Homemade Limoncello

homemade limoncello


(what someone blurts out when they get a bottle of homemade limoncello as a present for Christmas)

homemade limoncello

Have you had limoncello before? Oh man, it’s good! If you’ve never had it, it’s a sweet Italian lemon liqueur that comes from the Amalfi coast and it’s abso-fricking delightful. It’s pretty much the nectar of the gods, if you ask me. I love adding it to sparkling water, drizzling it on top of vanilla ice cream, mixing it with cranberry juice or sipping it from a fancy cordial glass. Limoncello is heavenly when served directly from the freezer where it remains cold, syrupy and viscous. Think maple syrup but lemony & boozy!

If you’re trying to figure out what to make for the holidays, might I suggest this? You need about 8 days from start to finish and it lasts up to 3 months in the freezer. The hardest part is giving it away! Now, tell me what are you waiting for! There are people to impress…

And we’re off!

Gather your ingredients. Wash those lemons really well.

homemade limoncello

PEEL. Enlist some help. Casey peeled a few lemons. Good Casey.

homemade limoncello

Divide the peels between two jars or if you have a big container that will hold it all, go for it.

homemade limoncello

Pour the vodka on top of the peels in each jar.

homemade limoncello

Lid them up and let them sit for 2-7 days in a cool dark place.

homemade limoncello

I let mine sit a week. Now it’s simple syrup time.

homemade limoncello

Sugar and water goes in a pot over medium high heat. The sugar dissolves and the liquid is clear.

homemade limoncello

Bam! Simple syrup. See that pitcher? We’re about to make limoncello.

homemade limoncello

Now pour the infused vodka into the cooled simple syrup. STIR.

homemade limoncello

That pitcher goes in the fridge overnight.

homemade limoncello

And then the next day you’re ready! It’s straining time.

homemade limoncello

Pour the limoncello through a fine sieve.

homemade limoncello

After that first round, it’s good to put it through a coffee filter so you can see right through it.

homemade limoncello

Now pour that limoncello into each bottle!

homemade limoncello

I filled three small bottles I got from Sur La Table the other day. (they’re kinda pricey)

homemade limoncello

And one humongous bottle from IKEA.

limoncello bottling

Off to the freezer they go until I figure out who’s getting some!

pssst! These are the labels I used!

Homemade Limoncello

(makes about 64 ounces)

(Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart)

  • 11 organic lemons
  • 1 liter bottle vodka (Martha suggests 160-proof, I used 100)
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 3 cups water

Peel strips of zest from lemons using a vegetable peeler; reserve lemons for another use. Put zest and vodka in an airtight container; let stand at room temperature at least 2 days (or up to 1 week).

Stir together sugar and the water in a large saucepan and heat over medium heat until sugar is dissolved; let cool. Stir sugar mixture into vodka mixture; refrigerate in an airtight container 1 day.

Before serving, pour through a large sieve into a decanter or serving vessel; discard zest. Carefully bottle your limoncello and store freezer in the freezer for up to 3 months.

***Shutterbean Notes***

-Let’s face it, you are going to have 11 lemons without peels on them leftover. If you don’t have immediate plans like…let’s say making lemon curd, you should do what I did and squeeze the juice and freeze it!Β  You could also make some delicious lemonade too!

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  • Bridie

    Phwoar! I love this stuff. I am gearing up for it now with summer coming. A colleague gave me a heap of lemons and it’s sooo good in summer. We do shots of it on Australia Day from glasses made from ice. Yeah! Peeling has got to be easier than my recipe which uses zest. Although, you won’t get the snowdome effect each day with the shaking :)

  • cate

    I have a laden lemon tree. It’s hot outside. My kids are driving me nuts. I’m SO making this. and drinking it!

  • Claire

    Do you know how long it would last out of the freezer?

    Looks yum. I wanna make it for Christmas presents.

  • Amber

    Seriously, how did you know I had a bunch of lemons I needed to use up asap? Are you magic?

  • Vanessa

    Oh my goodness. Obsessed. Have I mentioned how much I wish I was your neighbor?! :-)

  • Heather (Heather's Dish)

    i LOVE homemade limoncello…and it’s such a fun story to tell when people come over and ask how we made it!

  • sandy

    I don’t drink alcohol, but i’m sure it’s delicious because it looks fantastic. May I ask where you bought that box of labels?

  • cindy

    sipping limoncello makes me feel classy…it’s just magical that way. I love the way you labeled the bottles, so cute!

  • Leslie

    Tracy, you are on a roll! I am totally making this—who cares if I have to wait until after the holidays, right? Thanks for sharing all these great holiday beverages!

  • Nicola @ unhip squirrel

    Oh wow… my Christmas presents this year just got a shot in the arm….. :)

  • Julia

    Heck ya, this looks marvelous. Im infusing vodkas this year for gifts and I think I might just have to whip up a batch of limoncello now. For me, not for gifts πŸ˜‰

  • thelittleloaf

    This looks amazing! My parents have a house in italy and our neighbour once made them limoncello… It was so strong they ended up throwing it down the toilet. The next day, the neighbour came round, assumed they’d loved it so much that they’d drunk the whole bottle (!) and brought them two more!

    Your looks infinitely superior and absolutely gorgeous. Perfect for Christmas presents and love those cute little bottles :-)

  • heather @ chiknpastry

    I’ve always wanted to make limoncello, but never get around to having that many lemons in my house at one time. maybe i’ll find a friend with a lemon tree willing to donate a whole barrel?!

  • Lauren

    Yippee! I’ve been waiting for this since you mentioned it on the podcast. This is my weekend project. Let’s go!

  • goodiegoddess

    KISMET! I bought the Martha magazine that this recipe was published in just yesterday and was totally wondering: #1 if I should use the grain alcohol she suggested or #2 where I could find 160 proof vodka. Thanks for clearing that up! Now on my way to buy lemons!!

    • Tracy

      i used 100 proof. You probably could find it at a place like Bevmo. I don’t know where you live. Do you know what that is? I actually prefer the 100 proof. It’s super drinkable. I can imagine that 160 would give me heartburn.

      • goodiegoddess

        I’m in Atlanta, so no I don’t know what Bevmo is. No matter, I’ve already got a 1.75 bottle of Pearl Black Label (my fav brand!) ’cause we HATE heartburn (pronounced “hotburn” in the south!) but we LOVE doubling Limoncello recipes and Pearl Vodka. We especially love the Pomegranate for Cosmos! Haven’t tried the Wedding Cake yet, but it sounds tempting!!

        p.s. Thanks so much for responding and being authentic,

  • Julie @BananasForBourbon

    Those bottles are cute! Sur La Table is always pricey and always so flipping awesome! I covet that store. Hard. Love your labels. They’ve got Tracy-font! πŸ˜‰

    I’ve never had Limoncello, but I know I will love it when I eventually do. I’ve got a cranberry liqueur liqueuring in my pantry at the moment. I’m blowing through my cheap bottles of vodka lately!

  • Sarah Breese Richards

    I’ve only had limoncello one time and it was a long time ago BUT I remember it to be as heavenly as you suggest. Thanks one again for the great pics and recipe this looks so simple and amazing. Martha’s got nothing on you. πŸ˜‰

  • Nicole

    I’ve sadly never tried limoncello before, but I’m up for lemon boozy goodness! What a pretty gift to make!

  • Meli (Blush + Jelly)

    This needs to happen in my near future! Looks so easy to make and I just love limoncello!!

  • Jamie

    Yum! This reminds me of my stay in Italy, where the restaurant owners treat you to Limoncello at the end of the meal. I love your packaging!

  • karen

    Hi, question: what kind of vodka did you use? Real question: is it important to use a “nice” vodka for taste or will a cheap one be rescued by all the lemon goodness?

  • Jillian

    I am going to follow your recipe exactly and make this as gifts. I’m sober so I can’t try it. Hopefully they love it bc it sounds great!!

  • Megan

    Tracy, Those are so cute! I’ve been looking for a good Limoncello recipe for awhile. Also, I found this great site for jars a few years back. They have any jar you can think of, and at pretty reasonable prices. I got some jars for Vanilla Extract and some others for homemade Bailey’s. http://www.specialtybottle.com/index.aspx

  • nicole {sweet peony}

    i’ve always wanted to make limoncello… yummmm!

  • Ayah

    Ohhh! I’ve been meaning to make some of this for Christmas. I love those labels, they would be perfect to have on hand for canned items too. And look how clean yr desk is!!

  • Candice

    I’ve never had limoncello before but considering I adore lemons, I’m thinking this will be a MUST.

    Can you maybe write a post about what you can do with all those peel-less lemons?? Other than make lemonade (what do you do when life hands you peel-free lemons? lol).

  • ChocoMeat

    Oooo cute stuff. Did this a few years ago, with rosemary. Label compare! http://www.thechocolateofmeats.com/2008/12/merry-recession-gifts-from-your-kitchen.html xo

  • liz laura sharp

    this is so great! i’m making it tonight!!!!!! thanks tracy shutterbean!!!!!!

  • Caitlin

    This is so perfect I was planning on gifting along with cordial glasses. Ps I feel like we’re friends since I listen to your podcast every week- you’re hiiilarious!

  • Lisa [With Style and Grace]

    Perfect, I’ll host a party and you bring the Limoncello!

  • masa

    Well, peels are sitting in the jar right now. I’m guessing mine won’t match up to what I’ve had in Capri, but it was still fun to do.

  • Amanda (onceuponarecipe)

    Just started my batch last night! Almost cut off my finger while peeling the lemons, but it’s allllllll good. I had a heck of a time finding such strong vodka, and only ended up with 80-proof, but oh well, it’s still going to be freaking fantastic!

  • goodiegoddess

    As far as I know it’s the latest flavor offered by Pearl.


    for aptly named recipes such as:

    I Do!
    Blushing Bride
    Groom’s Cake
    Drunk Uncle
    Etc, etc…….

    I plan on doing a tasting this weekend, will report back with my “findings” πŸ˜‰

  • Celeste

    Tracy, you are great. I love your blog, I love your podcast, and your kid is super cool. However, this is not a recipe for Limoncello. Real Italian Limoncello is made with 95% grain alcohol and not vodka. Plus, infusion times are much, much longer. You can find the real recipe in a thousand of italian websites, just ask google to translate the pages for you.
    That said, I will try your infused vodka and I am sure it will be a blast. Thanks for the idea!

  • Lucy

    Ahhh maaan! Too good!! Didn’t realise it was that easy actually, I thought there would be all these strange ingredients etc but no! Will defs follow this soon! Thanks lovely lady – good snaps too :)

  • Katy Vella Pace

    What a great idea!

    I’m from the Okanagan in BC, and fresh organic lemons can be dear. When bags of organic lemons are on sale I buy a couple of bags, date the bags with a Sharpie and toss the bags of fresh lemons in the freezer. They work perfectly, I thaw overnight or toss one in a jar of hot water if I want to use the lemon right away.

    I have done this with small limes, and because they are thin-skinned the skins dry out, however, the juice is still good.

    I imagine that if you didn’t have time to juice the zested lemons you could wrap them in wax paper, heavy plastic or butcher paper and freeze them whole.

    I have also saved the lemon zest from precious organic fresh lemons and frozen it to use in Greek Salad or baking.

    In order to use the things that have been in the freezer the longest first, I have gotten into the habit of dating them. Taking the time to do this saves you from have stale, poor quality ingredients.

  • Sabrina

    I lurve your blog. :) For realz.

    I’ve never made limoncello with vodka before (I use Everclear) but I thought I’d throw out a little tip I learned. I remove the zest with a microplane because the pith can sometimes make the limoncello bitter. It takes forever, especially when you zest over 100 lemons!

    After it’s set for the desired amount of days, I usually do a long, long, LONG 3 months, I just put some cheese cloth on top of the funnel when filling my bottles to catch all those little bits-o-zest.

    After that it’s all fun and merriment.

  • a spoonful of yumm

    looks fabulous !! happy holidays :-)

  • mariah

    Holy moly! I just made cranberry and orange infused vodka! It’s amazing! It’s so amazing I keep walking around the house muttering to myself, “I gotta make more of this stuff. From here on out, people are getting vodka infusions for gifts…!”
    Love the blog! Love the show. You and Joy inspire me to remember that I am creative and love to be crafty and interesting. Thank you. Happy holidays!
    PS. I am making lemoncello for my sister’s fiance. I LOVE IT! :)

    • Tracy

      Wowzers! That looks fantastic! I’m gonna whip up a batch over Xmas break!!! And THANK YOU! I’m glad you listen :)

  • Mary-Lynn

    Inspired by this, I just finished making a batch of limoncello-ish infused vodka. It’s amazing. I also threw in a split vanilla bean for half the time the peels were soaking and that has made it even better than I expected. I’m going to turn into a drunk on this stuff immediately.

  • Amber

    Juuuust made this for Christmas, then found out I was pregnant yesterday. No more limoncello for this girl.)=

  • Kristy

    Here’s the thing with this recipe… try not to get any (any!) of the white pith on the peels. Too much pith will make the limoncello bitter and icky. This is why zesting is better.

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  • Sarah Breese

    Finally made the limencello and it was amazing!! I’m getting down to the last bit of my first batch and I can’t wait to make another batch using meyer lemons. Simply addicting… in a all things are best in moderation sort of way. πŸ˜‰

  • Rocco

    How much can you sell it for I’m making 375 ml bottles and I used Three Olives Vodka which is $40.00 a bottle. So what do you think is a good price

    • Danielle Raichel

      In most states its illegal to sell liqueur without a license and proper permits and health regulations are sometimes difficult to follow in a home kitchen. But lets say my best friend wanted a bottle- I’d charge somewhere around $40.00 I think the time and effort is worth the pennies.

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  • Colleen

    SO happy I saw this post! My dad is so hard to buy gifts for, but LOVES limoncello, especially mixed with cranberry juice. Can’t wait to gift homemade version this to him.

  • Danielle Raichel

    I began making this, this past Sunday. I then wanted to get the cute bottles-if I couldn’t find any locally it would have been mason jars. Anyhoot..Hubby and I went to Ikea in Portland last night. They apparently do not make those bottles with stoppers anymore but I was told by two people “they are changing the bottle shape but, if you can find any upstairs in the display rooms your welcome to purchase those” and then “they are changing the stopper on top” So, I ran upstairs (actually took the elevator) and the first show room I walked into-I check the fridge-tada! Jackpot! 4 of them! I grabbed 2-becaue really, I don’t think I need all of them at this point in time..really how long is this stuff going to last after I taste its goodness after work this evening? not long…I give a couple days.. We have a Sur La Table Joint in Downtown..I just hate battling traffic and crazy people (Keep Portland Weird right?) So…anyhoot..purchased myself a fancy seive and some cheesecloth- which is located in the craft department at wallymart? weird… and im ready to get this crackin’ ….. tonight unless I poop out and wake tomorrow morning and say “DAMN!” :) Thanks for sharing the recipe… The vodka with peels smelt heavenly… im sure this will be da-bomb

  • cristina

    Questo che hai postato non Γ¨ Limoncello,ma vodka all’aromatizzata al limone! Non confondiamo Il limoncello italiano che si fa con solo con l’alcool.

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