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How to Make Homemade Limoncello

The minute we got back from the Amalfi Coast, Brian wanted to make homemade limoncello.  When you go out to dinner in any of the towns in that area, they serve you little shots of icy cold limoncello after dinner - you know Italians and their wonderful digestifs obsession.  You get used to it pretty easily.  It's a nice custom. So we started researching recipes when we got back.

There are a lot of recipes out there for making homemade limoncello, but basically all you do is take the zest of lemons and steep them in vodka or grain alcohol for a certain amount of time and then strain the liquid.  You then add simple syrup (sugar water) to the alcohol and then let that sit for a few days. That's really all there is to it.  The big differences really come from the quality of lemons that you have and how much sugar you add to your concoction.  The amount of sugar is really up to you and how sweet you like this - a good reason to experiment with a couple of batches!

We settled on a recipe from a very authentic source - Mamma Agata.  Mamma Agata lives in the beautiful town of Ravello on the Amalfi Coast. Her family has lived there for generations. She has cooked all her life and now runs a cooking school out of her home there, which is quite well known.  She has cooked for a number of celebrities and has a lot of interesting stories.  She was kind enough to send me a copy of her wonderful cookbook. This is her recipe for limoncello and we found it to be really delicious - not overly sweet but just right. 

On the Amalfi coast, the lemons are, of course, incredible - you won't be able to replicate that over here. But you can certainly make very good limoncello.  Buy organic lemons if you can, since the peel is what you will be using.


Once you have homemade limoncello, you can make these absolutely delicious Lemon Capri Cocktails.  They are great to serve to guests after dinner:


Lemon Capri Cocktails


What to do with all the lemons after you are done zesting them for the limoncello?  I made a big batch of lemon sorbet and a batch of homemade lemonade.  


Homemade Limoncello
(lemon liqueur)
from Mamma Agata's cookbook 

for a printable recipe click here

you will need a large glass jar


  • zest of 6 or 7 large organic lemons
  • 1 litre or quart of pure grain alcohol or vodka
  • 5 cups (1250 ml) water 
  • 3 cups (700 gr) sugar



Peel the zest from the lemons with a vegtable peeler and place them into a large glass jar.  Try to avoid the bitter white pith of the lemon skin, under the yellow zest. 

Add the alcohol to the jar with the lemon zest.

Cover the glass jar with plastic wrap and store it in a cool place for 7 days.

1. Place lemon peels in large glass jar.  2. Pour alcohol over lemon peels
3. After seven days, strain the alcohol from the peels  4. Add simple syrup and pour into bottles


On the sixth day: Boil the water and add the sugar to the boiling water. Stir the sugar until it is fully dissolved in the water. Set the sugar syrup aside to let it cool over night.

On the seventh day: Strain the lemons peels from the alcohol and discard the peels.

Pour the sugar syrup into the glass jar with the alcohol and stir well.

Serve chilled, from the refrigerator or freezer.

NOTE: The limoncello will keep for one to two years. Store it in bottles with a cap or cork in your bar or cellar. When you want to drink it, chill the limoncello in the refrigerator or freezer before serving. 

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Reader Comments (111)

Thank you for sharing this idea! I loved the limoncello we tasted in Napoli and Ravello when we visited there in May! And the lemons were out of this world. The trees were just dripping with them. I will have to save this recipe for later this year when our Meyer Lemons are growing here in Turkey. Cheers!

Funny that you post this just now. Gayle and Roger Houser have just made a batch and we've been comparing notes on technique. Will be making some myself for my travel group that went to Sicily together in February. Thanks for the recipe!

July 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJane Schurr

Oh! I have a Meyer Lemon tree in AZ that we just planted! I could make limoncello too!

July 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDebbie M

We love lemoncello!! I make it all the time. My husband likes to chew on the lemon peel after they ferment.
It's great on ice cream and sorbet

July 3, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterchefbea

Nice recipe. I love the Amalfi Coast best, with all it's beauty, turquoise waters, lemoncello and wonderful food. I will have to check out this cookbook and next time we visit I may sign up for a class.

July 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVicki Bensinger

We also enjoyed Limoncello in Amalfi - I can't wait to make it at home! Thanks for the recipe!

July 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarol

Lovely! And serious props for the fantastic photos on your blog!

July 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJerome Jos. Gentes

Thanks for sharing the recipe and as usual your pictures are beautiful.

Limoncello is an old standby in my house, serving my guests as well as using it for hostess gifts.
This is the first year I have used Meyer Lemons, had ordered 10 lbs on the internet. I think I prefer regular lemons. I let the peel steep for several months before straining and adding the syrup.

A few years ago while living in Naples I prepared the peel and put it into a bottle with the alcohol and then brought it back to NYC to finish the preparation.

July 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNywoman

Elaine, Thank you for posting this, and I'm certainly going to make some. sI love lemoncello and this sounds wonderful! I don't blame Brian for wanting to make it! Happy 4th!

Is there some way I can order the cook book you have listed?

July 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSylvia McCollough

I've been making limoncello for a couple of years now - my recipe is similar to yours. When I was in Sicily they also had arancello, which is very similar but made from oranges. So that's what I'm going to try next - homemade arancello!

July 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSirkku

?a a l'air délicieux ! Merci pour la recette.

July 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGlycine blanche

From The Italian Dish:

Sylvia: I have links to where you can buy the cookbook in the post. Also, if you just go to Mamma Agata's site, there is a link for the cookbook. It's a wonderful book.

July 4, 2012 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

Limoncello reminds me of Positano and summer I just love it
Thank-you for the recipe

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarla Coulson

The Amalfi coastline is stunning. I first tasted limoncello when we visited Sorrento.
We just need some sunshine here in England to be able to sit out in the garden and enjoy a glass or two!
Thank you for the recipe and Mamma Agata's website, I am looking forward to cooking from this book.

Your blog is so wonderful and Im following...I hope you follow me also:)

If you want some cute swedish decor inspiration...check out my new post:)

Have a great weekend

LOVE Maria at

I have found that grain alcohol does a better job of extracting all of the lemon flavor from the peels than vodka does - wondering if you have an opinion about that?

July 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCooking with Michele

I have only used grain alcohol and it's great

July 7, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterchefbea

Love Limoncello! I would love to know where to find the beautiful glass bottles you are showing on your blog... Is there somewhere online to order them?

July 7, 2012 | Unregistered Commentergraves6188

From The Italian Dish:

Tamie: I got the bottles at World Market!

July 8, 2012 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

From The Italian Dish:

Michele: We have not tried it with grain alcohol - I think we were afraid of the alcohol content of grain alcohol vs. vodka. Grain alcohol being about 180 proof compared to vodka, which is 80 proof! Maybe we'll have to try that on our next batch!

July 8, 2012 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

Looks like a very easy recipe. In fact the hardest part is going to be finding decent lemons! Those wonderful huge knobbly lemons you get in Italy are fabulous aren't they? GG

July 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGlamorous Glutton

Our family just returned from a two week vacation in Italy on Sunday. It was our first time to Italy (and not our last!). We fell in love with Venice, San Gimignano and Capri as well as the delicious Limoncello (which we had never tried before). Thanks for sharing the recipe and I look forward to making some soon.

July 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterShirlee

Hi there- I nominated you for the Inspiring Blog Award! If you want to participate, you can check out my post here and follow the steps.

August 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPat Mitchell

Hi I just made my first batch of Limoncello! I have never had this before but it looked refreshing. It is quite a speacial treat. I had a lot of fun the morning I was making it! How is it supposed to taste? Mine was bright yellow like the picture but very suyrupy ( sp) I followed the recipe to a. " T" but just thought I would check. Thanks for any feedback.

August 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMamma Lisa

Wow... Just finished our first batch. So good!!! I can see how the Amalfi lemons would make a difference though. I love it regardless. The organic lemons we a great substitute. And the perfect bottles I got at Value Village make it even better. Thank you so much for bringing this recipe to my attention. Limoncello is my husband and mine's drink. Now it is even that much more special that we are making it together. :)

September 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

Can you use splenda instead?

October 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDDD

What if i don't have a fridge to keep it cold, won't it go bad..? Or is their anything i can add in to make it just cool and ready to drink

December 18, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjojo

From The Italian Dish:

JoJo: you don't have to store it in the fridge. You can actually store it in the freezer if you want. We store our extra bottles of it just in a cool place, not in the fridge. It will be okay. You can just chill it before serving.

December 19, 2012 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

Hello, GREAT blog site. I just made a batch of the limoncello. I think it might be a little too sweet and I did something wrong. What is the ratio of the lemon infused vodka to simple syrup?

Thank you so the site. I took your advice on the homemade vanilla extract. I'll never buy extract from the store ever again.

January 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterVeronica

Does anything smell as grand as the lemon scented air around Sorrento?? I think that's where my love of limoncello started---20 years ago---and continues to this day. I am never without it and will make this recipe up soon. Thanks, as always, for your wonderful recipes! They continue to always remind me of wonderful times spent in Italy with family and friends!!

January 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLinda

Do you cover the glass jar?

January 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLaurie

I have just found your site and I'm enjoying it immensely! What a wonderful collection of information, photography and entertainment. Thank you for sharing it all. I was wondering if you could tell me what grain alcohol is. Can you buy it at the liquor store and if so what would it be called and are there different kinds? I don't like to use vodka if I can avoid it, so finding an alternative would be great! Thanks. :)

January 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah

Most liquor stores carry grain alcohol. It is made from grains. The brand I have seen is "Everclear". it is very potent and has a different effect on me, personally, than other kinds of alcohol.

January 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCG

From The Italian Dish:

Deborah: Read through the comments - there is some discussion regarding grain alcohol. Hope this helps.

January 28, 2013 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

I make this, and to keep the easiest ratio I use an old 1000 ml whiskey bottle and pour the grain alcohol/lemon oil in, then just top it off with the simple syrup. It's about a cup or more less than your recipe, but I like it with a big kick! And I don't have to remember how much simple syrup either. I also let it sit in a dark closet for a month, then put it in the freezer and serve it ice cold.

February 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

I just finished my first batch---after 2 weeks . First 7 days I only had the everclear and lemon, next 7 days I added the sugar water---of which I only used 1 3'4 cups after reading how many people thought it was too sweet. It turned our perfect with a color and texture and taste nearly identical to Caravella brand. It is delightful. Thanks so much for the recipe!

February 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLinda

Today I'm starting a batch of limecello---will let you know how it goes!

February 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLinda

We recently purchased a property with several different types of citrus. Al least 3 different varieties of lemons. Going to try and compare. I know at least one is Lisbon and the other meyer. Saw above about oranges, will try that also. Next may be graipefruit, this is going to be to experiment.

March 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJm

Well, sadly, my adventures in limecello making were not as glorious as the limoncello was. It turned out a dull green, not bright like the lemon was and the taste was just nothing outstanding.

March 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLinda

Good evening,

Thank you for the recipe; I just made it right now! I have a couple questions however. Please see below

- I heard you have to leave the lemon skins in there for a month. Have you heard of this? Would it make a difference?
- Can I use agave nectar instead?
- I lived in Bologna and Milan for a year and the owner of a restaurant told me that you have to strain the lemon skins (and maybe sugar...I forget) with a pair of women's tights! Have you heard of this? I forget the exact recipe he told me.

Thanks so much!

Maxim Richard
Montreal, Quebec, Canada

March 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMaxime Richard

Thank you for sharing your recipe!

Recently, the local grocer had beautiful organic lemons. I decided to try my hand at making this delicious drink. My mixture is about three weeks old at this point. It has some translucent flakes that have appeared floating in the mixture. Is this normal or should I be concern about serving this batch?

May 2, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterwilliam

have any of you had any success with making this sugar free? I have a very concentrated liquid sweetener and wonder if I should add that directly to the vodka mixture, or should i also add some water?
thank you for the recipe

May 14, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterkim

Hi, just found your blog today and this recipe. I have made it the exact way except I let the peel sit in the Vodka for 40 days, until the came out almost like lemon chips and the liquid was a beautiful golden yellow before I added the sugar water. I left it to sit after the sugar water was added for 2 weeks . Deeeelish!

May 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAndy S.

Hi - I'm an Italian citizen living in northeast FL and Calabria. Love this blog!! Just a little fyi - don't use vodka. My friend in Campania makes his all the time and I told him that Americans are told to use vodka to make their limoncello. He almost passed out - the taste will not be the same. He said grain alcohol is not potato vodka. simple. Also, a meyer lemon does not begin to compare to a lemon grown anywhere in Italy. You can take a Florida/Calif/Ariz/Tex lemon (non-Meyer) and it's also not even close. But I suggest you stay with the meyer if you want it to taste a little sweeter. Grain alcohol comes in two "strengths" - the really, really strong stuff and the level I call sissy grain. In Italy they use the strong one. Here, you have options. I can taste the difference but I have a girlfriend who just can't tolerate anything with a kick, so we make her the weaker of the two. but never ever ever ever vodka.

June 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCheryl

Hello! I'm looking to make this for my husband. We were in Italy 2 years ago and he just loved the limoncello and so I want to try to make it. Where could I find the jars/bottles?

June 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLaura

Laura - I make this all the time. I use empty wine bottles.

June 11, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterchef bea

Hi , i may have missed something ,but what is the simple syrup ?........your recipes and blog are awesome, can't wait to try sooo many of them.....Thanks ,Toodles norma

June 22, 2013 | Unregistered Commenternorma

Ok! Just finished making this recipe and stored my glass jar away in a dark closet. I can't wait to taste it!

July 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLainy

Just about to make a batch, inspired by the stories. Great Blog

August 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterColleen

Love your blog. Went looking for something different to do with the zucchini I have and ended up thinking about making Limoncello again. I wanted to make it several years ago but this was before Organic lemons were even at the local market. Here in Pennslyvania, the lemons have a coating on them that would have not been good for the lemoncello. Again I love your blog. Both my Polish mother and my Italian mother-in-law have passed away, but when I cook, I talk to both of them as if they were standing there telling me what to do next. The thing of it is, your recipies SOUND exactly like they did and as I was reading them.
Food Network should give you your own show!!! I'm hooked Marie!

August 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCarol

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