DIY: Homemade Limoncello
A few months ago, my Chief Culinary Consultant and I stopped by my grandparents’ so he could bring them a few summer squash from his garden. We ended up staying for a few hours, playing some cards and eating snacks. I’m not sure how it came up, but my grandma started telling us about her neighbor who makes his own limoncello, and that he had recently brought them a bottle, which was in the refrigerator. My grandma had his recipe, but had never tried making it. Needless to say, I immediately asked for the recipe. My Chief Culinary Consultant and I thought it would be a fun project and would make great Christmas gifts!
You’ll notice in the photos below that there is a large amount of liquid and lemons; we decided to more than triple the recipe since we were taking the time to make it. If you make a single recipe, your quantities will be much smaller.
There are four primary steps to making limoncello:
Step #1: Infusing the alcohol with the lemon. The lemons are peeled, and the peels and alcohol are combined in a large glass container. Once it’s sealed, it’s left to sit for at least 10 days, or up to three weeks.
Step #2: Combining the steeped alcohol with a simple syrup. The alcohol mixture is strained in a colander, the peels discarded, and then combined with a simple syrup mixture that adds sweetness to the limoncello.
Step #3: First filtration. Once the alcohol has been combined with the simple syrup, the limoncello is filtered for the first time. The easiest way to do this is with a fine-mesh sieve and coffee filters.
Step #4: Second filtration and bottling. This time the filtering can be done directly into the bottle(s) that you’re planning to use to store the final limoncello. Using a funnel and coffee filters, the filtering is done in the exact same manner as in step #3. The limoncello is filtered a second time to ensure that there is no sediment in the drink.
We more than tripled the recipe and it made enough to fill twelve 16-ounce swing-top bottles, with enough leftover for probably two more bottles (I had only ordered a case of 12 bottles). I got my bottles from Northern Brewer (the price for a case of 12 was a steal!), but you can find tons of different bottles on Amazon, and if you’re looking for something other than swing-top bottles, Specialty Bottle offers a great variety.
This is a relatively simple (and fun!) project. The prep is easy and the hardest part is waiting for it to be finished steeping! The final drink is extremely smooth (yet strong!), sweet and full of lemon flavor. Keep the bottles in the freezer and break out the limoncello for after-dinner sipping. You could also use it in lemon-limoncello cupcakes (yum!), or create homemade labels and gift tags and give bottles as gifts – perfect for the holidays, birthdays, housewarming or even a hostess gift instead of a bottle of wine.
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- 1 liter grain alcohol, Everclear*
- 10 lemons
- 5 cups (1.25 l) water
- 4 cups (800 g) granulated sugar
- First, wash and dry your lemons. Since you're going to be using the peel exclusively, you want to make sure they don't have any residue on them. Next, peel your lemons (a vegetable peeler works perfectly for this job) - you don't want to get too much of the white pith under the peel, so try to peel as thinly as possible. Put the peels into a large glass container. Add the alcohol, making sure that it completely covers the peels. Let the mixture steep for 10 days, or up to 3 weeks.
- Place a colander inside of a large bowl. Pour the alcohol mixture into the colander and drain, using a wooden spoon to press out any excess liquid from the peels. Discard the peels.
- In a large saucepan, combine the water and sugar over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved and the syrup is clear. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature, then add the simple syrup to the alcohol mixture and stir to combine.
- Place a wire mesh strainer over a large, clean bowl and place a coffee filter inside the mesh strainer. Slowly pour the limoncello through the coffee filter. Once the amount of liquid straining through slows down considerably or stops, replace the coffee filter with a new one and continue until all of the limoncello has been filtered, replacing coffee filters as needed.
- Next, filter again and fill the bottles as follows: Place a funnel into the mouth of the bottle you'll use for your finished limoncello. Place a coffee filter inside the funnel, and slowly pour the limoncello through the coffee filter to fill the bottle. Seal the bottle(s) and store in the freezer indefinitely.
Did you make this recipe?
Leave a review below, then snap a picture and tag @thebrowneyedbaker on Instagram so I can see it!
Olá , tudo ok? É claro que você está compartilhando informações importantes , isso é realmente fantástico, continue escrevendo!
I made this several years ago for Christmas gifts and was a huge hit with everyone. I am going to do it again this year for some close friends.
My fiancé and I have been making Limoncello using your recipe for the past several years and it is always amazing. We have tried other recipes but yours is the best. We tweeked it a little with great results. We zest the fruit instead of peeling.
We also do orange using the zest of 20 oranges per 1.75 liters of alcohol, usually grain.
We are bottling both lemon and orange tonight!!
These have become a holiday favorite for family and friends!
Thank you for the recipe!
Hello! Looking to make this for our friends for Christmas, just had one question, do you have to keep the bottles chilled after filling or is this what we direct others to do once we have gifted them? Thank you for the recipe and am so excited to make this!!!
Hi Andrew, Keeping it chilled will keep it nice and fresh, so if you have the space for it, I recommend it!
I made this for holidays a couple years ago and it was amazing. Everyone who got a bottle loved it and those who didn’t make it over here missed out! Came back to the site to print it again and going to make some more. Great recipe. I got my bottles from a local brewing supply, and highly recommend the one step cleaner they sell to clean the bottles prior.
I made this limoncello — this is a great recipe – I used vodka as we don’t have Everclear here in Ontario (at least not to my knowledge)- and I left my lemon rind in the vodka for over 2 months! I just drained it and added the syrup tonight…and put most of it in the freezer to save for Easter. I am having a glass on ice, and it is delish!! Thanks for this recipe! I’ll post a pic on Instagram and tag you so you can see mine. thanks for the recipe!
I live in Ontario as well – which Vodka did you use. thanks
This is my second year making Lemonchello with this recipe. It is written with easy directions and the end result is amazing. My family and friends now look forward to a bottle. Thank you. I never thought I could do something like this.
so, I made a mistake. I used three 750 ml bottles with 20 lemons vs 30 and I am on day 10 of soaking. what should I do? was thinking to remove old peels and just add the peels of 10 more lemons and let it sit 10 more days? thoughts? thanks! Lisa Hoyt
Hi Lisa, You don’t need to remove the old peels, you can just drop in some new ones!
I love this and I’am going to make it……thanks for sharing…..
My sister in law, Linda Barente Barton, made this for me for Christmas and it was truly amazing! Not only was it the best present ever but it was like summer in a bottle!!! If mine turns out half as great as hers, I’ll consider it a job well done!!!!!
How long will the limoncello last without freezing? And should it be kept in the fridge?
Hi Mandy, I would probably use it within 6 months or so and yes, definitely keep it in the refrigerator.
Last ? I promise. Just finished Christmas limoncello. Looks great…tastes great. Can I leave it out of the refrigerator… Until I give to people ???????? Will make it so much easier. Also hard to hide 12bottles in the refrigerator. Have a great holiday and thanxxxxx. Sooooo much.
Hi Lois, Yes, for sure! I would just include a note that it’s best stored in the freezer and served chilled.
2 quickie questions.
When peels and vodka in closet…..should you mix them every so often?
Part of reason I like Limencello (other than the taste) is the BRIGHT yellow. Do you think a couple of drops of food coloring could be added at the end? Thanks again
Hi Lois, No need to stir the vodka and peel mixture at all. And you could add food coloring, but I don’t think it’s necessary.
I can’t wait to try this. I am going to triple the recipe. Do I, therefore, need to buy TWO one gallon jugs? Thanxxxxxxxxx
Hi Lois, Yeah, you will definitely need a larger container or to use two. Enjoy!
Thanx I’ll let you know. I have my two great nieces, 12 & 13, every year and make Christmas presents for their mom and dad and aunts and uncles. Thought I would do the first step soon.
What and when do u add the lemon juice? As my peels did not stain my alcohol at all!maybe I just miss reading it all!
Hi Rudi, You do not use any lemon juice for this recipe; all of the lemon flavor comes from the peels.
Michelle, I am curious as to where you get the bottles and large jar. Please let me know. Thanks.
Hi Stanley, Here is the link I included above for the swing top bottles. I got the large jar from the same place…
I put my mixture in a cool dark place,,,,,3 years ago. Totally forgot about it, and now my husband is asking me what to do about it? I’m almost afraid to open it. What do you recommend?
Hi Nancy, Oh no! If it were me, I would probably pitch it and start over. I know it’s been sitting in a large amount of alcohol, but just to be safe…
Hi. Would love to make this. I love all of your recipes. One question, you said you made alot more than the recipe called for and I would also like to make a lot so I am wondering the quantities that are posted, did you triple that amount or is that the amount tripled? Thanks
Hi Patricia, We tripled the amount that is listed. Enjoy!
I have a question. It may have already been asked before, but I didn’t see it. I forgot to buy my bottles, so the initial Everclear and Lemon peels are going to be ‘stewing’ for almost a month before I can filter and bottle. Do you think this will be a problem?
Hi Jessica, Not a problem at all!!
I have a batch brewing now. I am noticing my liquid is still very clear. Yours is yellow. How did you get yours to turn yellow?? I used 15 lemons and I am steeping mine for 40 days. It is at 33 days now. I have the jars in a bag in a closet next to my bag of Cherry Bounce.
Hi Pat, I didn’t do anything special to achieve the yellow color, it infused from the lemon rinds.
What do you think about trying this with a flavored vodka? I have several different kinds we just don’t drink. But I love limoncello. Rasperry, vanilla, mango and mandarin vodka are in my cupboard.
Hi Jean, Using the flavored vodka will of course not result in a clean lemon flavor, but if you’d like to do so, I’d recommend the raspberry of those options – I think it would pair best with the lemon.
Just ordered my bottles! (Followed your link to Northern Brewer:)
Hi!! I am just starting this recipe and realized I have a lot of vodka to use:) My bottles are 1.75L… I have converted the recipe and came up with 18 lemons, 9 1/3 cup of water and 7 cups of sugar. Does this sound correct? Thanks!
Great information! I’m Italian and have been making limoncello for the past year now before coming upon your post. I’ve had good results with 100 proof Smirnoff (tried using 80 proof but the resulting limoncello froze when stored in freezer). Also used Everclear once but the resulting limoncello was way too strong for my taste. I never thought about using the whole lemon peel — and had been told that if any pith gets into the mixture, the end result will be bitter. I’m guessing that this has not happened to you.
Also, I steep my lemons for much longer — 40-45 days in the alcohol, then add simple syrup, then steep for another 40-45 days before filtering.
Thanks for sharing this great post! Now working on finding fun bottles and labels.
Laura in Washington DC
hi i just wondering why your one and my one is so different
yours is much yellow and unclear.
did you put the lemon juice in it??
or coz i didnt put enough syrup in it? my syrup look very clear as water
Hi Ping, It’s virtually impossible for me to pinpoint the reasoning, but it could have to do with the pigmentation of the lemons and how long you steeped the alcohol for. The longer you steeped, the more yellow the color.
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I am definitely going to try this. One of the terrific Italian restaurants here makes their own Limoncello. It’s very expensive and very strong. So strong that my husband calls it, “jet fuel”. :) I am extremely impressed with all of your recipes, Brown Eyed Baker… Bravo!
My brother makes limoncello from my grandmother’s recipe. he went online to see other vairations of the recipe and loved the cordial glasses in your pictures, where did you purchase them?
Hi Jenny, I actually didn’t buy them. They are from my great Aunt – she had multiple sets of glassware with those red, white and green stripes. She gave some to all of the women in our family.
Ok… Thanks. They are so classic looking.
When combining the sugar and water mixture, does the water have to be “clear” if you started with a brown sugar?? Thanks so much, hope it comes out as wonderful as yours looks!
Hi Keeley, I would not recommend using brown sugar in the simple syrup; I would go with regular white, granulated sugar. If you do use brown, however, I don’t believe there is any way you’ll end up with perfectly clear water.
I made this for Christmas gifts this year and what a hit! I used the recommended grain alcohol and was sure to indicate that on my labels. An aunt of mine mentioned raspicello and I want to try that next. I store my limoncello in the freezer and was wondering what your opinion was about storing the raspicello in the freezer ~ if the juice from the raspberries might actually change the consistency and it would actually freeze and ruin. I made vodka infused with maraschino cherries and stored that in the freezer ~ it actually froze and I had to throw it away. I know that the raspicello would have a much higher alcohol content because of the grain alcohol I would use. Any thoughts? I tried to research it online without success.
Hi Teri, I have never used raspberries in this recipe, so unfortunately I’m unsure about how it would freeze. Usually vodka or grain alcohol does not freeze, but given your experience with the cherries, now I’m suspicious.
My family are Italian so i should have been able to make this; but (notice the but) i had an old recipie and i had been following that but i have mislaid it hence coming on here and trying to pick up your recipie. My old Italian receipie steeps it for quite a long time; mine has been ‘in steep’ for about 5 weeks then i noticed i was unable to find the recipie. I used 3 75cl bottles of Russian standard triple distilled vodka, the peel from 14-16 lemons. When i made the syrup i used 5-6 cups of water and 4 good cups of sugar. The syrup went clear i waited until room temp: then after i have strained the lemon peels i added the syrup to the dull lemon/vodka mixture but it has only thickened sligtly and has not turned cloudy and is is still quite dull. I lost quite a bit when i pured through the muslin cloth and everything is now really sticky…i haven’t bottled it yet i am waiting for it to cool (this has only happened in the last 30 mins) Help how can i resurect it??? I have 5 more batches still in steep, some 4 weeks, 3 weeks and so on but less vodka and lemon peel. (my recipie said to put a whole lemons worth of peel in the bottle when the mixture is finaly bottled, shall i do this…HELP please!!
Hi Annarosa, Without actually having worked with your recipe before, it would be very difficult for me to pinpoint what went wrong, although I’m still unsure as to what the problem is? Because it’s not thick and not cloudy? My guess is that the color could vary based on the alcohol and lemons used; it may not be a loss at all.
cool. i should do this sometime
I am going to use this for Christmas presents this year, thanks! Any idea as to why the vodka has to be 100 proof? I live in Cambodia and not sure I can find Everclear, but an old roommate left like 3L of Stolichynia Vodka at our house and I’d like to use it up. Thanks!
Hi Rebecca, The higher proof alcohol helps draw out the oils from the lemon peels, resulting in a more concentrated lemon flavor. I’m sure you could use what you have on hand and it will still be good, just not quite as strong!
does the container have to be glass or can I use plastic??
Hi Kim, It should be glass. From what I read at the time, plastic can cause issues with the steeping.
I know this comment is months old, but I wanted to share – I always use Michelle’s recipe and always use large plastic tupperwares for my steep (I have 4L of vodka steeping in the basement right now for my wedding in August!). No problems with flavor, consistency or anything.
I just finished making this, and my oh my, is it ever good. I made 1/2 the recipe, and it still made lots. Every Italian family has its own recipe, and this one will be ours. :)
I have a question, I am making this recipe as christmas gifts for friends and family I’ve almost tripled the recipe and its about ready to start filtering and adding the simple syrup mixture, however i just realzed i used 80% proof vodka instead of 100% proof. Will the recipe still work or will i have to start all over again?
Hi Jennifer, No need to start over! The liquor just won’t be as strong or as full-flavored as if you had used a higher proof vodka.
Do I need to sterilize the bottles the Limoncello is going into? and if so how do I do that?
Hi Jennifer, I just ran the bottles and tops through the dishwasher before using.
Living in California I do not have access to everclear. Is there another alcohol I could use? I would have to make a couple hour trip to Nevada otherwise :(
Hi Sarah, Yes, as indicated in the recipe above, you can substitute 100-proof vodka for the Everclear.
In response to your post…you must live in the boonies inCa because I too livein California and Everclear is sold everywhere. We get it every Halloween to make jungle juice. Just an FYI.
And then, I read the words “Chef Culinary Consultant” and wonder if this person has a name. Good for you to have that person. I need one of those.
I’ve been reading your blog for a while, although this is the first time leave a comment. I love your recipes!
I have a question and I think it is a stupid one, but here it goes: when you first mix the alcohol and the lemon peels in the glass contender, should I cover it? In the pictures the lid is off, so I was wondering how should I do it.
Hi Marina, Not a stupid question! I left it open while I was taking photos, but yes, you should cover the container while the mixture is steeping.
I had no idea that just the lemon peels were used to make limoncello… thats new information to me!
I’m planning to start this next week to bottle up for Christmas gifts this year. I’m going to be using Everclear, as the recipe recommends. Do you have any idea what the alcohol content of the finished product would be? Can I assume that it would be somewhere around 45% since I’m adding an equal amount of liquid that does not have any alcohol to the Everclear. I’d like to be able to put some sort of guideline on my gift tags since the content will be much higher than, let’s say, a bottle of wine. Having said all that, I can not wait to take a sip of this finished product straight from the freezer! It sounds simply delicious!
Hi Teri, Unfortunately I’m not an alcohol expert and couldn’t give you an accurate number for the alcohol %. You could say that it is 2-3x the alcohol content of wine, but I don’t have an actual number for you. Have fun making it!
I have wanted to make my own limoncello for a long time… It’s one of my favorites, and I think it would make fabulous gifts! So glad you posted this recipe… I am bookmarking it to make for Christmas gifts!
I have made limencello with simple syrup. my problem is that the sugar re crysatilled in the bottom of the bottle. Do you have any ideas how to reincorporate it or what went wrong? thanks
The key here is to make sure that the sugar has completely dissolved when making the simple syrup. If it completely dissolves, then there won’t be any sugar crystals in the bottle.
been trying this recipe and not sure if I am doing something wrong
how does your limoncello turn out so colourful and also thick/murky looking
mine is very pale in colour and quite clear.
Hi Anthony, How long has the mixture been steeping? It’s quite pale and much clearer in the beginning, when you first add the lemon peel. As the days progress, the liquid will take on a much deeper yellow color.
ive made 2 different batches over the last 2 months
one was steeping with lemon peel for 10 days
the other one has been for 20 days
both have come out pretty much the same. not so bright yellow. also is there a way to make the mixture look thick?
the limoncello ive bought from Italy recently is quite thick looking. not a see through mixture.
Hi Anthony, My limoncello did not look thick until I stirred in the simple syrup; then it took on that cloudy, thick look. I’m not positive, but the lack of color could be due to the lemons that you’re using. If they’re older or not quite ripe, they may not be releasing as much oil.
Can’t wait to try this! The “steeping” step: Do we steep at room temp or in the fridge? Thank you! :)
Hi Joy, You steep at room temperature. Enjoy!
Does the recipe posted reflect how much you made? Or did you triple this? I can’t figure out the metric conversion of 2 litres into 12 ounce bottles!
Hi Rachel, We more than tripled the recipe, which I noted in the post. The yield of the recipe is 2 liters because you’re adding the simple syrup to the 1 liter of alcohol mixture. 2 liters is approximately 68 ounces, which means you could figure on getting about 5-6 12-ounce bottles out of this recipe.
Great gift idea! So easy and delicious!
Such a fun project, I love this!! I just might need to make some for my family before the holiday :)
I have been waiting for this one to pop up on the blog! This is amazing!
I used 7 lemons to 1 liter of everclear how much water and sugar should I use
My boyfriend’s mom just sent him home to me with a bottle of her homemade limoncello! It really isn’t all too difficult to make, and the result is definitely worth it :)
Have lemon tree and make this every year. After a couple tries, I use less sugar as everyone thought it was too sweet. Also freeze in mason jars. For light summer drink use 2/3 limoncella and 1/3 seltzer water and everyone loves it.
Hi Sue, we also thought the sweetness was over-powering even the alcohol. What did you end up using in the simple syrup recipe? 5 cups water, 3 cups sugar?
Do you recommend steeping this with the lemon peels for the 10 days in fridge or at room temp?
Hi Kathy, You can steep it at room temperature. Just be sure to store it in a place that doesn’t get a ton of sunlight or too much warmth. The inside of a walk-in pantry or closet is perfect.
What a perfect present for people. It looks great!
Quick question – once they are out of the freezer, how long can this be at room temperature? I am thinking of giving this as gifts for Christmas and when I am handing them out to folks, I want to include on the tag how quickly it should be refridgerated
Good question…I’m curious now too!! :)
Hi Jackie, They can stay out of the refrigerator/freezer for any amount of time. The drink won’t go bad, it just tastes the absolute best straight from the freezer :)
In the Philadelphia area, some people are also making Chocolacello and Orangecello…yum! Same premise, one different ingredient.
Hi Michelle! We make limoncello also. It is so delicious, isn’t it? Thanks so much for the links on buying the bottles. I will definitely use them when I made my next batch…
How delicious! I love the bright lemon flavor!
I make limoncello and it keeps in the freezer for years, becoming smoother and even more delicious as it ages. It’s actually much better after at least a year!
Great idea!!! I love it and it would be perfect for giving as a gift!
I can’t wait to try this!
1 Question: What proof Everclear did you use?
And-my daughter made the Lemoncello cupcakes for me for Mother’s Day-YUM!
Hi Carolyn, My grandma’s neighbor’s recipe didn’t indicate a proof level, but I assume the 151-proof, as the 190 would likely be way too strong.
This looks great! I’ve always wanted to make this! Quick question ~ when the lemon peels are steeping in the alcohol for 10 days in step one, should this be refrigerated? (That would be my assumption). Also, how long will it keep in the fridge and freezer?
Thanks so much ~
Hi Teri, It does not need to be refrigerated. You should store it in a cool, dark place like a pantry or a closet. It will last in the freezer for years (i.e. indefinitely!).
I made Limoncello last year with much success but I zested the lemon. I like your idea so much better..The peels look like you might get more of the essence of the lemon. Thanks for posting.
Looks fun! I’ve always wanted to try making it. I made a similar liquor years ago with rhubarb! My question is, what did you do with the rest of the lemons? ;)
Oooh, rhubarb flavored would be delicious! I’ve seen versions with blood oranges and grapefruit as well. So many great options! As for the rest of the lemons – I put the peeled lemons in a ziploc freezer bag and froze them to be used later.
Hi Michelle, getting ready to start mine today and I am planning to juice the rest of the lemons, freeze the juice for use in lemonade or recipes, put a few of the pulps thru the garbage disposer and compost the rest!
This is a fabulous idea for Christmas gifts..How much in advance can I make this for gift-giving?..Also…just what would one use for Everclear in Europe?..I live in France and would love to find out about an equivalent option?..Thank you for sharing this great, money-saving recipe!
Hi Donna, You can make it as far in advance as you’d like. Just store the bottles in a cool, dark place or, if you have the room, in the refrigerator or freezer.
If you don’t have access to grain alcohol where you live, you can use 100-proof vodka. Please see the bottom of the recipe for the adaptation.
Actually, vodka does not work very well for limoncello. It yields a qualitatively different taste than the authentic recipe. My recipe comes from my Italian relatives in Italy and it lays out the same steps in your recipe including the use of Everclear pure alcohol (easily found in big liquor stores in the vodka/gin department) but they do not strain it. They (and I agree) see no point since the peels do not leave any noticeable residue.
Love this idea, what a great gift for Christmas!
I really want to make this for Christmas gifts! I think my family
would love them! My question is…what is the shelf life for them? Thanks!!
Hi Gretchen, If you keep the limoncello in the freezer, it will keep pretty much indefinitely – years!
Thanks!! For some reason, wasn’t thinking about freezing it!! Making this VERY soon then. Ordering bottles now!!
One more question…is 1 liter…just one bottle of the Everclear?
Hi Gretchen, Yes, the bottles are marked, but Everclear is typically sold in 1 liter bottles, although I have seen a larger, “jumbo” bottle which is 1.75 liters, but like I said, they are marked.
Where do you buy your everclear?
Hi Sav, We made this while we were on vacation in Florida, so I bought it at a Total Wine (i.e. liquor store) down there.