A fresh and sweet homemade limoncello liqueur is much easier to make than you may think. All you need are a few simple ingredients, a tight-lidded jar, and some time. It is a great liqueur to drink ice cold or in a fresh Spring Limoncello Spritz!
Limoncello screams spring and early summer. If you get the same vibe as me, I'm sure you'll also love this spring herbal chartreuse cocktail, rhubarb rooibos iced tea, or this grapefruit mimosa!
Why you’ll love this recipe
You will love this homemade limoncello because it is
- Easy to make
- It is fresh and sweet at the same time
- Perfect digestif
- A delicious gift
- And it's a great liqueur to add to a bunch of other cocktails!
Sounds like your cup of tea? Yes, me too.
Lemon zest, vodka, sugar, and water.
All the things you need - nothing less and nothing more!
In Italy, they usually use the Sorrento lemons (or Amalfi lemons as we call them in Norway). The zest is particularly high in lemon oils, making them ideal for a limoncello liqueur.
Start by washing and peeling the lemons. Use a vegetable peeler and/or a sharp knife. It is very important to remove as much of the white pith as possible. The white pith will make it bitter.
I peel the lemons, and then I scrape the backside of the lemon peel with a sharp knife to get it off. It takes a while, but it makes a difference.
Once you've got the lemon peels, add them to a clean glass container that has a tight lid (1). Cover the lemon peels with vodka (2). Put the lid on and give it a shake. Store in a cool and dry place for about 30 days (3-4).
Shake daily for the first week, then every couple of days for another three weeks - a total of roughly a month. This is to infuse the vodka with as much of the lemon oils as possible.
Then strain it (5) and mix the lemon vodka with simple syrup (6). Discard the lemon peels.
To make simple syrup: In a small saucepan, combine sugar and water and stir while the sugar dissolves over low heat. Once dissolved, take it off the heat.
If you pour warm (not hot) simple syrup over the lemon vodka, it will turn cloudy. Cloudy limoncello is the most common. If you want it clear, wait until the simple syrup has cooled.
Pour this limoncello mixture into beautiful bottles through a cheesecloth (7) and leave for another 30 days (for better flavor) in a cool and dry place.
Is it bitter even though you removed the pith? Se Expert tips below.
Store it dark and cold, with a tight lid. The best place is actually in the freezer, as we serve limoncello iced cold anyway.
The limoncello will not freeze solid as it has a lot of alcohol in it (but still not liquid). But remember to not fill the bottle all the way up as it will expand a little when it freezes.
Keeps pretty much forever! If kept at room temperature, the flavor can get a little muted over time, but it's still fully drinkable.
What type of alcohol is in limoncello?
Any neutral spirit is a great canvas for homemade limoncello. I prefer vodka, but you could also use grappa.
Is limoncello high in alcohol?
Yes. Limoncello usually has around 25-30% APV. This limoncello is no different, at about 26.1%.
How should you drink it? Do you sip it or drink it as a shot?
It is served in a shot glass because it is such a strong drink, but it is sipped. And you need to serve it ice cold (preferably freezer cold) because it turns more viscous (like syrup) and delicious. A small shot glass also means it doesn't have time to heat up.
Why do Italians drink limoncello?
Southern Italy has an abundance of the best lemons in the world, it is only natural they try to find a good use for them. Limoncello is drunk after a hearty meal to help aid digestion - and it also doubles as a dessert!
What are digestifs?
Apértifs help you get hungry before a meal, and difestifs help you wind down and digest that delicious meal - settling your stomach.
These drinks are often sweet, a little bitter, and have higher alcohol content than apértifs. Limoncello is in other words a perfect digestif!
Spring Limoncello Spritz
This is my #1 way to drink limoncello. It is so fresh, a little sweet, and has tons of spring flavors without being hard to make.
All you do is pour 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) cold limoncello and ½ ounce (1 tablespoon) elderflower liqueur into a tall glass filled with ice. Stir, then add the sparkling water, to top. Carefully stir. I add about ⅔ of a can or 1 cup (250 milliliters).
A perfect drink to garnish with lemon slices and fresh mint. Enjoy!
Limoncello is a liqueur that works in many different ways, whether it is alone or in a fresh cocktail, or even in a creamy cocktail! Here are some of my ideas for how to drink it:
Lemon pie-tini. 1 ½ ounces lemon juice, 1 ½ ounces limoncello, 1 ½ ounces Licor 43, 1 ½ ounces sugar syrup (2 parts sugar, 1 part water), and 3 ounces heavy cream.
Chill a martini glass and rim it with lemon juice. Shake all ingredients with ice for 30 seconds, then strain into the martini glass, and serve without ice.
Limoncello white wine sangria. ¼-1/2 cup limoncello, ½ cup orange juice or even lemon juice, and a bottle of white wine. Add your favorite fruit, like citrus, apple, pear, and ginger. Delicious.
Limoncello Amalfi Mule. A Ginger with Spice take on a classic Moscow Mule. Reduce vodka by half, then add limoncello for the other half. Lemon juice instead of lime juice. Ginger beer as usual and there you have it!
The Limoncello Rhubarbian. A limoncello and rhubarb vodka cocktail. Make a rhubarb and ginger simple syrup like in this rhubarb Moscow mule, then combine 1 ounce of that and 1 ounce of limoncello with 1 ½ ounces vodka, 1 ounce of lemon juice, and carefully stir in 1 cup sparkling water.
Which sounds like your next favorite?
There are two ways to go about this:
- Avoid it - use the right lemons with a high lemon oil (Sorrento lemons), and avoid the white rind. Try your very best to scrape all the white pith off the lemons peels - it makes a difference.
- Fix it - if it is still bitter after all your efforts to remove the white pith, you can add half a teaspoon of salt to the liqueur. The salt naturally counteracts bitterness. So does baking soda actually, so you could try to add a pinch!
Did you like this recipe? Here are more lemon drinks I think you’d love:
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