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
What makes the limoncello cloudy?
Ha – not sure! It happens when you add the simple syrup (which is also clear), to the lemon/Everclear mix. Must be some sort of reaction between the lemon and sugar. Just like lemonade.
I could only find everclear 190 proof, what do I need to do to get it down to 151 proof?
That’s a tough one. I’m shooting in the dark here but my only suggestion would be to dilute your everclear with a cup or 2 of water. That will help bring it down.
Everclear is 190 proof, the OP must have had a typo.
Not a typo – Everclear is bottled at 190 and 151 proof. I use 151.
I looked up a recipe for limoncello so I could use my Meyer lemons. In a commit above you said the Meyer lemons were smaller than traditional (grocery store) lemons. From what I’ve always seen the Meyer lemons are much larger! So now I’m confused as to how many lemons to use???♀️ One way or the other I’m making this recipe!!! Sounds awesome and easy!!!
Hi Ann – it’s really hard for me to say because I’m not in the kitchen with you and I don’t know what your lemons look like, or how big they are. In a quick google, it said Meyers lemons are typically smaller. But, if yours are larger, then I’d just use your best judgement and maybe leave out 1-2 lemons from the suggested amount based on the recipe. See what happens. You could also buy 10 organic lemons and make 2 batches and see what you like best – I’d love to hear how the expirement turns out!
Thank you for sharing this recipe! I’m just about too add the simple syrup. First time making Limoncello
Hi Shawn! I love the recipe – am looking forward to making it. I fell in love with limoncello in Italy a few years ago. My absolute favorite was Limonoro in Sorrento. A guy we met raved about it and we agreed with him that it was far and away the best.
Others may have the same conundrum as me: grain alcohol in California is limited to 60% alcohol (120 proof I think). The guy at the liquor store says it will still work, but I need to let the lemon peels sit in the alcohol for 3 weeks. Does that sound right to you?
Also, are Meyer lemons good for this recipe?
I’m planning to make limoncello for welcome baskets for guests at a vacation rental, so I really want to be sure my outcome will be good before I make tons of it! But my lemons are really ripe now and I’m not sure they’ll wait three weeks.
Thanks so much! I’m trying to make my welcome gifts to keep costs down and hopefully make them special, too.
Hi Suzanne – I’m not sure about meyer lemons. I’ve never used them and I realize they’re smaller than a traditional lemon. You could try – I just can’t speak to the outcome.
Regarding 3 weeks – I’ve never tried this long. I will say 7 days did the trick for me. It tasted just as good if not better than any limoncello I’ve ever purchased. The 120 proof is prob fine if it’s your only option. It’s at least more powerful than vodka. you could always do a little less simple sugar and do a taste test before adding more!
Can you juice the lemons and use some or all instead of the water? I grow my own Meyer lemons and this was a bumper year.
I’ve never tried this so I can’t recommend it.
I see you refer to the number of lemons used. My lemons are right from picking and are smaller than the grocery store size. Would you suggest adding a couple of more zested lemons? ( or less sugar? )
Looking forward to making this!!!!!!
I would say more lemons. It’s hard for me to say because I can’t see the lemons but use your best judgement and maybe add extra 3-4 lemons depending on how much smaller.
This is Exactly how my grandfather taught me how to make Limoncello 40 years ago however he always said that letting it age 90 days in the freezer was key…. I dont know if that’s true it NEVER makes it that long
I make my simple syrup with lemon juice instead of water. I may try limoncello that way! It makes a great lemon drop martini!!
interesting! I’d imagine that’s perfect for a lemondrop.
Sounds like your grandfather knew exactly what he was doing. I’ve always stored in the freezer so I’m not sure how it would taste leaving in a cabinet but I think it’s the way to go.
the last time (also 1st time) I made limoncello it was, i thought, tooooo sweet. was that perhaps because i used vodka instead of Everclear?
Certainly could have contributed. That and how much sugar was used of course. Everclear is MUCH stronger so it would be a major factor. This recipe is refreshing but definitely not too sweet.
😉 OMG! I need to make this! I made a batch years ago but because we were all “sampling” some other libation…..too much pith got into the mix. Bleh!
PS – I store almost all my liquor in the freezer.