Limoncello (Italian Lemon Liqueur)
While you will find recipes for Limoncello made with vodka, using higher proof alcohol yields a more consistent extraction of the flavor compounds. The higher the proof, the better. However, 190 proof alcohol is not available everywhere so I’ve adjusted this recipe to use 151 proof alcohol. The original recipe, which came from family in Tuscany, called for less than half the amount of lemon zest I’ve used here. Over successive versions for over the last 2 decades, I find I like these proportions best. Lemoncello does not keep indefinitely. It is best to use this within a year. Use the freshest lemons you can find for the most flavorful limoncello.
Servings Prep Time
2liters 75minutes
Passive Time
Servings Prep Time
2liters 75minutes
Passive Time
  1. The starting point: lemons in the tree in Palm Springs.
  2. Using a vegetable peeler, carefully pare zest from lemons without including any of the white pith. Use a peeler that removes the zest in strips, not the zesters that remove little tiny curls.
  3. Weigh the zest.
  4. Combine the zest and alcohol in a large glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. I use a one-gallon jar, though something of approximately three quarts will work just fine.
  5. Put the jar out of direct sunlight in an area that is at comfortable room temperature for seven days. Swirl the contents of the jar daily. The alcohol will not cover the zest so it is important to mix up the contents at least once a day.
  6. On the fifth day, combine the sugar and water in another glass jar or non-reactive container. Stir or swirl several times a day until all the sugar is fully dissolved.
  7. After the zest has macerated for a week in the alcohol, add the sugar syrup.
  8. The limoncello will initially become cloudy as some of the sugar comes out of solution.
  9. Allow the lemon zest to steep in the alcohol-sugar syrup mixture for an additional 3-4 days, swirling once or twice daily.
  10. It will become mostly clear after a few days. Because of the amount of lemon oil in this limoncello, it may remain slightly cloudy.
  11. It is important to not over-extract the lemon zest or the limoncello may become bitter.
  12. Strain the limoncello. Discard the zest. Divide the limoncello into bottles with tight-fitting lids. I like to use 750 ml liquor bottles.
  13. Store for at least one week before using to allow the flavors to mellow.
  14. Limoncello is best served frosty cold, over an ice cube or two. I like to keep a bottle in the freezer. It may get cloudy but just shake it well before using.
Recipe Notes

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