Limoncello: Say No to Imitations by Making It Yourself at Home!

Crafted from lemon zest, alcohol, water, and sugar, this libation boasts a delightful combination of sweetness and tanginess

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By Linda Ferraro

limoncello homemade recipe

Limoncello is an Italian lemon-flavored liquor, and it has gained popularity in various parts of the world. It is often enjoyed as a digestif, served chilled in small glasses. The drink is made from lemon zest, alcohol, water, and sugar, and it has a sweet and tangy flavor.

Limoncello has become a trendy and refreshing beverage worldwide, and you can find it in many liquor stores and bars, especially those with a focus on a diverse selection of spirits and cocktails. It’s also sometimes used as an ingredient in cocktails or desserts, taking advantage of its lemony aroma and slightly sweet taste. And even its neon yellow color: it’s Italy on your taste buds. Absolutely irresistible! But making Limoncello yourself, you’ll feel like you’re on the Amalfi Coast!

Limoncello is, along with espresso, another inimitable Italian savoir-faire. Despite the “Protected Geographical Indications,” counterfeits are thriving. So, why not learn to make it yourself using the original recipe instead?

How to make homemade Limoncello?

Let’s make it clear, it’s all about its lemons. There is no real Limoncello without lemons from the Amalfi Coast: there, on the fifty kilometers of coastline classified as “UNESCO World Heritage” between Amalfi and Sorrento, lemon trees (and orange trees) are cultivated under straw pergolas on terraces, sheltered from the wind and heat, and hand-picked. Untreated lemons, needless to say.

If you live in Europe, you won’t have any trouble finding them. If you live in the U.S.A., be aware that in California similar lemons are cultivated in small quantities.

Otherwise, choose the best lemons: always organic lemons, because it’s the lemon peel that goes into making Limoncello.

Alcohol Content of Limoncello

What is the alcohol content of this exquisite liquor? Limoncello need to be made with pure alcohol at 95°. In Italy, pure alcohol at 95° is readily available; not so in some other countries. Check this in advance before buying expensive lemons.

You will find recipes on the web with 90° alcohol, but be careful: the 90° alcohol from our pharmacies is not suitable for consumption.

Making Limoncello with Fruit Alcohol

You will also find some recipes to make it with fruit alcohol or 40° alcohol. You can opt for this alcohol and adjust the recipe; it’s a bit less potent, but if done right, no one will fault your Limoncello.

What are the Ingredients You Need?

For a liter of this precious drink using 95° alcohol, you will need a little over a liter (1.3 liters): you will obtain a 45° liquor, which is a good alcohol level for a liqueur.

If you use fruit alcohol, you won’t need to reduce the alcohol content: just use half a glass of water to dissolve the sugar.

The amount of sugar also depends on the alcohol content and the corresponding amount of water: use 400g for Limoncello with 95° alcohol, 250g for Limoncello with fruit alcohol.

Feel the freshness!

The authentic Italian Limoncello recipe

To make this liquor according to the authentic Italian recipe, proceed as follows:

  • Wash the lemons and peel them with a peeler, being careful not to take any white flesh, which would make your Limoncello bitter. If necessary, cut these lemon peel pieces into strips.
  • Let these lemon peel strips macerate in alcohol for a month, in a cool and dark place (important).
  • Stir this macerate regularly so that the flavors diffuse well: the alcohol gradually replaces the water in the lemon pores.
  • After this month of maceration, filter the alcohol. Now prepare a sugar syrup by boiling sugar and water until the sugar is completely dissolved. Let it cool and mix the syrup with the alcohol.
  • All that’s left is to pour it into a bottle, let it rest for about ten days before consumption. Serve chilled.

Mistakes to avoid

Don’t use anything different from organic lemons; your Limoncello simply won’t be good and will become a maceration of pesticides. Also, don’t use those awful lemons with such thick skin that there’s no pulp inside.

Once you’ve mixed the alcohol and sugar syrup, don’t add anything else: some add lemon juice or pure alcohol, but these are two bad ideas that ruin the subtlety achieved by macerating the lemon peel strips. Store your product away from light: the essential oils from the lemon peel deteriorate in the light.

How to serve Limoncello?

Limoncello is served in small flute-shaped glasses. Served chilled. It needs to be sipped slowly, slightly warming it in the mouth.

When to serve it? It is served as an aperitif or digestif. As an aperitif, serve Limoncello like a kir, with champagne…. As a digestif, serve Limoncello with amaretti.

When outside it’s very hot, Limoncello is enjoyed as a refreshing drink, diluted with water and ice.

Recipes with Limoncello

A popular Italian recipe is the Limoncello sorbet.

Here are two options: the simplest, add a spoonful of Limoncello to your lemon sorbet preparation.

A bit more complicated (just a bit), if you follow the Italian version to the letter, add meringue to your lemon-Limoncello sorbet.

Limoncello in pastry

Use Limoncello to add subtlety to a lemon tart. Or the ultimate sin, a tiramisu. But wait, prepare these Limoncello biscotti:

  • 50g butter
  • 80g sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 250g flour
  • 1/2 packet of baking powder
  • 40ml Limoncello

Preparation: Mix the butter, sugar, and add the egg. Let this dough rest for an hour, then form small walnut-sized balls. Sprinkle them with cumin seeds. Bake in your preheated oven (180°C) for ten minutes. Ready to serve with your Limoncello.

How to Store It

You should store it in the freezer: the freezing point of alcohol is -115 degrees, so there’s no risk of it turning into ice in a freezer generally at -30 degrees. Only its watery part will form small ice flakes, making it even more enjoyable.

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