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Two glasses of icy limoncello and a beautiful jar full of limoncello in the background.
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4.75 from 4 votes

Limoncello (Lemon Liqueur)

Limoncello icy cold Italian lemon liqueur served as an after-dinner apéritif, drizzle on ice cream, sprinkle on fresh fruit, or make a lemon butter cream sauce for lobster or fish!
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time5 mins
Total Time25 mins
Course: Drinks & Cocktails
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: Homemade Limoncello, Limoncello, limoncello recipe
Servings: 53 1.5 ounce pours
Calories: 84kcal

Ingredients

Limoncello Ingredients

  • 10 lemons organic preferred
  • 4 cups vodka high-quality like Grey Goose
  • 3 ½ cups water
  • 2 ½ cups granulated sugar

Instructions

prep lemon peels

  • Wash the lemons with a vegetable brush and hot water to remove any residue of pesticides or wax. Pat the lemons dry.
  • Using a vegetable peeler, remove the peel from the lemons in long strips, use only the yellow outer part of the rind. The pith, or white part underneath the rind, is too bitter. Keep the lemons for another recipe.

make the limoncello

  • Add the vodka to your large jar or pitcher.
  • Place the lemon peels in the large jar or pitcher and put a lid on the jar, or cover with plastic wrap.
  • Steep the lemon peels in the vodka for 10 days at room temperature. 10 days will produce a better flavor, but 4 days is fine! (Some people leave them up to 40 days for incredible lemon flavor!)
  • After 10 days, in a large saucepan, combine the water and sugar over medium heat and bring to a gentle boil (until the sugar dissolves), about 5 -7 minutes. Cool completely.
  • Remove from heat and let the syrup cool before adding it to the Limoncello mixture of lemon peels and vodka. Pour the sugar syrup into the lemon/vodka mixture.
  • Strain the limoncello through a mesh strainer, a coffee filter, or cheesecloth. Discard the peels. Transfer to decorative clamp style bottles using a small funnel.
  • Seal the bottles and refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours and up to 1 month. Can be kept in the freezer as well, but be sure to keep the limoncello in the fridge and chill until ready to use. 

Notes

Tips to Store and Serve Limoncello:

  • Use a tall inexpensive clamp top bottle if giving as a gift, bottle, or jar with a secure lid to store in the freezer. I found some beautiful ones at Cost Plus World Market. 
  • Limoncello is best kept in the freezer until ready to serve. Serve ice cold from the freezer is THE best!
  • Limoncello is traditionally served chilled as an after-dinner digestivo. Along the Amalfi Coast in Italy, it is usually served in small ceramic glasses that are also chilled. This tradition has been carried into other parts of Italy.
  • Limoncello is also used to make various cocktails, pastry or ice cream.

What Lemons to Use?

Standard lemons are just fine, though I do recommend buying organic lemons. Since non-organic lemons are usually coated with wax, you'll get better extraction from organic lemons. Plus, alcohol will pull everything from those peels, including any pesticides or insecticides used on the lemons.
If you have access to them, Meyer lemons (see pictured below) make have an incredible sweeter flavor. You can also try other citrus fruits like grapefruits, oranges, blood oranges, and tangerines.
I've found it easiest to remove the peels with a vegetable peeler, but you can also use a microplane or a zester. Just try to get the skin alone and as little pith as possible. With the leftover lemons, you can make a batch of lemonade

How Long to Infuse Limoncello?

Infuse your lemon peels and vodka for at least 10 days or up to 40 days. Most of the lemon flavor is extracted in the first few days, but you'll also get a stronger, bolder flavor the longer you let it sit.

What Alcohol Content to Use?

A high-quality vodka (ideally 100 proof grain alcohol)  is the very best to use for making limoncello. A 100 proof vodka will extract more improved lemon oil from the peels and make the taste smooth. 80 proof vodka brands work just fine if that's what you use, and will be less expensive.
Vodka prevents mold or bacteria from growing. Once strained, this liqueur can be kept in the freezer for up to a year.

Nutrition

Calories: 84kcal | Carbohydrates: 11g | Protein: 0g | Fat: 0g | Saturated Fat: 0g | Cholesterol: 0mg | Sodium: 1mg | Potassium: 28mg | Fiber: 0g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 5IU | Vitamin C: 10.8mg | Calcium: 6mg | Iron: 0.1mg