Italian Limoncello Recipe

Italian Limoncello Recipe

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If you enjoy lemony treats as much as I do, you’ll love this Italian Limoncello Recipe. Italians consume this delicious drink as an after-dinner digestive, while the rest of us appreciate the intense lemony flavor with a surprising kick!

A while back I shared some exciting news that I had received from Ancestry. My results showed that I was 15% Italian-Greek. This was exciting news because I’ve always thought I was 100% Assyrian. I dreamed of all the Italian and Greek dishes I wanted to explore.

Since then they’ve updated my profile to show that in fact, I am neither Greek nor Italian. ? Although this was disappointing news, I’m not letting it keep me for exploring new recipes, like this Italian Limoncello Recipe!

What is Limoncello?

  • A lemon-infused Italian liqueur.
  • It is served in chilled shot glasses, usually after a good meal.
  • Limoncello is normally stored in the freezer.
  • Creamy limoncello (made with milk or cream) is known as “Crema Di Limoncello.”
  • You can make this delicious liqueur at home!

My Italian Limoncello Recipe

Although I’ve tasted limoncello in Italy, I don’t pretend to be an expert on the subject. In preparation for this Italian Limoncello Recipe, I watched many Youtube videos on the subject. I quickly discovered that unlike some recipes that generally have a similar process to prepare, that is not the case with Limoncello.

The ratio of alcohol to water, sugar, and lemons varied greatly! As an example, the alcohol content was anywhere from 1-1/4 cups to as much as 4 cups. Although most of the recipes included a simple syrup, some just stirred the sugar in with the alcohol, while others used honey.

I even found some recipes that add lemon juice instead of water. As usual, I let my instinct be my guide in deciding on the ingredients and proportions to use.

Italian limoncello recipe
The limoncello on the left was made with gin, the one on the right had an additional 1/2 cup of lemon juice added.

Preparing the Lemons for this Italian Limoncello Recipe

If possible, don’t use store-bought lemons since they are usually coated with wax and pesticides. However, if you don’t have access to homegrown lemons like some of us do, make sure to dip the lemons in hot water for a few seconds to melt the wax off.

If you’re lucky enough to have access to home-grown lemons, make sure to scrub them with a Vegetable Brush to remove any dirt or residue. Thick-skinned lemons, such as “Eureka” lemons, are best for this recipe. “Meyer” lemons, on the other hand, have thin-skin, and almost impossible to peel.

lemons vodka, and a mason jar
Be sure to thoroughly clean the lemons before peeling.

What Alcohol is Used to Make Limoncello? 

Another thing I discovered while doing my recipe research was that many of the recipes called for 100% proof alcohol. This was harder to find than I expected, especially since I was looking at my local grocery store. I decided to try 80% proof vodka, which had a distinct Vodka aftertaste, not so good.

Next, I tried gin, which was a lot better than the vodka. Finally, I broke down and went to the liquor store to purchase 120% proof alcohol or Everclear. At $22 a bottle, I figured this better be good! This was definitely the best of the batches I made. So save yourself the time and aggravation and just head to the liquor store for the “real stuff.”

Italian limoncello recipe

How Long Should You Steep the Lemons for Limoncello?

I was surprised by the variation in steeping length in the recipes I found.  Some called for as little as three days, some as much as 3 months, with a majority recommending 14 to 30 days.

Due to the variations in steeping time, I decided to test out the difference between steeping the lemons for 2 weeks versus 30 days. I also made a batch with added lemon juice and one without to see which was better.

There was a small difference in flavor between the batches steeped for 2 weeks versus 30 days. However, I definitely preferred the flavor of the limoncello that had the additional 1/3 cup of lemon juice.

steeping lemon peels for limoncello

Straining the Limoncello

While doing my experimental batches for this Italian Limoncello Recipe, I tried various methods of straining my lemon-infused alcohol. With my first attempt, I used a strainer. This left the Limoncello cloudy.

Since I didn’t have cheesecloth on hand (I think it’s somewhere in my Montana kitchen), I used a cotton napkin. It created a big mess, I don’t recommend it!

I also tried coffee filters, but the liquid just sat there and didn’t strain through the coffee filter. Finally, I got on Amazon and ordered these reusable Soup Bags; they are so amazing!

I just lined the inside of a large mason jar with one of the bags and poured the contents of the alcohol steeped lemon peels in. This also makes it easier to squeeze the last of the liquid and flavor out of the peels. So do yourself a favor, learn from my trial and error, and get yourself some of these bags!

straining limoncello with coffee filter
straining peels
Soup bags are perfect for straining the lemon-infused alcohol.

My Easy Italian Limoncello Recipe

Use a potato peeler to peel the lemons, making sure to only get the outer peel, then add to a large mason jar.

lemon peels in a jar

Pour two cups of Everclear over the lemon peels. Add the lemon juice, then seal the jar.

alcohol and lemon peels in a mason jar

During the next two weeks to 30 days, store in a dark place and shake to agitate the lemon zest every few days.

limoncello making process

When the appropriate time has elapsed, strain the alcohol into a clean glass jar or bottle.

straining limoncello in a jar
straining limoncello

To make the sugar syrup, add water and sugar to a small saucepan and stir to combine. Bring to a boil until the sugar dissolves, then cool.

syrup

Mix syrup with strained alcohol to combine. Never serve this drink at room temperature. Instead, be sure to serve it chilled.

limoncello and two shot glasses

For other lemony recipes, check out the following posts: Easy Lemon Bars, Moroccan Preserved Lemons, Easy Lemonade.

For more information, check out this great article called Who Invented Limoncello, Italy’s Famous Lemon Liqueur.

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5 from 4 votes
Italian limoncello Recipe
Italian Limoncello Recipe
Prep Time
30 mins
Cook Time
5 mins
Resting Time
14 d
Total Time
14 d 35 mins
 

Tasty, Italian after-dinner drink, with a lemony punch.

Course: Drinks
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 32 1 oz. shots
Calories: 114 kcal
Author: Hilda Sterner
Ingredients
  • 5 large lemons
  • 2 cups alcohol
  • cup lemon juice
  • 1-½ cups water
  • 1-½ cups sugar
Instructions
  1. Use a potato peeler to peel the lemons, making sure to only get the outer peel. The white part will impart a bitter flavor. 

  2. Add the lemon peels into a large mason jar.

  3. Pour two cups of Everclear over the lemon peels. Add lemon juice, then seal the jar.

  4. I like to write the date either on the lid, on the bottle, or the calendar. This way I know when to proceed with the next steps.

  5. During the next two weeks to 30 days, store the bottle in a dark place. Shake to agitate every few days, or whenever you remember. 

  6. When the appropriate time has elapsed, strain the alcohol into a clean bottle, using cheesecloth soup bags. 

  7. Add water and sugar to a small saucepan, and stir. Bring to a boil until the sugar is dissolved and the syrup thickens (about 5 minutes) then cool.

  8. Mix cooled syrup with strained alcohol to combine. Store in the refrigerator or freezer, and drink responsibly! 

Nutrition Facts
Italian Limoncello Recipe
Amount Per Serving (1 oz)
Calories 114
% Daily Value*
Fat 0g0%
Saturated Fat 0g0%
Cholesterol 0mg0%
Sodium 111mg5%
Carbohydrates 9g3%
Fiber 0g0%
Sugar 9g10%
Protein 0g0%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.



2 thoughts on “Italian Limoncello Recipe”

  • 5 stars
    That is a fascinating recipe Hilda! I may try it with a sugar-free alternative so it would work with my diet to remain sugar-free, Thank you! I think the soup bags would come in handy for making bone broth also.

  • Thanks, Cheryl. I did read somewhere that you can use other sugar-free sweeteners. Let me know when you need taste-testers! Also, the bags are handy for so many things! I’m planning on using them to make yogurt cheese too!

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