My kingdom for a lemon tree.

For our honeymoon my wife and I went to Venice. While there, among other things, we discovered two types of liquor, grappa and limoncello. I will talk about grappa some other time, but it can be compared to a silver tequila, sort of. What we really liked though was the limoncello, especially after a meal as a digestif. So along with bags of Arborio rice, Sambuca, capers packed in salt, and amaretti cookies I found a small area to fit a bottle of this spirit.

Naturally, after we returned to the states and ran out of the small supply we bought, a search commenced for a new supply at our local booze retailers. We found quite a few options but after trying them all discovered none came close to the taste from Italy. Some were too sweet, some not lemony enough, and some were just foul. So I decided to make it myself. After three misadventures I finally succeeded with an old Italian recipe my wife found handwritten in the back of a cookbook at a yard sale. With a few tweaks I had my first batch of limoncello.

A couple of important notes. For the container it is imperative it be made of either glass or ceramic, have a good seal and hold around 3-3 ½ liters of liquid (12 ½ cups). I found mine (pictured) at Michaels for around $15 seven years ago and on a recent trip saw the same type still for sale. Pick the lemons for the quality of the peel only. Try not to get any bruised or spotted ones. I usually juice the leftover lemons and store the strained liquid in the fridge. It keeps for over two months if all the pulp is removed. Some states do not sell pure grain alcohol but instead a 160 proof knock off. If this is the case lower the amount of sugar to equal the amount of water in the simple syrup. One of these states is Nevada, which is amazing since just about everything else there is legal. Another is Utah, but then that really should not be a surprise to anyone. Limoncello is best served cold and poured over ice. I keep a liter bottle full in the freezer and refill it as needed from a larger storage jug in the pantry. It will keep forever once finished in a cool dark cabinet or room.


  • 36-40 normal lemons
  • 1.5 Liters pure grain alcohol
  • 5 ½ cups water
  • 6 cups sugar
  • Large 3+ liter container

Wash lemons and dry completely. Make sure to remove any dirt, adhesive or writing on skin. Using a potato peeler remove the rind only of each one. Try and have as little pith (white part) on the back of the strips. Place in container. Peel should loosely fill up to 1/3 of the way. Pour in grain alcohol. Seal and place in a cool (68-70 degrees) dark area. Store for 13 days agitating (shaking) it once a day. On the 13th day mix sugar and water together in a large pot. Bring to a boil and then remove from heat. Cool completely. Strain lemon liquor into simple syrup. Discard lemon rind. Mix liquid together and pour back into storage container. Seal and store in same cool dark place for three weeks agitating twice a day. When time is up enjoy.

The John Daly

  • Iced Tea
  • Limoncello

Fill a glass with iced tea ¾ of the way. Top with limoncello. I came up with this idea after enjoying many an Arnold Palmer and thinking about how they could be better.

About Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide

This blog attempts to collect some of the things I try to create with food and booze. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail. My hope is to entertain and maybe help people think a little harder about what they decide to eat and drink.
This entry was posted in Rants, Spirits and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to Limoncello

  1. Misty Brown says:

    Yum… I’d like to try making this limoncello recipe. Are lemons readily available this time of year? I haven’t searched for lemons at the store lately, so I’m not sure. I’ve tried Lombardi Limoncello from the owners of the old Italian Couple restaurant in Little Rock. It was pretty tasty, but that’s the only kind I’ve tried, so I don’t have anything with which to compare it.

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  3. Loulou says:

    I love limoncello! My brother lives in Italy and I visit him often and I always look forward to limoncello after dinner. Thanks for the recipe. Will try it when I get the chance to!

  4. jmbtruefood says:

    Limoncello is lovely as an after-dinner drink, and you’re right, the Italians really know the best technique for making it. And then again, maybe it tastes best after an Italian dinner. Thanks!

  5. New Pi Eats says:

    Oh, there is nothing better than good limoncello after a good Italian supper… in Italy! I’ve been meaning to try to recreate it in America. Thanks for the inspiration.

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  12. myblogject says:

    You make limoncello. Wow. Just… Wow.

  13. Sara says:

    Does “cool dark place” include fridge? I never know…

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  18. I love limoncello and I know what you mean, the ones we get here are too sweet, thanks for this recipe, I feel a Christmas batch coming on!! Gorgeous picture too that light is lovely behind, inspiriing!!

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  20. Susie says:


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  22. Rebecca says:

    I realize this is an old blog, however thought you might be interested in a recipe I came across a few years back for Crema de Limoncello. It’s heavenly!! I usually steep my lemons (or oranges for orangecello) for a couple of weeks (6 or so) to get the most amount of flavor out of the peels. Try this recipe it’s decadent and a great after dinner dessert drink. This is also a great gift to give family & friends. You can buy the bottles online.

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