Homemade limoncello is a delicious way to be transported right to Italy! Follow our tips and tricks to make sure you end up with a smooth and cold lemony treat.
Travelling in Italy, it’s common to receive a sipping glass of limoncello or grappa after a meal, while here in hot hot Texas it’s a nice way to cool down anytime of the day (I’m looking at you brunch)! Limoncello is naturally lemony, a bit sweet, a bit syrupy and best served uber cold. Making your own homemade limoncello is easy and fun. It just takes some patience.
About 15 years ago, some friends of mine told me they were making limoncello. “Lemonwha?” I responded. Knowing it involved alcohol I was ready to help…until I found out that limoncello can take months (months!) before it’s ready to drink.
Just a decade ago, making your own limoncello was about the only way to enjoy a glass in the States. Today it’s easier to find, but few outside of Italy have probably ever tried this sweet, refreshing, lemony liqueur.
The one time I made my own it was pretty good, but turned slushy in the freezer. We were using 80 proof vodka, and cut down on the infusion time to a total of four weeks because patience is not my defining character trait.
Flash forward to 2016 when here at Food Banjo we attempt to perfect an easy homemade limoncello recipe. This time we’re using Smirnoff’s 100 proof triple distilled vodka. The more your vodka is distilled the fewer the impurities you’ll have, reducing chances that your limoncello will freeze. That’s also why we’re also using filtered water – to cut down on impurities.
When you’re finished with the first step of this recipe you’ll be left with a bunch of naked lemons. Why not put them to use and try our simple lemon granita recipe?
Let’s talk about some tips and the specifics for making homemade limoncello.
Best type of vodka to use:
100 proof vodka is the best to use for homemade limoncello. This will keep it from freezing when you store it in the freezer and cut down on the chances of it being slushy. If you use 100 proof vodka, you can store your limoncello in the freezer, whereas if you use 80 proof vodka, you’ll need to store it in the refrigerator. We used Smirnoff 100 Vodka, but New Amsterdam, Svedka, and Absolut also make 100 proof vodkas.
How long does it keep?
You can store homemade limoncello in the refrigerator for up to three months and in the freezer for up to 2 years. Who are we kidding though? You’ll finish it well before then!
How do you keep limoncello from going bitter?
Limoncello can wind up bitter if you leave any of the white pith on the lemon peels. That’s why in our recipe, we have you scrape each lemon peel with a knife to make sure you are only adding the yellow part of the peel to your limoncello!
- Lemons – If you can, get organic lemons
- 100 proof vodka – Try to find 100 proof vodka to use in limoncello. It will work better than 80 proof vodka, and that means it won’t get as slushy and you can store it in the freezer.
- Filtered or bottled water – Using filtered or bottled water in your limoncello means you’re introducing less impurities into the drink, which also cuts down on the chance of it freezing.
- Sugar – Use granulated white sugar in this recipe. If you use any type of brown sugar, it won’t turn out as well, and you won’t end up with that beautiful, vibrant yellow color.
- Large half-gallon airtight glass jar/bottle – You’ll need this for storing your limoncello!
How to make homemade limoncello:
First you’ll want to wash your lemons. You’re using the lemon peels, so you want them to be as clean as possible!
Get out your glass jar and get ready to add lemon peels to it!
With a vegetable peeler, zest, or “peel” strips of lemon from each lemon. Once you’ve removed strips, take a knife and run them over the inside of the peel to remove any white pith that has remained attached to the yellow part of the peel. This step is extremely important. If you still have white pith on your peels, the limonello will turn out bitter.
After removing the white pith of each strip of lemon peel, add the peel to your glass jar.
Keep going for all your lemons.
Your lemons should look somewhat like this once you’re done. Don’t throw your lemons away though! Save them to make a lemon granita, lemon curd, pitcher of lemonade, or some other lemon treat!
Add vodka to your lemon peels.
Store in a cool, dark place for 10-40 days. (The longer, the better).
After the initial infusion time, make the simple syrup by heating the water and sugar together until the sugar is dissolved. Here’s a before and after of how the limoncello will look after you add the simple syrup. After the syrup is cool, add it to the bottle and then let infuse for another 10-40 days. (Before is on the right, after is on the left.)
After the second infusion is complete, strain your limoncello through a mesh sieve, return to the jar, and then store in the freezer until ready to serve.
- 8 - 10 lemons
- 1 750 ml bottle 100 proof vodka
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups filtered or bottled water
- 1 half-gallon airtight glass jar
- Wash the lemons well with a potato scrubber and zest them (remove the outer peel) with a vegetable peeler or a small knife to preserve just the yellow portion of the peel. Remove as much of the bitter white pith as you can and deposit the peels into your jar. Add half of the bottle of vodka and seal. Store the jar in a cool, dark place for 10 to 40 days (the longer, the better. Obvi).
- After your initial infusion period, combine the sugar and water in small saucepan and cook over a medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once your simple syrup has cooled add it to your jar and keep it in the dark for another 10 to 40 days.
- After your second infusion period, strain your limoncello through a mesh strainer, or a cheesecloth if you have one, and return it to your bottle and chill in the freezer. Serve cold in teensy, tiny glasses.