Limoncello is an Italian liqueur, traditionally served after meals, or sometimes as a welcome drink. It’s typically served chilled at the very least, and occasionally it may be so cold that it borders on Slurpee consistency (though it has to be a lower-proof version or an extremely cold freezer to make that happen).
Generally speaking, there are only three ingredients in limoncello: sugar, spirit, and lemon. Occasionally you might find one that adds a dash of rosemary or another herb to the mix, and, if that’s your thing, we won’t judge. It’s generally clear with maybe a little cloudiness, and yes, it’s super easy to make, you just need a little patience. We typically start this process in early spring so that we will have delicious and well rested Limoncello available for those warm summer months.
This is my tried and true homemade limoncello recipe. Our family loves it as a chilled treat for hot summer days plus a beautiful bottle of Limoncello make a wonderful gift for any occasion! Enjoy!
- Zest of 6 or 7 large lemons*
- 1 litre or quart of pure grain alcohol or vodka**
- 5 cups (1250 ml) water
- 3 cups (700 gr) sugar
*Homegrown lemons are free from pesticides and wax. If using store bought lemons use hot water to remove any reside of pesticides or wax; pat the lemons dry.
** Use 100-proof vodka or pure grain alcohol, which has less flavor than a lower proof one and will be smoother. Also the high alcohol level will ensure that the limoncello will not turn to ice in the freezer.
Step 1: Wash the lemons with a vegetable brush. Carefully zest the lemons with a zester or vegetable peeler so there is no white pith on the peel. NOTE: Use only the outer part of the rind. The pith, the white part underneath the rind, is too bitter and would spoil your limoncello.
Step 2: In a large glass jar (1-gallon jar), add the vodka; add the lemon zest as it is zested. Cover the jar and let sit at room temperature for at least (10) ten days and up to (60) days in a cool dark place. The longer it rests, the better the taste will be. I do the full 60 days! As the limoncello sits, the vodka slowly take on the flavor and rich yellow color of the lemon zest. There is no need to stir – all you have to do is wait.
Step 3: In a large saucepan, combine the sugar and water; cook until thickened, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Let the syrup cool before adding it to the Limoncello mixture. Add to the Limoncello mixture from Step 2. Allow to rest for another 10 days. Again the longer it sits the better it is! For step two we like to have it rest for 30 days or more!
Step 4: After the rest period, strain and bottle: discarding the lemon zest. Keep in the freezer until ready to serve. Keep an eye out for cool corked bottles, I used an old Courvoisier bottle as seen below.
Kitchen Notes: Whenever I start a batch of limoncello, I always make a batch of lemon bars around the same time. Take the zested lemons and juice them. Strain well and bottle the juice to be used in future recipe like delicious lemon bars. Limon juice can be kept bottled in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.
STAY TUNED FOR MY FROM SCRATCH CLASSIC LEMON BARS
The limoncello itself will keep for one to two years. Store it in bottles with a cap or cork in your refrigerator or freezer. For an additional touch, serve in a chilled shot glass.
I hope you all enjoy this recipe as much as we do! If you tried this recipe, tell us what you thought in the comments below. Ciao!