Easy Limoncello Recipe

Make your own version of this sweet, sunshine-colored, lemon liqueur at home.

A labeled bottle of limoncello, deecorated with a bow and backlit by Christmas lights.

Serious Eats / Liam Boylan

Why This Recipe Works

  • Using a Microplane grater to remove the outer layer of zest and a minimal amount of pith keeps the liqueur from turning bitter.
  • A two-week infusion time is ideal for extracting flavor from the zest.
  • Filtering the infused spirit twice ensures the best, purest flavor and longest shelf life.

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?

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.

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

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.

December 2011

Recipe Details

Easy Limoncello Recipe

Active 20 mins
Total 0 mins
Serves 18 servings
Makes 750 ml

Make your own version of this sweet, sunshine-colored, lemon liqueur at home.


  • 10 pesticide-free lemons (see note)

  • 375ml high-proof neutral grain spirit (such as Everclear 151; see note)

  • 1 3/4 cups water

  • 1 1/4 cups sugar


  1. Zest the lemons using a Microplane zester. Be sure to only grate the zest; Any white pith can turn your liqueur bitter. Reserve zested lemons for another use.

  2. Place the zest in a sealable glass container, pour in the spirit, seal and shake. Let mixture steep in a cool, dark place for two weeks (see note).

  3. Once your steeping period is over, bring the water and sugar to a boil in a small sauce pan. Remove from heat and let this simple syrup cool.

  4. Pour cooled simple syrup into lemon steeping mixture, and let this new mixture set for 24 hours.

  5. Filter your limoncello twice: Place a coffee filter inside a funnel, then pour your steeped mixture through it into a bottle or bowl. Repeat (see note).

  6. Once you've filtered limoncello into your final bottle, refrigerate it overnight. Store in the refrigerator or freezer and enjoy!

Special Equipment

Microplane zester, funnel, coffee filters


While you can use any type of lemon you like, Meyer lemons will make a slightly darker (though more fragrant) limoncello. Smooth, thick skins are the best for zesting.

You can substitute 100- or 80-proof vodka for the high-proof neutral grain spirit. Using a spirit that is more than 151 proof will make for a harsh end result. Vodka will impart a little flavor of its own to the limoncello, so I've read that many people use a water filter pitcher (like Brita or Pur) to "purify" the vodka first. (The vodka "flavor" doesn't bother me, so I've never tried this myself.)

Two weeks is the recommended steeping time, but as little as one week will work. Longer steeping times lead to a more mellow flavor, so feel free to let it steep for up to three months.

Filtering isn't just for appearance. Small particles can change the limoncello's flavor over time and may cause it to freeze if you choose to store your liqueur in the freezer.

Read More

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
146 Calories
0g Fat
14g Carbs
0g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 18
Amount per serving
Calories 146
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 2mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 14g 5%
Dietary Fiber 0g 1%
Total Sugars 14g
Protein 0g
Vitamin C 4mg 22%
Calcium 5mg 0%
Iron 0mg 0%
Potassium 6mg 0%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)