How to prepare Limoncello at home

Limoncello or Limoncino is one of Italy’s most popular digestifs. It is produced throughout the country and sold in nearly every Italian grocery store. Preparing your own limoncello at home is not difficult a difficult task and it will taste better than any of the industrial-produced ones.

Limoncello is a lemon zest based digestif which has been made in Italy for over a century. This come at no surprise given that Italy is the world’s largest lemon producer. The first limoncello are said to have been made along the Amalfi coast but nowadays limoncello is not only produced in Southern Italy but also on the islands Sardinia and Sicily, along the Italian Riviera and even near Lake Garda in Northern Italy. In the South, the people tend to call this lemon liquor Limoncello whereas in the North Limoncino is the more commonly used name.

In my opinion, some if not the best Italian lemons come from the Cinque Terre in the Liguria region. The Cinque Terre are composed of five small villages which sit on the sunny Italian Riviera. Not only lemons but also olives and vines find perfect growing conditions this hilly area. The locals have a long tradition of producing limoncello at home.

Limoncello Recipe

Elena - Her Ligurian CuisineThe below recipe is inspired by a cooking book with specialities from the Cinque Terre called Elena – Her Ligurian Cuisine. The book is authored by Elena of Agriturismo Barrani. Agriturismo Barrani is located in Corniglia which is one of the five towns of the Cinque Terre.

I slightly modified the recipe but I can highly recommend her cooking book as it is full with great recipes.

Ingredients 

  • 1 liter rectified alcohol (90% or 95% ABV)
  • 1.5 liters water
  • 11 large lemons, preferably unwaxed and organic. I use Cinque Terre lemons.
  • 800g sugar

Instructions

Wash 10 lemons and carefully remove their peel without removing any of the pith. The pith will make your limoncello bitter so be extra careful when peeling the lemons. Put the peel in a large jar. After peeling all 10 lemons, fill the jar with the rectified alcohol. Close the jar with a lid and store it at room temperature for two weeks in a dark place.

Two weeks later: Add sugar and water into a pot. Boil the water and stir until the sugar melts. Let the water cool off for 15 minutes. Squeeze one lemon and mix the lemon juice with the water. Pour the alcohol into the pot by filtering it through a piece of cloth. Discard the peel.

Fill your bottles with the limoncello, seal them and leave them in a dark place for a couple of days before beginning to consume it.

Limoncello

I like to use small 0.375 liter bottles as they can be stored very well and fit perfectly in my freezer.

Serving Instructions

Limoncello in glassPrior to serving the Limoncello, the bottle should spend several hours in the freezer to ensure that it is ice-cold. Works great as digestif and tastes especially delicious during summer.

Limoncello-based aperitifs also exist like the so-called Limoncello Spritz.

Limoncello Spritz

Pour 5cl of ice-cold Limoncello, 12 cl of Prosecco and 3cl of sparkling water into a white wine glass or a tall cocktail glass. Add 2-3 ice cubes. Garnish with a lemon wedge.

Do you like Limoncello? Have you prepared it at home? Let me know in the comment section below. Cheers!

6 comments on “How to prepare Limoncello at home”

  1. winetalks winetalks Reply

    Thanks for sharing this recipe. I like to drink Limoncello and had lots of it when I toured Tuscany, Abruzzo and Veneto. I’ve never thought about making Limoncello at home 😀

    • Julian Rossello Reply

      Frank,
      It’s super easy to prepare Limoncello. The hardest part is to buy the 90% ABV alcohol. I usually buy it in Italy because it’s much, much, much cheaper there than it is in Germany. In Italy they sell that in grocery stores but in Germany it’s sold only in pharmacies where it is very overpriced.
      Cheers!

  2. Suzanne Reply

    I love limoncello. For me it’s a summer staple. I use Vodka for the alcolhol and like the addition of the fresh lemon juice at the end. I have not made a bottle yet this summer, it’s time I do.

    • Julian Rossello Reply

      Suzanne,
      Substituting the rectified alcohol with vodka sounds like a good idea but I think one would have to change the amount of used water too because vodka has about half as much ABV. I’m wondering if it affects the taste though.

      Adding fresh lemon juice is something I discovered in Elena’s recipe. It gives the Limoncello a little bit of something extra I feel and I love it.
      Cheers!

  3. Michelle Williams Reply

    I love this! I know someone who makes Limoncello. I usually just buy it but now that I have a lemon tree I must give this a try! Thank you Julian!!!

    • Julian Rossello Reply

      Thanks so much, Michelle!
      With your home-grown lemons, your Limoncello should turn out to be extra delicious 🙂 Preparing it at home is easy and fun and drinking home-made Limoncello feels quite rewarding.
      Cheers!

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