar floating around.
Yes, heating the entire mixture together as I just mixed the water and sugar together. I let the sugar dissolve quite a bit, but it is really thick to drink. It is still really good, so I am curious as to how much better it would have been, had I followed all the directions!!
How many bottles did this make?
Hi Janette – this makes about 2 750 ML bottles, maybe a little more.
I’ve lived in California all my life–and had both Meyer and “regular” (Eureka) lemon trees. In my experience they both come is all sorts of sizes! But (also in my experience) Meyers are sweeter (well, actually, less sour) than Eurekas. So if you are using Meyers, you might have to adjust the sugar. The zest would depend on the size of the lemons you actually have in front of you.