Traditional Italian Limoncello Recipe

Author: Veruska Anconitano, Award-Winning Food Travel Journalist, Sommelier & Outdoor LoverAuthor information
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Veruska Anconitano
Veruska is a a food travel journalist with awards to her credit, such as World Best Food Travel Journalist. She holds a certification as a sommelier and she is also an ardent lover of the outdoors. Aside from this, Veruska is a Multilingual SEO and Localization Consultant and co-owns multiple websites that cater to a global audience.
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Limoncello is a typical drink from Southern Italy, and it is so famous that it has surpassed the national boundaries. The following is the perfect recipe to prepare a delicious homemade limoncello, not overly sweet and suitable for all seasons; make it, and you’ll instantly feel in Italy!

The limoncello is a typical liqueur of the Amalfi Coast that is distinguished by its very bright yellow color and a robust taste at the first taste, which is diluted by the sweet aftertaste. The alcohol content of limoncello goes from 20% to 32% volume just because of the lemon peel processing, which is left to soak for one month in pure alcohol before being filtered to produce the actual liqueur.

There are plenty of recipes for preparing limoncello at home, and it is no coincidence that the various towns on the Amalfi Coast are also competing for the paternity of this recipe. However, out of respect for history, it must be said that limoncello became a registered trademark only in 1988 by entrepreneur Massimo Canale from Capri, who apparently paid homage to his grandmother, the original inventor of the drink born at home and then spread everywhere.

The making of the limoncello at home is simple but not fast. As mentioned above, first, the peels must be left to soak in spirit, then the sugar syrup is filtered and added, and in the end, everything is put into the bottles where it must rest for at least a month before drinking it.

Best Italian lemons limoncello

Traditionally, if you’re in Italy, you can choose only two types of lemons for your limoncello recipe: the Sorrento ones or the Sfusato Amalfitano. Both these varieties are fantastic for the limoncello because their skin is pretty hard, and their juice is tasty.

How to choose lemons for your limoncello drink recipe

How to choose your lemons for the limoncello if you’re not in Italy? Well, you need to remember that your lemons have to have hard skin because you won’t use the juice: for the same reason, you have to go for organic fruits, so to avoid any pesticide and wax. Generally speaking, you could use Meyer lemons or, even better, Eureka and Lisbon lemons because their skin is tough, and it’s perfect for the limoncello.

What alcohol should I use for the limoncello?

In Italy, we use pure alcohol at 90/95% ABV. This spirit is illegal in many places, or it’s simply not that easy to find. I suggest you use a 151 proof grain alcohol (75.5% alcohol by volume or ABV). By using this alcohol, you may have problems in refrigerating your drink because the water could quickly freeze, but if this is your only possibility, then you should go for it.

How much alcohol do I need for limoncello?

In terms of quantity, we consider the followings:

  • 100 ml of pure alcohol every 30 grams of peels;
  • 80% of sugar against alcohol;
  • 110% more water against liquor.

Truth to be said: if we go for these quantities, the limoncello will be excessively sweet. I’ve reduced the sugar to make room for the lemon. Even the quantity of water is reduced, to prevent the taste of the lemons being covered.

Limoncello Recipe from Italy

Here you have the traditional recipe for a delicious Italian limoncello.

Following the same doses, you will get about two liters of limoncello, not too sweet and quite alcoholic.

After the recipe, a few advice and tips on how to make your limoncello, how to serve it, and suggestions on variations if you cannot use pure alcohol.

Ingredients for 2 Liters

  • 10 lemons
  • 1 litre of alcohol
  • 1 litre di water
  • 400 grams of caster sugar


  1. Wash the lemons very well then, using a small pointed knife with a sharp blade or even better using a potato peeler, deprive the lemons of the peel being careful to eliminate only the yellow part and leaving the white part on the lemons;
  2. Put the skins in a large container and cover them with the alcohol, leaving to soak for 1 month;
  3. After the month, prepare a syrup by boiling water and sugar;
  4. While the syrup is getting cold, filter the alcohol to remove the skins and any residues;
  5. Once cold, mix the syrup with water and sugar to the alcohol;
  6. Place in transparent sterilized bottles and store away from light. Leave to rest for at least 1 month;
  7. After the month, open the bottles and/or transfer them into the refrigerator or freezer. Serve the limoncello cold.


Preparation time: 1 hour

Cooking time: 1 hour

Total time: 2 hours

Soaking lemons for limoncello
limoncello recipe

Sterilizing bottles for homemade limoncello

Your jars and bottles have to be sterilized before being used for your limoncello to avoid any problem. Here’s a quick way to sterilize your jars and bottles:

  • Turn the oven on to 130˚C/250˚F/Gas Mark ½;
  • Wash the jars, bottles, and lids in hot water;
  • Place the jars, bottles, and lids upside down in the oven and leave them to dry, with the door closed for 15 minutes;
  • Turn the oven off and leave the jars, bottles, and lids in there till they will be cold and ready to be used.

What can I do with leftover lemons after making limoncello?

  • Make some lemonade;
  • Use the lemons to prepare amazing desserts or recipes;
  • Make your limoncello cream by following my recipe for an amazing limoncello cream.

What alcohol should i use for limoncello?

If you can’t find grain alcohol for limoncello, use vodka instead. Since the vodka usually has a lower ABV compared to pure grain alcohol, you need to lower the amount of water used. The less ABV your vodka has, the less water you should use. You may also skip water if you’re working with 37% vodka, but in this case, you also need to lower the amount of sugar.

Italian Limoncello: tips and tricks

  • Serve your limoncello neat, straight out of the freezer, before or after a meal;
  • Limoncello should never be served with ice. Otherwise, it loses flavor. Instead, it is an excellent rule to serve it in cold freezer glasses, to keep it fresh;
  • Be careful to peel the lemons very well, as this is the most delicate phase of the whole process: if you macerate the skins with their white part, the limoncello will be bitter. Therefore, pay attention to how you peel the lemons and, if necessary, clean the already cut skins to remove all the remaining white part;
  • The maceration of the skins and the whole making of the limoncello must take place in dark and not humid areas. If they get in contact with sunlight and heat, they may oxidize, and your limoncello won’t be that nice to drink.
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