Limoncello (Lemon Liqueur)

Limoncello (Lemon Liqueur)

The Spruce / Sonia Bozzo

Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 10 mins
Infusing Time: 960 hrs
Total: 960 hrs 25 mins
Servings: 60 servings

Limoncello is a delicious lemon liqueur native to Southern Italy. Limoncello can be quite pricey but you can make your own limoncello at home with this simple recipe. Put it in a nice bottle, add a handmade tag and it makes a beautiful gift. Use organic lemons if possible because only the peel is used and you want to avoid any unnecessary coating or pesticides.

Making the liqueur takes little time in your kitchen, but you need to plan ahead as the steeping time will be 40 to 80 days. Be sure you have a secure cool, dark place to store 1-gallon glass jar used for steeping.

You won't need any fancy equipment to make limoncello, but you will need a narrow-neck funnel, fine-mesh strainer, and four 1-liter bottles for bottling.

Ingredients

  • 15 lemons (organic)
  • 2 (750-milliliter) bottles grain alcohol (Everclear or another 151- or 190-proof grain alcohol)
  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • 9 1/2 cups water (divided)

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Limoncello (Lemon Liqueur) ingredients

    The Spruce / Sonia Bozzo

  2. Wash a 1-gallon glass jar and lid in hot, soapy water and dry thoroughly. Alternatively, run the jar and lid through the regular cycle of your dishwasher.

    wash and dry jar

    The Spruce / Sonia Bozzo

  3. Scrub the lemons in warm water and pat dry.

    lemons in a bowl, lemons on a towel

    The Spruce / Sonia Bozzo

  4. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the peel from each lemon in wide strips. Be careful not to remove the white pith, which will impart a bitter flavor to the limoncello.

    remove lemon peel with a vegetable peeler

    The Spruce / Sonia Bozzo

  5. Place the lemon peels in the prepared jar and pour in 1 bottle of the alcohol.

    add lemon peels to a jar with alcohol

    The Spruce / Sonia Bozzo

  6. Push down the lemon peels with a wooden spoon to completely submerge them in the liquid.

    lemon peels and alcohol in a jar

    The Spruce / Sonia Bozzo

  7. Tightly secure the lid and set the jar in a cool, dark place to steep. Stirring is not necessary.

    lemon peels and alcohol in a jar

    The Spruce / Sonia Bozzo

  8. After 20 or 40 days, add the second bottle of alcohol to the mixture.

    add alcohol to the lemon peel and alcohol mixture in the jar

    The Spruce / Sonia Bozzo

  9. Place the sugar and 7 1/2 cups of the water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

    sugar and water in a saucepan

    The Spruce / Sonia Bozzo

  10. Decrease to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes to ensure that all the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from the heat and cool.

    sugar and water mixture in a saucepan

    The Spruce / Sonia Bozzo

  11. When the sugar syrup is completely cool, add it to the lemon and alcohol mixture in the jar.

    syrup added to the lemon mixture in the jar

    The Spruce / Sonia Bozzo

  12. Tightly secure the lid, and return the jar to a cool, dark place to steep for an additional 20 to 40 days. Over time, the liquid will absorb the flavor from the lemon peels and turn bright yellow in color.

    lemon alcohol mixture in a closed jar

    The Spruce / Sonia Bozzo

  13. To bottle, first wash the bottles in hot, soapy water and dry thoroughly. Alternatively, run the bottles through the regular cycle of your dishwasher.

    clean and dry bottles

    The Spruce / Sonia Bozzo

  14. Strain the liquid through a fine-mesh strainer, or coffee filter set in a strainer, into a large bowl.

    strain the lemon alcohol into a bowl

    The Spruce / Sonia Bozzo

  15. Add 1 2/3 cups of water to the limoncello if you used 151-proof grain alcohol; add 2 cups of water if you used 190-proof. (Note: The addition of the water will turn the liquid cloudy and pale yellow in color. This is the desired outcome.)

    add water to the limoncello mixture in the bowl

    The Spruce / Sonia Bozzo

  16. Let it rest for a moment so that any remaining sediment will fall to the bottom of the bowl.

    Limoncello in a bowl

    The Spruce / Sonia Bozzo

  17. Using a narrow neck funnel, ladle the limoncello into the prepared bottles, leaving 1-inch headspace. Wipe the rims clean and secure the lids.

    limoncello poured into bottle

    The Spruce / Sonia Bozzo

  18. Serve after dinner as a sipping beverage and enjoy.

    Limoncello (Lemon Liqueur) in a bottle

    The Spruce / Sonia Bozzo

Storing

Store the bottles in a cool, dark place, or keep in the freezer until ready to serve. Limoncello will keep for several years.

Tips

  • Tie each bottle with raffia or ribbon and attach a gift card. To turn this into a gift basket, add a set of cordial glasses.
  • Add a fun tag that says: "This homemade Limoncello was bottled on [give date] and can be enjoyed for several years to come. Store it in the freezer, and enjoy it as a refreshing liqueur to sip after dinner."

This recipe is reprinted with permission from Gifts Cooks Love by Diane Morgan and Sur La Table (Andrews McMeel 2010). (Buy on Amazon.)