Homemade Limoncello


Limoncello is the most popular liqueur in all of Italy and is increasingly popular here in the US.  But I’ve never had limoncello as delicious as homemade, where crafty individuals can manipulate the basic recipe to their own taste.

Limoncello 2

The concept of making limoncello is very simple and takes literally no skill:

  • remove the zest, being careful to leave the white pith behind,
  • pour vodka or other spirits over the zests to infuse said spirits with lemon flavor,
  • let stand generally undisturbed anywhere from a week to six weeks,
  • strain and filter the spirits,
  • combine the spirits with simple syrup,
  • let stand in the fridge or freezer for a month or more to mellow,
  • enjoy!

Watch my video for the technique.  The recipe quantities can be found below the video in this post.


15 organic lemons, free of blemishes (I’m sorry, I said 30 in the video.  15 lemons is the correct amount)

1 750ml bottle of your favorite vodka

1 750ml bottle of your favorite gin

3 c. distilled (or purified spring) water

4 c. refined granulated white sugar

Important Tips:

  • The best tool for removing the zest is vegetable peeler.  It allows you to peel off large chips that will be much easier to remove at the end of infusion.
  • If you care at all about the quality of your drink and the health of the friends you’re giving it too, take care to choose only organic lemons that appear to be in good shape.  So-called “conventional” lemon trees are prone to disease and are protected with the use of herbicides and pesticides that were never intended for human consumption.  Conventional lemons are also coated with a produce wax to enhance their appearance, and this will inhibit extraction of the oils.  Considering you are using only the zest, the outside layer that is exposed to all this, organic lemons really are the only choice for this process.
  • If any of your lemons show signs of molding, they absolutely must be thrown out.
  • The jar you use for infusion is very important. Anything but glass or stainless steel will certainly affect the taste in the end.  I prefer glass.
  • Make sure you have a good seal on your jar or too much alcohol will evaporate during the long infusion period.
  • Do not skip the filtration step in my video.  The particles left in the drink will settle to the bottom of the flask and stir up when your friends pour a glass, giving an unappetizing appearance.  I got my filter basket from these people Webstaurant Store (search for “bunn a10 funnel”) for less than $10 including shipping.  I believe you could also use a pour-over style filter basket that is available in most specialty coffee shops.  If you find a better way to filter your limoncello, please let me know in the comments below.
  • I have not experimented with alternatives for the sugar.  But I can tell you that nothing else will give the viscosity you’re looking for in a liqueur than plain refined sugar.  Again, if you find an alternative, please share it with us in the comments below.
  • Do not skimp on the water.  At least use a filter, like Brita.  I prefer distilled water.
  • I get my flasks from Specialty Bottle (search for “swing top flask”).  I get the 8.5oz. flasks.  There are other suppliers, but they’re all similar in price, so I choose based on good service, which I get from the Specialty Bottle people.
  • Store your limoncello in the freezer, it’s best enjoyed cold.  It should remain liquid in the freezer.  If it does freeze, your alcohol ratio is off.  The problem may stem from too much evaporation during the infusion process, or because you added too much simple syrup for the amount of alcohol you used.
  • Given the above, do not fool with the ratios in this recipe.  It is formulated just right so it does remain liquid in the freezer.
  • Be warned that making limoncello on a small scale is an expensive proposition.  The batch you see me make in the video cost me about $150.  And it produced sixteen 8oz. flasks.  The reward is the friends you share it with will talk about it for a long time!

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