DIY vs. Buy: Should I Make My Own Limoncello?


Limoncello is a sweet, sunshine-colored liqueur made with lemon zest. It has a bright lemon flavor with none of the tartness. Created in Italy as an after-dinner drink, it's light and delicate with just the right amount of alcohol intensity. It's impossible not to smile when you're sipping limoncello.

What's Available to Buy?

Sticklers insist that authentic limoncello can only be made from Sorrento lemons in Southern Italy. But with its similar climate and dedication to all things gourmet, California is also home to several great limoncello producers. Caravella, Casoni, Limoncello di Sonoma and Ventura are all fantastic for about $20 a bottle, and usually available at liquor stores.

Why DIY?

"Can you zest lemons and wait? If so, then you can make limoncello...and it will taste impressive. "

Homemade limoncello is so easy, cheap and delicious. Can you zest lemons and wait? If so, then you can make limoncello...and it will taste impressive. People will beg you for a bottle. But don't make them beg! Limoncello is the perfect homemade holiday gift. Fill a bunch of bottles with this vibrant liqueur and add festive labels or tags. It only costs about $10 to make 750 milliliters.

This isn't a bossy recipe. Experiment, improvise, and indulge your creative impulses. Use whatever neutral spirit you like and whatever type of lemon you have. In fact, you don't have to use lemons at all—any fruit with zest will do. You can make arancello from oranges, or pompelmocello from grapefruit. You can even make clemencello from clementines, kumquacello from kumquats, or Buddhacello from Buddha's hand citron. (Colorful naming schemes are part of the fun of making a 'cello.)

Mix together different fruits and add a little lavender or rose petals for added complexity. If you can't wait two weeks, it will still taste great after only a week of steeping time. Leave it for up to three months, if you're patient.

Use It!

Keep a bottle of limoncello in the freezer and pour yourself a little after dinner. (It's what the Italians would do.) Or add a little to sparkling wine for a simple Champagne cocktail or try substituting a bit of limoncello for other liqueurs like triple sec in your favorite cocktails. You can even use it in sorbets and to scent a cake or buttercream. When you make a batch for holiday gifts, don't forget to keep some for yourself.