Make Your Own Limoncello

Beverages

The past few months I’ve been expanding my horizons and getting acquainted with Limoncello, an Italian liqueur that up until now had been totally off my radar. And of course as soon as I get acquainted with something I start asking, “Hey, can I make my own version of this?”  And once again the answer is “Yes!”  It turns out it’s quite simple and fun to make your own homemade limoncello and it’s something anyone can do.

Homemade Limoncello Recipe - make your own limoncello with this simple method

Limoncello is a drink that Italians like to sip after their dinners to clear that palate and it’s also thought to help with digestion.  I’ve never been to Italy, but my daughter has and she confirmed that this is indeed true, and they were served little glasses of limoncello after several meals while visiting Rome and Venice.

Of course I would have very much enjoyed flying off to Venice for a taste test as research for my homemade limoncello recipe, but that didn’t happen.  Instead there was a visit to Costco.  And it wasn’t even me who went to Costco! It was my helpful friend who has a membership that saved the day when I told her I was having trouble finding a bottle of Limoncello at my usual grocery stores.

I soon discovered that Limoncello is pretty potent stuff. No wonder they serve it in those tiny glasses!  But it has a nice lemon flavor and I have several recipes pinned onto my new Limoncello Board on Pinterest so I can start trying it out in new and different ways.
Update:  Click here for my Limoncello Cookie Recipe – a great way to use your limoncello in baking!

The Basic Limoncello Recipe Method

All homemade limoncello recipes follow the same method. Vodka is infused with flavor using the peelings from lemons.  Then you add a simple syrup of sugar and water as a sweetener. It’s easy to do and only requires a little patience.

One of the first things I discovered when doing my homemade limoncello recipe research was that there’s some debate on the strength of vodka to use. Some folks highly recommend using a pure grain alcohol like Everclear that’s 120 proof saying that this strong of an alcohol is necessary because the addition of the simple syrup will water it down. Other folks, however, found Everclear to be too strong and said that just regular 80 proof vodka would work just fine.

So I decided to go halfway between the two and buy 100 proof vodka. You might have to do some extra looking around on the store shelf to find it, but the Smirnoff brand does make a 100 proof version.

How to make homemade Limoncello

Another thing I soon realized was that most limoncello recipes that I was finding made very large batches.  They started with a whole bottle of vodka, and then still added several cups of simple syrup. The final result is the equivalent of about 3 or 4 store bought bottles. That’s great I suppose if you want to make a large batch for gift giving, but for a limoncello newbie like me, that was too much.  I just wanted to make the equivalent of one 750 ml bottle at a time.

My Down-Sized Limoncello Recipe

Instead of making a large sized batch, I created my own homemade limoncello recipe that yields about 3 cups, almost exactly what you get when you buy a 750 ml bottle from the store. I used 1½ cups of vodka and the peels of 4 lemons, and made a simple syrup using 1½ cups of water and ¾ cups white sugar. The recipe uses three phases as follows:

How to make homemade Limoncello

Phase 1:  Begin by removing the peels of the lemons.  A vegetable peeler works great for this.  You want to have mostly just the yellow parts of the peels (where the oils with the lemon flavors are), avoiding as much of the white pith as possible as it can add bitterness.  Place the lemon peelings in a jar and cover them with the 1½ cups of vodka. Put a lid on your jar and then let the vodka and lemon peels sit for at least a week for the flavor to infuse into the vodka (mine set for 2 weeks). At the end of this time your vodka should be a pretty yellow color too.

How to make homemade Limoncello

Phase 2:  Make a simple syrup by combing the sugar and water in a small saucepan and heating it on the stove until the sugar is dissolved.  This should only take a couple minutes. Pour the syrup in a small bowl and then let it set for a couple of hours to cool completely.  You can even let it sit overnight if you want to. (This is why I pour it into a separate bowl . . . if I just leave it in the saucepan it seems to take sooooo long for it to cool completely.)  If there is any heat left in the simple syrup when it’s added, it can evaporate away the alcohol which you don’t want to happen.

Phase 3:  Now you will combine the infused vodka and the simple syrup.  Pour the vodka off the lemon peels into a large bottle, using a strainer if necessary.  Dump the used lemon peels in the trash and discover you now have the most lovely lemon scented trash ever!  Add the completely cooled sugar syrup to the lemon vodka and stir a bit to combine them.  Finito!

Homemade Limoncello

Make your own homemade limoncello for sipping or to use in recipes. This recipe will make the equivalent of a 750 ml store bought bottle.
From:  TheMakeYourOwnZone.com

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 cups Vodka (I used Smirnoff 100 proof)
  • 4 Lemons (You will only use the peels)
  • 1-1/2 cups Water
  • 3/4 cup White Sugar

Instructions:

  • Begin by removing the peels of the lemons.  A vegetable peeler works great for this.  You want to have mostly just the yellow parts of the peels (where the oils with the lemon flavors are), avoiding as much of the white pith as possible as it can add bitterness.  Place the lemon peelings in a jar and cover them with the 1½ cups of vodka. Put a lid on your jar and then let the vodka and lemon peels sit for at least a week for the flavor to infuse into the vodka (mine set for 2 weeks). At the end of this time your vodka should be a pretty yellow color too.
  • Make a simple syrup by combing the sugar and water in a small saucepan and heating it on the stove until the sugar is dissolved.  This should only take a couple minutes. Pour the syrup in a small bowl and then let it set for a couple of hours to cool completely.  You can even let it sit overnight if you want to.  If there is any heat left in the simple syrup when it's added, it can evaporate away the alcohol which you don't want to happen.
  • Now you will combine the infused vodka and the simple syrup.  Pour the vodka off the lemon peels into a large bottle, using a strainer if necessary.  Add the completely cooled sugar syrup to the lemon vodka and stir a bit to combine them.  

 

A Few More Notes:

~ Limoncello is usually served cold and is often kept in the freezer.   However I discovered my version froze up and did not stay liquid in the freezer, I’m assuming because the alcohol content was not high enough.  BUT, this is also why I liked my homemade version a little better than the store bought version too because it wasn’t quite so potent.

~ I used ¾ cup of sugar in my simple syrup but you can add a little more or less for the sweetness level you prefer.

~ To get the pretty yellow color of the finished product, you will want your simple syrup to be clear which means you must use white sugar.  I first tried some organic sugar that has a light tan color, which made a brownish simple syrup, which I’m sure would have made the limoncello look dingy.

Homemade Limoncello Recipe - make your own limoncello with this simple method

 

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9 Comments

  1. I made the large batch… Does it need to be stored in the fridge or freezer, or can it be stored at room temperature?

    1. It can be stored at room temperature, however because it’s preferable to serve it chilled, many people like to keep it in the refrigerator, or even the freezer.

  2. Everclear is the neutral grains alcohol to use. No taste no smell. As for being strong, all you need to do is to add more syrup If it is too weak, u putt some of the everclear aside, and add as you please. In other words, weak more alcohol, too strong add more syrup. And, that way you can put in the freezer, the way it is supposed to be.

  3. Happy November Bev!
    I am not a cookie eater myself but my family can not get enough. Ever.
    These look fancy and pretty enough to make for my Thanksgiving desert table and even adult stocking stuffers. Thanks in advance.
    Blessings to you!
    Minnie

    1. Yes, these cookies do have a little bit of “fancy” which makes them perfect for the holidays or for gift giving.