If you enjoy making liquor in your kitchen rather than buying it, mix up one of these homemade limoncello recipes. It's a refreshing drink served plain or used to brighten up other beverages and desserts.
Like many old drink recipes, the story is that the original limoncello was developed to aid in digestion. Vincenza Canale was an innkeeper on the Amalfi coast on the island of Capri who created the liqueur in her kitchen right before the turn of the 20th century. She served it to her guests as a complimentary after-dinner treat and it was so well received that the Canale family soon began bottling and selling it under the name Limoncello di Capri. It remains one of the best selling limoncellos in the world.
Homemade Limoncello Recipes
One of the best things about making limoncello at home is the simplicity of the recipes and the availability of the limited and simple ingredients. There are variations on the original theme based on available time and individual tastes.
Genuine Italian Limoncello
- 1 liter (about 4 1/4 cups) Everclear 190 proof grain alcohol
- 10 medium to large lemons
- 1 1/2 liters (about 6 3/4 cups) water
- 3 pounds (6 1/2 cups) sugar
- Wash the lemons in hot water and gently scrub them with a vegetable brush to remove residue like wax, dirt and pesticides.
- Carefully remove the lemon rinds with a vegetable peeler; avoid cutting into the bitter, white pith.
- Place the rinds into a large jar or container with the alcohol and cover.
- Let the mixture sit undisturbed and unrefrigerated for seven days.
- On day eight, strain the mixture into a bowl through a fine sieve lined with damp cheesecloth or a damp coffee filter, and then discard the peels.
- Mix the sugar and water together in a saucepan and bring to a simmer.
- Keep the mixture at a full simmer for 15 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and let the syrup cool to room temperature.
- Add to the flavored alcohol and store in an airtight bottle in either the freezer or refrigerator.
Americanized Limoncello Recipe
Whether based on drama, flavor, or a combination of the two, the Americanized version of the limoncello recipe takes much longer to prepare and offers the option of using vodka instead of grain alcohol.
- 15 lemons
- 2 (750 ml) bottles 100-proof vodka or 1 (750 ml) bottle of Everclear (190-proof) alcohol
- 4 cups granulated sugar
- 5 cups filtered tap or distilled water
- Thoroughly wash and dry the lemons.
- Peel the lemons with care and avoid cutting into the bitter white pith.
- Mix the lemon peels with the alcohol in a large glass or porcelain container with a lid.
- Secure the lid and set aside at room temperature for a minimum of ten days and a maximum of 40 days in a cool, shaded place.
- Combine the sugar and water and bring to a gentle boil.
- Boil over medium low heat for five to seven minutes and then set aside to cool.
- Add the syrup to the lemon and alcohol mixture and age for another ten to 40 days.
- Strain the mixture through a cheesecloth or coffee filter-lined sieve and pour into bottles.
- Store in the freezer or refrigerator.
Variations on the Theme
It is common to tweak homemade limoncello recipes for variety and to appeal to different palates.
Follow the same steps as for Italian or American limoncello, but replace the lemons with the same number of fresh oranges.
Vanilla Limoncello Recipe
If the tartness of citrus makes you pucker, add vanilla beans to smooth out the bite of the original limoncello recipe.
- 30 lemons
- 5 vanilla beans, split
- 2 750 ml bottles 100-proof vodka
- 4 cups sugar
- 5 cups water
Follow the same instructions as the Italian Limoncello recipe, and add the vanilla pods and vanilla seeds scraped from the interior to the lemon peel and alcohol mixture before aging.
It's Your Serve
All versions of limoncello can be served straight from the freezer or refrigerator, with or without ice. Keep in mind that aficionados of limoncello insist Italians would never water down the treat with ice, and they claim the vodka version lacks the kick of the grain alcohol recipe. The liqueur also dresses up a bowl of ice cream or frozen yogurt, mixes nicely with sparkling wine or Champagne, and can be used as an ingredient in cocktails.