Limoncello is a delicious, versatile lemon liqueur that can be drunk in a small glass as an after dinner cordial or used as a cocktail mixer. I also use it to elevate the flavor of cakes, sangria, and hot tea. This easy recipe is great to keep on hand for yourself and gift giving. Printable gift tags are provided later down in the post.
First, here's a summary of how my personal love of limoncello grew during my travels in Italy.
Authentically Italian. On my dream-come-true trip to the Amalfi Coast of Italy, limoncello was served at the end of virtually every meal. That's not an exaggeration! That particular region of Italy is often referred to as "The Land of Lemons" where lemon cakes, marmalades, and beverages are standard fare. Lemon trees are so abundant in this area that it's easy for restaurants, hotels, and everyday homes to pick fresh lemons for making their own limoncello. I sampled it at numerous places during my trip and learned to make this easy liqueur in a detailed demonstration by a popular local chef. I'm sharing that method I learned with you in this post.
Read more about my Italy trip with my sister, Nelda, and our unforgettable weeklong tour in my post: Culinary Trip to the Amalfi Coast of Italy
Here are a few of the places where I enjoyed homemade Italian limoncello during my travels; all were part of my wonderful-beyond-words Amalfi Coast tour with Delectable Destinations. (Read more about this premier tour company at the end of this post.)
Here are the easy instructions for making your own limoncello at home:
Step 1. Assemble the ingredients:
Step 2. Use a vegetable peeler to peel long strips of lemon peel from top to bottom; only peel off the top yellow layer. If some of the white pith comes off when peeling, scrape it off with the tip of a paring knife so all that remains is the yellow part of the peel. (The pith is very bitter, so you want to remove as much of it as possible. It's okay if there are a few bits of pith.) Place peels in a 1-quart (or larger) jar or container.
Step 3. Pour in the entire bottle of alcohol. Screw on the lid, label it with the date, and set the jar in a coolish room temperature dark place (like inside a cabinet) to infuse for 1 to 3 weeks. (1 week is enough, but it's okay if it infuses longer.)
As the alcohol is infused with the lemon, the liquid will turn from clear to yellow.
Step 5. When the infusion period is over, combine water and sugar in a saucepan on the stovetop. Bring to a simmer and cook until sugar is dissolved and liquid is clear, approx. 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cool completely.
Step 6. Line a wire mesh strainer with cheesecloth or a basket-type coffee filter; place over bowl. Pour lemon mixture into strainer to remove the solids.
Step 7. Add cooled sugar syrup to strained lemon liquid, stir. You've got limoncello! When the 2 mixtures are combined, it may appear cloudy--no worries, that's normal.
Step 8. Use a funnel to fill bottles with limoncello. Screw on lids and rest in cool dark place for 1 week--longer, if possible. It will become smoother the longer it ages. (NOTE: It can be chilled and drunk right away without the 1-week wait time; still good, but better if it rests first.)
To serve: Limoncello is best served very cold; it can be stored in the refrigerator or freezer. (The high alcohol content will prevent it from freezing solid.) I keep a bottle in the freezer. Serve limoncello in small cordial or liqueur glasses. It's a nice sweet treat following a meal.
On the Amalfi Coast, it was most often served in these colorful, whimsical little glasses. I loved them so much, that I bought some to enjoy at home. (See information at the end of this post about ordering these fun, authentic Italian dishes.)
Beautifully natural color and flavor! In addition to tasting amazing, I love that this limoncello has such a gorgeous color that comes 100% from the natural color of the lemons.
Limoncello Spritzer cocktail. Limoncello also makes a great cocktail mixer. For an easy and refreshing Limoncello Spritzer, combine equal parts limoncello and club soda or seltzer water, add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and garnish with a lemon slice and sprig of mint. Serve it straight or over ice. You can make it in individual glasses or a big batch in a pitcher. Yum!
Recipes using Limoncello from Ina Garten. She's my hands-down favorite celebrity chef--her recipes are always winners. (I have all of her cookbooks!) It's not surprising that Ina is a fan of limoncello. Here are links to a few of her tasty recipes that I've tried and love:
For a finishing touch, I like to label my bottles. That way they're easy to identify, look attractive, and are ready for gift giving, too. Limoncello makes a unique homemade gift that is fun to share. Going to a party? Grab one of these to take as an awesome host/hostess gift. Small bottles fit nicely in holiday stockings and make perfect wedding, shower, and party favors.
Download printable jar labels/tags.
If you don't have a printer or specialty papers, you can have a store with printing services download and print them for you (Kinkos, Office Depot, Staples, etc.)
Cut the tags out with scissors and punch a hole at the top for hanging with a ribbon.
view on Amazon: hole punch
Click below on the image of your choice to download & print a full sheet of labels/tags. Choose from "TO and FROM" tags that you can personalize or a more multi-purpose generic tag.
Here are tags I printed on sticker paper, cut, and adhered to the bottles. I keep these labeled bottles on hand for gift giving. (These bottles are more economical than the flip-top bottles.)
STORE bottles of limoncello in a cool, dark place for 3-6 months, maybe longer. If you have the space to refrigerate or freeze the bottles, it will extend their shelf life for a year or longer.
Here is Chef Fiorenzo's chilled limoncello--straight from the freezer. Remember to serve it cold!
With Chef Fiorenzo on the Amalfi Coast; photo by Carol Ketelson of Delectable Destinations.
Make it a Yummy day!
If you'd like to learn more about the particulars of my fabulous tour of the Amalfi Coast, please contact Carol at Delectable Destinations. She can answer any questions you have. This small, intimate tour was as good as it gets, and it's in no small part due to Carol's exquisite taste and attention to every detail. You can follow Carol on Facebook and enjoy her beautiful photography on Instagram. Delectable Destinations also has culinary and cultural tours to other places. (I can also personally recommend her India trip--fabulous!)
Did you notice the fun Italian ceramic dishes I'm using for the serving the limoncello? After falling in love with these whimsical dishes at the Italian villa where I stayed on my trip, I just had to have some to enjoy back home. The friendly family that owns the villa also has a ceramics shop in Ravello called Ceramiche D'Arte Carmela, and they shipped my custom order directly to my St. Louis home. I use them every single day now. So fun! Every plate, cup, and bowl have different animals and colors--a very popular style of the Amalfi Coast area where I stayed. If you're interested in purchasing dishes from them, contact Roberta (my friend there who manages the villa). You can message her via the contact page on their ceramics shop website. She speaks English, so communications are easy.