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Italian Limoncello Drink Recipe

Limoncello is a typical drink from the South of Italy which 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; prepare 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 very strong 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 1 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 paternity. 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, 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 finally everything is put into the bottles where it must rest for at least a month before drinking it.

Best Lemons for your Italian Limoncello Drink Recipe

Traditionally, if you’re in Italy you can choose only two types of lemons, the Sorrento ones or the Sfusato Amalfitano: both these varieties are amazing for the limoncello, because their skin is pretty hard and their juice is tasty.
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 a hard skin because you won’t use the juice: for the same reason, you have to go for organic lemons, 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 extremely hard and it’s perfect for the limoncello.

What alcohol should you use for the limoncello?

In Italy, we use pure alcohol at 90/95% ABV but since this type of spirit is illegal in many places or it’s 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 easily freeze but if this in your only possibility, then you should go for it.

In terms of quantity, we consider 100 ml of pure alcohol every 30 grams of skin, 80% of sugar compared to alcohol, 110% more water than alcohol; in reality, if we measure the quantities in this way, the limoncello will be excessively sweet. For this reason, in my recipe the sugar is reduced to make room for the lemon and even the water is reduced, to prevent the taste of the lemons being covered.

Here is my perfect recipe for a delicious Italian limoncello; with this recipe you will get about two litres of limoncello, not too sweet and quite alcoholic. After the recipe, unmissable 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 litres of Limoncello

  • 10 lemons
  • 1 litre of alcohol
  • 1 litre di water
  • 400 grams of caster sugar
  • Italian Limoncello Drink Recipe

    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 + resting

    How to sterilise jars and bottles for the limoncello

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

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

    What to do with all those peeled 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.

    More advice for your perfect Italian Limoncello Drink Recipe

    • Serve your limoncello it 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 a good rule to serve it in cold freezer glasses, to keep it cool;
    • Be careful to peel the lemons very well, as this is the most delicate phase of the whole process: if you will 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 rest of the limoncello must take place in dark and not humid areas; contact with sunlight and heat causes the limoncello to oxidize, which will have a not palatable taste;
    • If you can’t find grain alcohol for limoncello, use vodka instead. Since the vodka has usually 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.
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    About the author
    Veruska Anconitano
    Veruska is a freelance content marketer and digital strategist. She's an accredited journalist, a member of the British Guild of Travel Writer, and a certified sommelier. She's the co-owner of TheFoodellers and a bunch of other websites.
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