- 12 organic lemons, washed and dried
- 1 750-ml bottle vodka (100-proof preferred, or Everclear, see note)
- 1 to 2 cups sugar, to taste
- Filtered water
- Vegetable peeler
- Paring knife
- 1 quart glass jar or other similar-sized glass container with lid
- Large coffee filter
- 4-cup measuring cup
- Small funnel
- another mason jar for straining
- small bottles for packaging up!
- Peel the lemons: Use a vegetable peeler to remove the peels from all the lemons. Try to remove only the outer yellow skin and as little of the pith as possible. Trim away any large pieces of pith with a paring knife. The first time I made limoncello I was lazy about this, but it makes a huge difference in the level of bitterness. Some people prefer to zest the lemon with a microplane. This makes it easier to avoid the pith and can shorten infusion time.
- Mix the peels with vodka: Transfer the lemon peels to a 1-quart jar or glass container and cover with vodka. Screw on the lid.
- Infuse the vodka: Let the vodka and lemon peels infuse somewhere out of direct sunlight for at least 4 days or as long as a month. The longer you let the vodka infuse, the more lemony your limoncello.
- Strain the vodka: Line a funnel with a large coffee filter and set it over a large mason jar. Strain the infused vodka through the coffee filter lined funnel.
- Prepare sugar syrup: Prepare a simple syrup of at least 1 cup of filtered water and 1 cup of sugar — bring the water to a simmer and stir in the sugar to dissolve; allow to cool. If you prefer your limoncello sweeter, feel free to tweak the amount of simple syrup, just make sure it is always a 1:1 ratio.
- Mix the sugar syrup with the infused vodka: Pour the sugar syrup into the infused vodka. Stir gently to mix. Taste and add additional sugar syrup if desired (see above).
- Bottle the limoncello: Insert the funnel in the neck of one of the bottles (make sure they are clean!) and fill with limoncello. Repeat with remaining bottles.
- Make a cute label. I used waterproof Terra label paper to print my labels at home.
- Chill and store: Chill the limoncello in the fridge or freezer for at least 4 hours before drinking. Limoncello can be kept in the fridge for up to a month or the freezer for up to a year (and often much longer!).
Some people prefer meyer lemons, but they are harder to peel. Definitey go organic, as all of the chemicals in the peels will get pulled out of the peel along with the lemon oils. The traditional lemon used for limoncello is Emminello St. Teresa lemon, a vibrant lemon variety native to the Sorrento Peninsula of Italy. They can be purchased in the US but they are tough to find and usually only available Feb-March. I used organic lemons from Trader Joe’s! I wash them with a bit of Trader Joes fruit wash and rinse well. Don’t scrub them too hard.
Some people prefer to use Everclear instead of Vodka. Because it is higher proof, it extracts the lemon flavor more quickly. However it needs to be diluted with water to get it to a drinkable alchohol level. I have tried both methods and I found the vodka easier, but it does take a bit longer to infuse. I generally use a high quality vodka with no flavor. Also diluting with water makes the limoncello a bit cloudy (something to do with science), but does not affect the flavor. I would definitely use filtered water for this step!
Limoncello pairs great with prosecco, champagne, and gin. Or sip ice cold straight up.