Friday, August 7, 2009

Mike’s Limoncello

8 - finished product

I’ve got another guest blogger for you today and it’s another member of my family who’s a great cook – my son Michael.  When he visits, he’s always generous in helping me out with meal preparation. After years of working beside me in the kitchen as a youngster, he’s grown up to be quite an accomplished cook who has a wide repertoire – from squash gnocchi to braised venison and lots of other dishes in between. He’s also a journalist and a really nice guy (although I’m not prejudiced one bit, right?) .

A while back, I promised you a recipe for Limoncello. This is one that my son Michael has been concocting for many years and giving as gifts, and I have to say, it’s better than most of the stuff I’ve tried in Italy. Maybe that’s because it’s made with TLC. 

It’s great all by itself, but it’s also wonderful over ice cream, or in recipes like my limoncello frozen yogurt.  So here’s Michael’s guest post:

For those of you who don't know me, I'm the guy in the slideshow over in the column with the slide show on the lower right, cranking the torchio to make pasta.
Believe it or not, this recipe originally came from a dish towel my mom brought back from Italy, and I've refined it over the years.

August 2009 047


What you’ll need:

1 - what you need 
1 liter of grain alcohol (such as Everclear)
1.5 liters of water
Slightly less than 2 pounds of sugar
6 to 8 lemons, peeled

I generally only make limoncello in the summer. That's when I can find lemons at their most yellow. Since the final color of the limoncello will depend on the lemons, select ones that are a nice deep yellow.
Peel the lemons so that only the yellow part comes off. The white pith underneath is bitter. I've tried a number of ways to peel the lemons--zesters, graters, etc.--but found that a regular vegetable peeler works best.

2 - peeling lemons
After you're done peeling the lemons, divide the peels evenly into several mason jars. Pour the alcohol into the jars, seal them up, and put them in a warm dark place.
Let them sit there for about three weeks. About once a week or so, shake the jars gently.

3 - lemon peels in jars 
After three weeks:

4 - after 3 weeks
When three weeks have passed, get a large pot, and fill it with 1.5 liters of water. Make sure that there's plenty of room left over, as you'll need room for the alcohol. Stir the 2 pounds of sugar into the water to create a simple syrup. Make sure that the sugar is completely dissolved - sometimes it helps to heat the water slightly.

5 - stirring in sugar
After the sugar is dissolved in the water, strain out the alcohol from the lemon peels, and add to the water.

7 - alcohol added

Give it a good stir, and then bottle. Store for another week or two in a warm dark place, and it should be ready to drink.

A few notes -
Be sure to have a number of empty bottles on hand - This recipe makes about 3 liters of limoncello.
I use Everclear because it's nearly 100% alcohol. When you add the water, that results in limoncello that's about 40% alcohol by volume, which is what you should aim for. I've read of other recipes that call for vodka, or some other neutral-flavored alcohol, but never tried them. If you do, you'll have to reduce the amount of water, because vodka generally has a lower alcohol content.
If you mix the water and sugar before adding the lemon-flavored alcohol to the mix, your limoncello will come out clear. However, if you mix the water and alcohol before adding the sugar, you'll get a more translucent limoncello.


  1. Hi Linda - wherever do you find 100% alcohol? LOL
    And I LOVE that photo of all the yellow bottles. So pretty!

  2. This is interesting, I have never try this before.

  3. Hi Linda,
    I make some pretty mean yet gentle infusions myself like Pomelo, blood orange, Myer lemon, and, believe it or not, cucumber. All with vodka. It comes out at about like 20-percent alcohol.

    But the real question I have is where to get the bottles?

  4. Michael makes absoutely great lemoncello, I can testify from personal experience!

  5. My sister's MIL makes this, and last year I had the pleasure of tasting it, truly amazing! I must try making it myself!

  6. In New Jersey, I can find the alcohol at liquor stores, although it's illegal to sell in other states. Here's a good Wikipedia link:

  7. Mike and Linda, I've been waiting for this post! I always say I'm going to try making it, in fact my daughter and I want to give it a try together. Susan from food Blogga's dad posted a creamy version, and now Michael with this version. I'm ready to roll up my sleves and finally give it a try but I better hurry before the lemons look blah! (Great tip). What an awesome gift to give to someone, Michael you should print up some labels to put on those beautiful bottles.

  8. Thank you Michael!
    Your Limoncello looks so beautifully yellow, and you made the recipe so easy to follow with such nice photos and commentary. I'm writing down the recipe as I'd love to try making my own.

  9. I absolutely love limoncello! I've been wanting to try my hand at making it, however we can't get Everclear in California (for some dumb reason or another) and haven't been convinced of another type to use. But I will find something worth using eventually. Thank you for postiing this recipe.

  10. Great post. This is very similar to the recipe I use.

  11. Linda and Michael thank-you! I purchase many bottles a year of limoncello and had no idea it was this easy to make at home.

    If it all works well, I'll be giving little bottles away at Christmas with the rest of the homemade goodies!


  12. Love limoncello but have never attempted to make it. You make it sounds so easy!

  13. so lovely to have your son guest-post! i guess all the great recipes are in the family!!
    My nonno used to make his own limoncello... and then slip us a sip when we were kids... hahaha crazy nonno!

  14. Hi Linda! just wanted to tell you that I DID find you and your blog looks great! fun meeting you the other day in Chelsea market.

    warm regards,


  15. I'd love to have a bottle of that wonderful Limoncello! It must be extremely fragrant!



  16. Love it. We have that tea towel too.
    I'm going to give this a try TODAY! Thanks!
    I'll let you know how it goes.

  17. I love how in restaurants in IT, they throw down a bottle of limoncello to pour freely within the table. What a great way to do things. Can't wait to pour my friends a bottle of my own. Ciao!

  18. Thanks Mike for the recipe-I love limoncello and have been looking for a recipe that doesn't seem to hard to do...and even easier to drink...

  19. I love picture of all the different bottles. It's gorgeous! I've never made limoncello but now I want to!!!

  20. Thanks for sharing your recipe! One question: does it matter if you divide the peels into multiple jars? Or can you just put it all in one big jar?

  21. Chrispix - I think you can put it all in one big jar.