How to Make Limoncello | Italian recipe | Original recipe using Vodka

Indulge in the quintessential taste of Italy with our authentic Limoncello recipe. This time-honored recipe is Crafted with care and attention to tradition. 

Made using just 4 ingredients: Sun-kissed lemons, liqueur, water, sugar, and of course, the spirit of Italian hospitality. With vibrant flavors, this citrus delight is perfect for enjoying after any hearty meal as a digestif, or as a refreshing tipple any time!

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Table of contents:



How to Make Traditional Italian Limoncello

Ingredients

  • 10 organic medium-sized lemons (zest only)
  • 1 bottle of Vodka (around 25 oz/700 ml)
  • 1.5 cups of white sugar
  • 1 cup of water

Equipment 

  • Small scrubbing brush or steel wool
  • Microplane zester or veg peeler
  • Large jar with a lid
  • Wooden spoon
  • Kitchen cloth and elastic band
  • Fine strainer, cheesecloth, or strainer bag
  • Pegs (optional)
  • Saucepan or pot (for the sugar syrup)
  • Funnel
  • Swing top bottles

Instructions

Step 1- Scrub clean lemons

Use a small scrubbing brush or a piece of steel wool to clean the skins of the lemons. Rinse in fresh water. 

Step 2 – Zest lemons

Use a microplane (or veg peeler) to remove the zest from the lemons. Be careful to only remove the yellow skin of the lemon as the white pith will make your limoncello bitter. 

Step 3 – Combine lemon zest and liquor

In a large jar, combine the lemon zest and vodka. Mix with a wooden spoon then loosely screw the lid on and cover the jar with a kitchen cloth and hold the cloth with a rubber band. Store in a dark place. 

Step 4 – Agitate mixture and wait

Swirl every day for 2-4 weeks and it’s ready when it’s a bright lemony yellow. 

Step 5 – Strain lemon zest

Use a fine strainer or some cheesecloth to strain the zest from the liquor. Clean the jar and transfer the liquor back into the jar.

Step 6 – Make the sugar syrup and mix

In a saucepan, combine the sugar and water over medium heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. When the sugar syrup has cooled to room temperature add to the jar. Mix well and decant into bottles (swing top work best). Store in the freezer and make sure it’s been there for at least 4 hours before sampling! 

Step 7 – Serve

Serve in a chilled glass straight from the freezer.  You can also store limoncello in the fridge if you prefer and serve chilled rather than extra cold.


Cooking Tips:

  • The length of time needed to make the Limoncello will vary depending on the lemons used and the proof of your liquor. Different countries have their own standards for a spirit’s proof so it might be easier to go by alcohol percentage.. For 90% alcohol vodka, allow a two-week period minimum. For standard 40% vodka: allow 3-4 weeks for best results. Once you hit the 2 week mark, just keep checking the color every day when you give your jar a shake.
  • It’s important to use organic lemons in this recipe because your regular lemons usually come with a waxy coating on them and since you only use the peel in this recipe it’s important to get the best flavored and healthiest peel. Of course, you should still reserve the lemons to use their juice in another recipe or in tea or water. 
  • Should you see any signs of discoloration or fuzzy mold growing on the surface, discard the mixture and sanitize the bottles before starting again.

a bowl of lemons sits beside some vodka liqueur and sugar.

Origin of Limoncello

Traditional limoncello hails from Italy, however, there is no exact documentation to credit who or where limoncello was first created. Like many other liquors created around the early 20th century, it was likely it was concocted by convents or monasteries. Campania (the Amalfi Coast, Sorrento, and Capri) and Liguria (home of the Cinque Terre), claim it as their own creation.

Nowadays, there are plenty of limoncello manufacturers and it is also a popular liquor to make at home, mainly due to it containing just 3 ingredients (vodka, sugar, and lemons) and ease of production.


Best Lemons to Use for Limoncello

Traditionally, limoncello is made from the zest of Femminello St. Teresa lemons, also known as Sorrento or Sfusato lemons. However, any decent organically grown lemons will work well. As our garden has an abundant supply of fresh lemons, that is what we used! Any lemon that is juicy and ripe will work for this recipe. 

Organic lemons work best in Limoncello as they are not waxed and their zest yields a more natural flavor. Just be sure to give the lemons a scrub first to ensure you remove any dirt or grit on the skin. 

Do I need to use strong (proof) liquor?

Short answer, no. You can use normal vodka with a 40% alcohol volume. Using this type of vodka will yield comparable results, with one caveat: it takes longer. Allow an extra week or two (3-4 weeks total) for best results when using 80-proof (usually around 40% ABV) vodka.

Using a higher-proof vodka will help improve the flavor of your limoncello and will take less time to absorb the delicious lemony flavors from the lemon zest. 100-proof vodka is a good option for making limoncello. There are plenty of reputable brands that offer 100-proof vodka, albeit more expensive.

Examples of 100-Proof Vodka

Zest from fresh lemons is added to a jar with Vodka.

Best Way to Serve Limoncello

Limoncello is a popular digestif and is usually served as a shot after a meal. Limoncello is best when stored in the freezer (it won’t freeze due to the high alcohol content) and served in an ice-cold glass. It can also be used to make cocktails or enjoyed on a hot day neat over some ice.

Some more creative uses for limoncello include flavoring sorbet or ice cream, adding a subtle flavor to cakes or baked sweets, or enjoyed with a splash of sparkling water.


A large bottle of limoncello sits beside a small glass serving.

How to Make Limoncello 🍋 Italian recipe | Original recipe using Vodka

Byron
Indulge in the quintessential taste of Italy with our authentic Limoncello recipe. This time-honored recipe is Crafted with care and attention to tradition. Made using just 4 ingredients: Sun-kissed lemons, liqueur, water, sugar, and of course, the spirit of Italian hospitality. With vibrant flavors, this citrus delight is perfect for enjoying after any hearty meal as a digestif, or as a refreshing tipple any time!
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Resting time 30 days
Total Time 30 days 20 minutes
Course digestif, Drinks
Cuisine Italian, Mediterranean
Servings 1 liter

Equipment

  • Small scrubbing brush or steel wool
  • Microplane zester or veg peeler
  • Large jar with a lid
  • Wooden spoon
  • Kitchen cloth and elastic band
  • Fine strainer, cheesecloth, or strainer bag
  • Pegs (optional)
  • Saucepan or pot (for the sugar syrup)
  • Funnel
  • Swing top bottles

Ingredients
  

  • 10 organic medium-sized lemons zest only
  • 1 bottle of Vodka around 25 oz/700 ml
  • 1.5 cups of white sugar
  • 1 cup of water

Instructions
 

Step 1- Scrub clean lemons

  • Use a small scrubbing brush or a piece of steel wool to clean the skins of the lemons. Rinse in fresh water.
    10 organic medium-sized lemons

Step 2 – Zest lemons

  • Use a microplane (or veg peeler) to remove the zest from the lemons. Be careful to only remove the yellow skin of the lemon as the white pith will make your limoncello bitter.

Step 3 – Combine lemon zest and liquor

  • In a large jar, combine the lemon zest and vodka. Mix with a wooden spoon then loosely screw the lid on and cover the jar with a kitchen cloth and hold the cloth with a rubber band. Store in a dark place.
    1 bottle of Vodka

Step 4 – Agitate mixture and wait

  • Swirl every day for 2-4 weeks and it’s ready when it’s a bright lemony yellow.

Step 5 – Strain lemon zest

  • Use a fine strainer or some cheesecloth to strain the zest from the liquor. Clean the jar and transfer the liquor back into the jar.

Step 6 – Make the sugar syrup and mix

  • In a saucepan, combine the sugar and water over medium heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. When the sugar syrup has cooled to room temperature add to the jar. Mix well and decant into bottles (swing top work best). Store in the freezer and make sure it’s been there for at least 4 hours before sampling!
    1.5 cups of white sugar, 1 cup of water

Step 7 – Serve

  • Serve in a chilled glass straight from the freezer. You can also store limoncello in the fridge if you prefer and serve chilled rather than extra cold.

Video

Notes

Cooking Tips: 

  • The length of time needed to make the Limoncello will vary depending on the lemons used and the proof of your liquor. Different countries have their own standards for a spirit’s proof so it might be easier to go by alcohol percentage.. For 90% alcohol vodka, allow two weeks minimum. For standard 40% vodka: allow 3-4 weeks for best results. Once you hit the 2-week mark, just keep checking the color every day when you give your jar a shake.
  • It’s important to use organic lemons in this recipe because your regular lemons usually come with a waxy coating on them and since you only use the peel in this recipe it’s important to get the best flavored and healthiest peel. Of course, you should still reserve the lemons to use their juice in another recipe or in tea or water. 
  • Should you see any signs of discoloration or fuzzy mold growing on the surface, discard the mixture and sanitize the bottles before starting again.
Keyword digestif, digestive, lemons, limoncello, liqueur, Sugar, Vodka
A large bottle of limoncello sits beside a small glass serving.

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