Limoncello ~ Lemon Liqueur

Several glasses partially filled with limoncello on a silver platter, with a bottle of limoncello in the background.

Limoncello is made in homes all over Southern Italy, where lemon trees grow in abundance. Less familiar outside Southern Italy is rosolio di limone, a digestivo, or after-dinner drink. Both rosolio and limoncello are served cold; once you’ve opened a bottle, store it in the refrigerator or freezer. The alcohol will prevent it from freezing solid. Here in California, I use Meyer lemons from my garden, but you can use any variety. Look for lemons that haven’t been sprayed or waxed, the fresher the better.–Rosetta Costantino and Jennie Schacht

LC Lousy With Limoncello Note

As one of our recipe testers noted, until now, we’d always dispensed our limoncello in stingy pours so as not to demolish our precious stash too quickly. But knowing we can make our own changes that. Given that it’s made with 151-proof hooch, we’re not so certain that’s a good thing. Gulp.

Limoncello | Lemon Liqueur

  • Quick Glance
  • (1)
  • 30 M
  • 22 D
  • Makes 48 (1/4-cup) servings
5/5 - 1 reviews
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Remove the zest from the lemons in wide strips with a vegetable peeler, taking only the yellow part and carefully avoiding even the slightest bit of underlying white pith, which would turn the limoncello bitter. Reserve the zested lemons for another use.

Pour the alcohol into a clean quart (1-liter) jar with a tight-fitting lid, such as a European-style canning jar with a rubber gasket and clamp lid. Add the lemon zest, close the jar, and let it steep in a cool, dark place, such as a pantry or cellar, for 1 week.

After the alcohol has steeped for 1 week, stir the sugar and water together in a large saucepan over low heat until the sugar dissolves completely. The mixture should be clear. Remove from the heat and let cool completely. (Do not be tempted to rush into the next step; if the sugar syrup is not completely cool, your limoncello will be cloudy.)

Remove the lemon zest from the alcohol and discard. Pour the infused alcohol into the sugar syrup and stir to combine. Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth, then decant the limoncello into clean bottles and seal with a cork or lid of some sort.

Let the limoncello mature for 15 days in a cool, dark place, then refrigerate. Serve chilled.

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    Tuxedo Variation

    • Rosolio di Limone
    • Tux variation

      For a sweeter, less puckier (oh, you know what we mean) version of limoncello called rosolio di limone, follow the instructions above, but instead use 6 cups water and 4 cups (800 g) sugar in place of the stated 4 cups water and 2 cups sugar. Let the liqueur sit for the same amount of time.

    Recipe Testers' Reviews

    Who knew it was so easy to make your own liqueur? I made the limoncello recipe, and I found this to be a little less bitter than some of the limoncello I've bought. The process is very simple. It's just the waiting that's hard. I like limoncello by itself as an after-dinner drink, and I also spike lemonade with it. I want to try this recipe with other citrus when they're in season.

    I've never made an infused vodka before, and I found the process to make the rosolio di limone fascinating. I didn’t have a chance to get to the liquor store to pick up Everclear, so I used vodka. I admit I used the cheap vodka I had on hand, and we love the result. The rosolio, after a full three weeks of aging is sweet, tart, and slightly bitter (in a good way) lemon goodness. I might just love the aroma more than the flavor, but my husband is a true fan. I'm already thinking up recipes we can use it in.


    #leitesculinaria on Instagram If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.


    1. Limoncello GlassesI think you have an Amazon store or at least link things to Amazon. These little glasses for limoncello are so sweet, and I think people who have success with your limoncello recipe might be interested to see them.

      I haven’t made my own limoncello before, but I will try your recipe, and if it works out, I think a bottle of it with these little glasses would be lovely hostess or Christmas gifts.

    2. I bought some 4 citrus fruit ‘limoncello’ from a small restaurant on the island of Ischia off Naples and love it! So you can punch up the ordinary limoncello during the winter months.
      I will try doing this with the recipe.

    3. As an amateur distiller and veteran limoncello maker, I felt I had to add my two cents. Vodka does have a flavor profile whereas grain alcohol is neutral in profile which lends itself to a much purer lemony finish without competition. Vodka adds a flavor that, we’ll, tastes of vodka. If you can’t find grain alcohol, & must use vodka, run it through a clean Britta filter pitcher w/a fresh unused cartridge 5-10 times prior to using it in the recipe. The carbon filter does a great job of muting vodka’s flavor profile. Ever clear/grain alcohol reigns supreme here in cost, efforts, & intended nerve tonic effects. This liqueur is a must for anyone’s go to cabinet.

      1. Nick, genius. Just genius. When I was developing my recipe for Licor de Leite for my cookbook, I tried in vain to come up with a way to rid vodka of its, well, vodka-ness. I love this idea. Pure genius.

        While EverClear is supreme for this, I do need to remind readers it’s illegal in fourteen states: California, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Iowa, Michigan, New York, Nevada, Ohio, Washington, North Carolina, New Hampshire and Minnesota

        1. I’ve made limoncello with both vodka and a version of Everclear that is legal in California–the alcohol content is 75.5% (151 proof). I think the higher alcohol content does extract more flavor.

    4. I’ve made limoncello for holiday gifts for the past several years. Maybe I’m happy I couldn’t find Everclear (I’m not sure it’s available for sale in all States) since I’ve been so happy with my results and I’ve heard it can be a bit harsh? Still, what I’ve found works is finding 100 proof vodka; I think I’ve used Smirnoff but also just a simple store brand. Someone else mentioned it and it’s true…don’t waste good premium vodka on this; it isn’t necessary…but finding one with a higher proof does help to extract more flavor so that’s worthy of the effort.

      I always have some in the freezer; it’s become a staple in this house used for both cocktails and cooking!

      1. Barb, I’ve made limoncello as well as some Portuguese liquors and I’ve never used anything but 100% proof vodka. And I’ve had great results, too. Easy-peasy.

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