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Today I’m going to share with you my nonna’s recipe to make Limoncello at home. It will make a great handmade digestif for your Italy-themed meals, but also a fabulous homemade gift for your loved ones!

Limoncello is Italy’s iconic sweet, yellow-colored liqueur bursting with an intense lemon flavor. For many of us, sipping a glass of chilled Limoncello at the end of a meal is as much a ritual as drinking moka coffee first thing in the morning. What’s more, when traveling around Italy you’ll often be offered a complimentary glass of limoncello as an after-meal digestif in many restaurants.

Nowadays Limoncello is widely available in supermarkets and local stores around the world, but let’s be honest, it’s hardly ever as good to drink as the original one. The great news is that making Limoncello is super easy and with this recipe you’ll be able to prepare some delicious lemony liqueur from the comfort of your home.

History of Limoncello

There are lots of amusing stories around the history of Limoncello, which makes it difficult to locate the exact birthplace of Italy’s most famous liqueur. Sorrento, Amalfi and Capri are the three frontrunners, boasting a local production of the iconic lemon liqueur that has been going on for generations.

The most accredited source (i.e. Federvini, the Italian federation of producers, exporters and importers of wines and spirits) locates the birthplace of Limoncello in a small inn on the island of Capri, where back in the early 20th century a local lady named Maria Antonia Farace looked after a lush citrus grove. It is said that after World War II her grandson opened a restaurant that served a delicious lemon liqueur made using one of his nonna’s old recipes. Then, in 1988, Maria Antonia’s great-grandson Massimo Canale established a small artisanal production of the yellow liqueur and registered the first official Limoncello trademark.

In all truth, Amalfi and Sorrento have equally captivating tales involving fishermen drinking Limoncello to fight the cold and monks doing shots of the yellow liqueur in between prayers. We’ll probably never know the real story, but hey, all these legends make Limoncello even more intriguing, don’t you think?!

A lemon grove along the path of lemons in Maiori, along the Amalfi CoastThe lemons

There’s no doubt that the secret for a great Limoncello is the lemon skin used to make it. The authentic recipe uses the lemons that grow in the warm, sunny climate of southern Italy. More specifically, the Sfusato Amalfitano cultivated on the Amalfi Coast and the oval-shaped Femminello Sorrentino that grows on the island of Capri and the Sorrentine peninsula. Both are marked with the I.G.P (protected geographical indication) seal and are characterized by a thick skin rich in essential oils.

Don’t worry though, you can prepare some authentic homemade Limoncello even without living in the land of lemons. Just make sure to buy thick-skinned lemons (preferably organic).

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How to make homemade Limoncello

Ok, now it’s time to make your Limoncello! You’ll find dozens of recipes online (some with vodka, others with less sugar, etc.), so just keep in mind that what I’m sharing with you is simply what my nonna taught me. I suggest to use it as a base and then have fun experimenting until you find your favorite version. For example, you can increase or diminish the amount of water depending on whether you like your Limoncello stronger or lighter.

What you need

  • 7/8 thick-skinned lemons
  • 1 l grain alcohol
  • 1.250 l water
  • 750 gr (about 4 cups) white sugar 
  • a glass jar and roughly 3 1-liter bottles (make sure to wash them thoroughly with hot water before using them)
  • a pinch of patience and lots of love

Prepare your Limoncello in 4 simple steps

STEP 1: Wash the lemons and gently peel them with a potato peeler. Make sure to remove only the yellow part, otherwise the white pith will make the Limoncello bitter.

To make limoncello at home, peel the lemons making sure to avoid the white pith

STEP 2: Place the peels in the jar, then pour the alcohol and stir. Put the lid on the jar and store it inside a cupboard at room temperature for about 30 days. Remember to shake the jar a bit once a day to better combine the two ingredients.

To make limoncello at home place the lemon peels in a jar and pour the alcohol

STEP 3: After a month, take a saucepan and melt the sugar in the water, then let the syrup cool down. Once it’s cold, add the lemony alcohol making sure to remove the lemon peels with a strainer.

PPour the lemony alcohol into the sugar syrup when making limoncello at home

STEP 4: Stir well, pour into the clean bottles using a funnel, and store your Limoncello in the fridge. Done!

A bottle of homemade limoncello on a white and bue tray with a small glass filled with lemon liqueur and three lemons

Some people prefer to store the bottles in the freezer, but I prefer to keep it in the fridge. What I put in the freezer are the glasses, so the Limoncello is super chill!

Let me know how your homemade Limoncello turns out!

A big hug from Italy,

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10 Comments

Katy Kuhlwilm 20 June 2020 at 12:22

I love limoncello, what a great excuse to make it at home 😆

Juliet Dreamhunter 20 June 2020 at 14:04

I’m almost sorry I decided to make this year alcohol free. Looking forward to trying this after I finish the challenge, looks really delicious and reminds me of my Italian trip!

Agnes 23 June 2020 at 11:40

I love Limoncello. I always bring a few bottles when I go to Italy. Unfortunately, it ends quickly. I’d like to try to make Limoncello from your recipe, it looks great!

Linda 23 June 2020 at 15:28

I keep thinking that I should take up baking while we are spending so much time at home. But now I think I might be much happier if I tried to make limoncello! It would bring back such happy memories of trips to Italy. My concern is that the lemons we get imported into Canada will be nowhere near as wonderful as local lemons from the warm climates in Italy. Fortunately, we still have some authentic Italian limoncello in our freezer 😀

Karolina Ada 23 June 2020 at 16:13

Ive never though about making my own Limoncello at home but it actually sound so easy. I am not sure if I would find a good lemons in UK but as you’re saying the organic ones maybe would be better 🙂

Melissa 24 June 2020 at 17:51

I will have to add these ingredients to my shopping list and make a night out of it! I have to admit I have never had the pleasure of trying Limoncello in Italy, but what I have tried was delicious! The history of Limoncello is interesting, it makes me curious as to how the drink really came about. But as long as we have it it doesn’t much matter right? Lol. I will have to try the recipe and dream about when I am able to visit Italy after the lockdowns.

Parnashree Devi 24 June 2020 at 21:54

I haven’t tried Limoncello till now as I always wanted to try in in Amalfi coast, Italy. You have given me all the reason to try it in home. I didn’t know that it is so easy to make it. Loved reading the folklore about it. Fantastic Post.

Bolupe 25 June 2020 at 02:52

I absolutely love Limoncello, it was the drink we were greeted with on arrival at our hotel in Rome. I can almost taste the flavours and sweetness as I was reading through. I am so glad you have the recipe here and I look forward to making it with the girls.

Nish 25 June 2020 at 12:32

I always bought limoncello from the duty-free whenever i traveled. My bottle is now over, and your recipe is very timely. Unfortunately, I don’t find these big lemons in my local market, and with lockdown in full swing, I”ll have to wait a little longer to try this out.

Thanks for sharing!

Raksha 26 June 2020 at 05:42

I have never had Limoncello till now. I think it seems like a very refreshing drink and I definitely need to make it at home. I do have some of these ingredients currently, I will go for shopping and ensure I try this as I am excited to taste it now!!

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Ciao! I’m Val

Ciao! I’m Val

Ciao! I'm Valentina, an Italian blogger with a huge passion for my country, its culture and traditions. My Italian Diaries is the online space where I share my expert knowledge of itineraries, activities and off-the-beaten path places to help you experience the best of Italy like a local.

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