Homemade Limoncello Recipe

Homemade Limoncello Recipe

Written by Becky

Three months ago my friend Carol and I started the process of making homemade limoncello.  After three gatherings in the process, a pile of lemons completely hulled, all of our cuticles burning, and almost a bit tispy from taste testing, we’re finally done.

Making limoncello is a family event.  Carol’s two girls even helped by zesting a pile of lemons. They, however, made homemade lemonade for their final product . Here are a few pictures of the process, special thanks to Carol, Tom, Laney, and Natalie for helping!

homemade limoncello

homemade limoncello recipe

homemade limoncello

homemade limoncello

Limoncello is the perfect sipping drink for the summer time.  As Josh pulls out some whiskey to sip on a late summer evening, I grab for a little limoncello over ice.  This recipe has much less sugar than most, letting more of the citrus flavor shine.  If you happen upon lemons in bulk you should definitely try this recipe.  Though it does take a while for the complete process, its not too difficult and so rewarding to have some homemade liquor on hand to share with friends.

Hoemmade Limoncello Recipe

Homemade Limoncello Recipe

Here's a step by step recipe for making homemade limoncello. 
Total Time 1 hour
Course Drinks
Cuisine Italian
Servings 10 small bottles


  • 2 750 ml Vodka bottles high quality 100 proof, 1.5 liters
  • 18 organic lemons ratio is 6 lemons per half liter
  • 3.5 cups sugar
  • 5 cups water
  • bottles


First Stage- Lemon Zest + Vodka

  • Wash lemons then zest the lemons and set aside. Filter the vodka (unless you bought already filtered). You can use a water filter for this. Combine zest and liquor into one gallon glass jar, screw lid on tight.

Second Stage- Adding Sugar

  • 45 days later, shake the zest/vodka mixture up. Make simple syrup by boiling the sugar with the water until the sugar is dissolved. Add half of the simple syrup then taste and add additional syrup to taste. (I ended up only adding half of the simple syrup and it was sweet enough for me). You can always add more sweetness as you make cocktails with the limoncello later.

Final Stage - Filtering

  • 45 days later, filter the liquor through a screen mesh or permanent coffee filter, then through an unbleached paper coffee filter. Sterilize the bottles you plan on storing the liquor in. Pour the lemoncello into the prepared bottles using a funnel to prevent a mess. Finally, pour yourself a drink or hop in the car to deliver some lemoncello to your closest friends.

Note that we also tried a Meyer Lemon batch that ended up tasting like kitchen cleaner.  So, go for the regular lemons and save your Meyers for a sweet dessert!

Comments (87)

  1. Thank you for posting this! Limoncello is one of those great housewarming/hostess gifts, and home-made makes it that much more special. I’ve been meaning to try making it for ages, and this recipe looks like a great one to try out.

  2. oh this looks great! I fell in love with limoncello on my first trip to Italy, and make sure to buy some when I go back, its been a while and I am out so maybe making it myself will be my next project!

  3. Looks soo good !!! We love Limoncelo and I think I am going to try make it myself. I just hope to find good quality lemons…Thanks for the recipe 🙂

    • Just a little note on sweetness. You can make the whole suggested quantity of simple syrup but then only use about half of it then add in small amounts to your taste preference. We stopped at half of the amount because we prefer it less sweet.

  4. Nice! I posted a recipe for limoncello at: http://sarahsjoys.com/2012/04/02/limoncello/ It is the best batch I have ever made but after returning form Europe, where I sampled the real stuff again I think mine is a little bit too thick. I think I am going to rework the recipe and maybe try your ratio of 3.5 cups of sugar to 5 cups of water. I did find the Everclear is much better for making it though! You CAN get it in Utah….just have to ask the staff at the liquor store. They keep it behind the counter at the register! 😉

    • Thanks for the tip Sarah. Also, we used half of the simple syrup that is in the recipe so ours is much less sweet than most. I figure you can always sweeten it up later!

  5. I recently purchased meyer lemons from my local farmers market and was looking for a Lemoncello recipe so thanks and I look forward to making this. A restaurant I frequent serves a Lemoncello Lemonade which includes lemoncello, raspberry liqueor (like Chambord), lemonade, vodka and a splash of lemon-lime soda.

    • You limoncello lemonade sounds amazing! I will warn you thought that I tried a small batch meyer lemon limoncello and it ended up tasting like kitchen cleaner. But if yours turns out, I’d love to hear your recipe!

  6. I have had italian lemon & orange sodas which are delicious…can you put a non-alcoholic twist on this for those of us who don’t drink? Thanks!

  7. The problem with using meyer lemons is that the zest layer is so thin, if you use a fine grater like pictured above, you’re bound to get a lot of pith too. And the longer the limoncello sits (45 days!), the more bitterness from the pith will get pulled out.

    The best way to use meyer lemons for limoncello is to use a vegetable peeler to zest the lemons and scrape off the white parts with a knife.

  8. Wonderful recipe! Been meaning to make this for awhile now and love the sound of your recipe. Where did you get your bottles if you don’t mind sharing?? They are adorable and would be perfect for gift giving. thanks again!

  9. I too love the bottles. I would love to make the Limoncello but I MUST have those bottles!! I looked on Amazon and don’t see them. Do you remember what they are called?

    Thanks so much.

  10. First let me echo all the previous comments RE: the bottles – they are gorgeous! What great packaging they would make for gifts!

    Second (and I apologize if these have been asked/answered previously) – how long will this limoncello last? Should it be kept refrigerated (or at least out of direct sunlight)?

    Also- I read through the recipe a few times and if I’m reading it correctly, you’re only using the lemon zest and not the juice – is that correct?

    And – where should the mixture be stored while it’s sitting? Should it be refrigerated, or will the back of the pantry be okay?

    Apologies for all the questions – if you can’t tell, I’m really excited to make a batch of my own!!!

    • LeeAnn,
      First, thanks for stopping by and second, you are always more than welcome to ask questions here!!

      You don’t have to keep this refrigerated but I would keep it in a cool dark place. We actually don’t have AC in our house so it gets pretty hot so we have kept ours in the refrigerator. It will last for a couple months in the refrigerator or in a cool/dark place.

      While its sitting keep it in a cool dark place as well. Basement or something like that.

      And yes, no juice, just zest. You will have A LOT of extra lemons so be prepared to make lemonade for the neighborhood!


    • correct!! You do not refrigerate. After the limoncello has been made you may refrigerate but during the process just store it in a dark cool place.

  11. Hi! I’m so excited to try this recipe! Quick question – how much does it make? I know it depends on bottle size, but did it make 7 of your bottles (going off the picture?). Thanks!

    • I actually made a huge batch, like tripling (at least) the recipe, but this recipe should produce at least 6 small bottles.

  12. We have been making limoncello for several years now and I would not reccommed zesting the lemons baecause you get to much pith. However if you can find an old time potato peeler like your mother used it works great for peeling your lemons. peel in long strips if possible and put in your jars and cover with vodka. Also we package ours in small bottles , glass is best but plastic will work, and we freeze them and use as needed. This works great for us as our crops of lemons come on all at once and we are sometimes overwelmed with the produce. Just take the bottle out of the freezer a few hrs before serving. We have found that the best lemon is the Ponderosa lemon and it used about 6 of the big ones. It seems to have the most intense lemon flavor. We have our whole neighborhood hooked on Limoncello. We also started some Key Limcello and anxious for it to be ready.

  13. I have some limoncello and apple pie? made with Everclear 5 years ago that was sitting high on a shelf in a kitchen. Will it poison anyone at this stage?????

  14. I just zested the lemons. I hope I did not get too much pith. Now it is resting for 45 days in a cool place (as cool as I can get it in my house), wrapped in foil to block the light. I only have 25 days after I add the syrup to let it rest. I guess I will have to take it in the car on our drive to Illinois and filter it there! I hope it turns out ok—-I have read that it should not be disturbed while it is resting! it sounds very good!!!

    • You would probably be okay to just continue to let it rest while on your trip then filter it afterwards. Let me know if you have any other questions along the way!

  15. Bercky, I am having problems with waxing the top of my bottles, have tried sealing wax, candle wax and parifin wax and I still get leaks. I got my bottles at Michaels with the corks. If I would seal over these ones that are leaking with more wax will they mold?Just don’t know what to do next. Thank you Jeannie

  16. I don’t even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was good. I do not know who you are but certainly you’re
    going to a famous blogger if you are not already 😉 Cheers!

  17. So I think I might be a little crazy but I’m planning on making limoncello as the favors for my wedding in November! On Friday my sisters, mom, and friends are having a “lemon zesting party”. We plan on making enough for 300 5oz bottles(crazy right?). I bought 150 lemons and 300 bottles but I’m stumped on where to find glass jars large enough to store this much limoncello! Any tips/advice would be more than appreciated!

    and btw great blog!!

    • Dina, I would just use the vodka bottles that you buy for the ingredients to store the limoncello or you could buy a carboy (what is used in beer making). Hope that helps!

  18. I use 200 proof alcohol the cut it with 100 proof vodka. I then add lemon juice and sugar water to give me a final about 100 proof. I put it into plastic juice bottles and then into the freezer for 24 hours. It should not freeze or get thick. If it does add more alcohol. We keep the bottles in the freezer. When we have our annual Christmas party it’s the hit of the evening. They like it better than the store bought lemon chello. I watched it being made in Almalfe using their wonderful lemons. Considering the quantities they were making I don’t think while might be a lot stronger, I am not far off.

  19. The lemons there (Almalfi))are like small grape fruits and are sweet. I think it has a lot to do with the flavor. Think about going. We rented a villa for 7 days. It had 8 bedrooms all with baths, swimming pool, hot tub, caretaker came by everyday to bring us fresh lemons and pastries. It was in a renovated 15th century tower overlooking the Med.. The cost per room was about $100 a day. We are Italian and we cooked every night and ate outside surrounded by candles. Yes we had. Lemonchello and great wine, bread, sea food and memories.

  20. Becky, I’m trying to make my first batch of Limoncello with your recipe and want to know if it is normal for the mixture to turn a rusty color?

  21. Becky,

    is there such a thing as using to many lemons? I made two batches one with 17 lemons and watched as the color started to change, maybe I should have strained the peels instead of wait the 45 days and another with a case of lemons that turned rusty brown real fast before 8-10 days?

  22. Becky,
    This is the exact recipe I use and the best I have found. One thing that I bought to make the zesting easier is the Ped Egg. It’s designed for your feet but had the idea when I saw it that it would work great for zesting and it does. You can buy them online for about 2 for $10. If you decide to use them for your feet too, don’t tell your friends!

  23. Becky, I was using a high grade alcohol(190)proof and I should have kept an eye on the batch as it turn brown in my earlier tries, my next batch will be with a 150 proof now that I found a place that carries it. I’m very happy with this batch!

  24. Try it using oranges…fabulous. The true Italian way is to use grain alcohol but it isn’t readily available everywhere. Also, it will be easier to strain if you use a veggie peeler and take off only the zest…..absolutely no pith as it won’t taste good. Enjoy

    • Vickie, I can’t find the exact ones we got back when we made this recipe but I found some similar ones when I searched for small glass bottles with a cork on amazon. Hope that helps!

  25. I read alot of Limoncello recipes, but decided to try yours. I live in FL and have a Meyer lemon tree, and lots of lemons, so I used them, and it turned out sooooo
    Good!! I used vodka in the first batch, and grain Alcohol in the second batch. We like the second one better, so I mixed the two together, and it is fantastic! Our lemons are organic, because we don’t spray them, so I just washed them good, and peeled them with a
    vegetable peeler.. It is made by Victorinoz, and is so
    easy to peel thin strips. The Meyers have thin skin, soit is great to be able to make thin peels, and no pith.
    The grain alcohol is higher in alcohol content, so the Limoncello doesn’t freeze.. Thank you for sharing your recipe.

  26. I’m trying for the first time, comparing 4 methods: suspending lemons in cheesecloth over Everclear, suspending over regular Vodka; and putting zest in Everclear and zest in regular Vodka. All different colors so far, but the suspended lemons over the vodka appear to be turning black. Not sure I like this development. Any advice?

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