Homemade Limoncello for Luca (w/updates)

luca1My cousin, Luca, who lives in Brescia, Italy keeps reminding me that I need a ‘digestivo’ under my Recipes tab.  Luca toodles across the friendly skies as an international pilot for Alitalia.  I love this photo of Luca – sort of a ‘Don’t hate me because I just landed my jet’  look. Luca’s first suggestion was something called ‘liquore alla liquirizia’. Well, I had Liquirizia in Calabria a few years back – the color of black licorce and potent stuff. A dear family friend gave us a few bottles of his homemade brew when we arrived. My Aunt Mary, Joey, Mark and I would sit out on our balcony in Scalea in the evening downing buckets of this stuff until the stars grew fuzzy. I have searched since that trip to find ‘liquirizia pura’ back here in the States – no such luck. So when Luca suggested it, I gently reminded him we can’t all jet off to Calabria every few months so we decided on a digestivo made with more readily found ingredients – homemade tasty limoncello.  So Luca, this blog is for you.   This batch should be ready in a few months – we can tip back a glass when you are stateside!

Homemade limoncello is super easy to make and I have been told just doesn’t compare to the store bought stuff.  Limoncello was apparently invented in Sicily about 100 years ago. The recipe that I used is below.  You basically throw lemon peel in vodka and let them have at each other. This is a recipe where you have a little poetic license – use more or less depending on your preference. I have read that it needs to do its thing everywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months. Given patience is not my strong suit, I will certainly have to sample it from time to time and I will report back on progress.  The possibilities seem endless – substitute blood oranges, mix in some lime perhaps?  This could become a  tradition in my house.  I put my batch up this morning and now – let the wait begin!! I now also have 20 lemons without their little skins – hmmm, I think Lemon pasta is on the menu for this evening! Check back for that recipe later in the week….’Salute!’

UPDATE:  Had a few requests last eve to post a photo of the type of glass container I used and the limoncello bath…see below! 

SECOND UPDATE: Luca has posted another ‘digestivo’ recipe in the comments below – “La Bevanda degli Dei” – “The Drink of  the Gods”. I will have to try a batch and post in the weekend ahead. Grazie, Luca!



  • 20 lemons (Try to find lemons with nice, fat skins; unwaxed if possible)
  • 2  (750-ml) bottles of at least 80-proof vodka (Use Everclear  or 100 proof Smirnoff 57 if you can find it. I used the Smirnoff 57. I have read that the lower the proof the longer the peels need to steep.)
  • 2 to 4  cups of water
  • 2 to 4 cups of sugar (I like mine less sweet so will probably use 2 cups of sugar.)

You will also need a number of glass jars:

  • One or two large glass jars to hold the limoncello while doing its thing (I have 2 3 litre glass jars that I am using.)
  • Nice decorative glass bottles that you can use to put the limoncello in after it is finished.  I am using glass jars that originally held Lorena Organic Pomegranate Soda that I found at the Italian market.

Making the limoncello:

Step 1:

1. Scrub and dry all the lemons. 

2. Remove the peel from the lemons using either a very sharp peeler or a fine microplaner. (I used a microplaner which worked well.)  Be careful to avoid the white pith – it will make the limoncello bitter. Scrape any off the back of the peels if you can. (I know this is the time consuming part! Open a bottle of wine or make a vodka martini while you work – have fun! Enlist friends to help!!)

3.  Put the little peels in the glass jar (divide if using 2 jars) and add in the vodka. Seal tightly.

4. Put the jars in a cool, dark place and let them do their thing for at least 2 weeks.  (The peels should lose their color when they are finished mixing their little oils with the vodka.) Some folks leave it alone for up to 2 months so you decide.

Limoncello Bath

5. Every few weeks, go peek at your little brew…swirl the peels around to mix everything up.

Step 2:

1. Make a simple syrup. Put the water and the sugar in a heavy bottom saucepan over medium heat. Slowly bring to a boil, stirring constantly until it turns clear.

2. Let cool.

3. Add the simple syrup to the limoncello jars. (Divide if using two jars).

4. Put the jars back and continue to let steep for a week or two.  The flavor will continue to improve…

Step 3:

This is the homestretch!

 1. Pull out your brew and strain out the lemon peels using cheesecloth or a coffee filter. 

2. Press on the peels to remove all the vodka and little lemon oils that you can.

3. Put the limoncello in your clean, glass bottles and store tightly.  Limoncello should be stored in the freezer and served ice cold.

Serve and enjoy!!

Join the Conversation

  1. Ciao Michele,

    We can get together and bring some “liquirizia” to the USA… but we’d have to hire a very big aircraft 🙂

    Here is a recipe to make the “La bevanda degli Dei” (The Gods drink”) or IDROMELE.

    If your italian is a bit out of practice let me know and I’ll try and translate it for you!


    Gli ingredienti sono: 3,5 dl di Alcool a 90-95-97° (come lo trovate); 400 g di miele, meglio se dolce tipo acacia o millefiori, l’importante è che sia un buon miele; 2 g di corteccia di cannella (circa 1 stecca); 0,5 g di chiodi di garofano e la scorza di un limone (valgono le raccomandazioni già date nella ricetta del limoncello).

    Lasciate macerare nell’alcool la scorza del limone (senza il bianco), la cannella e i chiodi di garofano per 10 giorni agitando il barattolo ogni tanto.

    Mescolate il miele con un litro di acqua e fate bollire fino a ridurre di metà il volume della soluzione, fate raffreddare il tutto.

    Filtrate il macerato e unitelo all’acqua e miele, infine imbottigliate.

    Quando si intiepidita imbottigliate chiudendo con ceralacca e sughero. Aspettate un paio di mesi prima di consumare.

    La ricetta finisce con: “quando avvicinerete il liquore alle labbra vi parrà di avvertire il bacio di Venere posarsi su di voi, usatelo come un energico ricostituente”.

    A presto… Baci


  2. Grazie mille! Perfetto -un altro digestivo! (Saro’ ubriaca dopo faccio tutte queste bevande! )

    Faro’ questo fine settimana!


  3. I’ve always wanted to try to make some with green lemons like the ones pictured in your header. I have never had access to them though. Some people say the best limoncello is made from green lemons.

  4. Hi Ben – LOVE your website!! If I get my hands on some green lemons, I will report back….Michele

  5. I have a recipe for limoncello and strawberry ice-cream, from the chef Gennaro Contaldo. It is bloody delicious – I made it for a dinner party a couple of months ago. Email me if you want it and I’ll dig it out.

    1. I would love the recipe if you can find it!! It sounds wonderful! Thanks so much, Michele

    2. I would love that recipe! Or at least a clue as to where to find it… I had it at his restaurant and it is amazing have been looking for a recipe for it ever since. Even bought a few books of his hoping it would in one of those… To no avail and struggle to get his books in Australia without Mail ordering but then you don’t know if it’s even in there… And this obsession is getting expensive 😉

  6. I would LOVE to have the recipe for your limoncello and strawberry ice cream. Please email it to me if you find it. Thanks! Amelia

  7. Limoncello looks as a tasteful and simple to make drink. I’ve never tried this before, only something similar, called orangecello, I think. I’ll try it as soon as possible. Great share anyway!

  8. Ciao Michele,

    I was looking for this “Amaro” which is known as “spurgatubi” (Flusher) 🙂
    It is one of the most alcoholic amari one can find … 70°.

    It is called CENERBE seeing that the legend says it is done with 100 herbs.

    Here is the making:


    3 foglie di menta
    3 foglie di basilico
    3 foglie di limone
    3 foglie di alloro
    3 foglie di salvia
    3 foglie di the
    3 foglie di “Erba Luigia”
    5 foglioline di rosmarino
    3 fiori di camomilla
    3 bacche di ginepro
    2 chiodi di garofano
    un pezzetto di cannella
    un pizzico di zafferano
    3 etti di zucchero
    4 etti di alcool puro
    3 etti d’acqua

    Allow the herbs to infuse into a jar containing alcohol for five days, after which combine water and sugar in a pot and boil. Then add the syrup thus obtained with the alcohol in a jar and let stand for at least two days. Filter the contents of the jar with a gauze. Ready to go 🙂

    Hope you like it!

    1. Wow…quite some recipe, my friend! :o)) I was just wondering how you are doing…hope all is well in Italia! Baci, Michele

  9. Vinnie Sabatino sr. says:

    Can the recipe for the Insalata Finochio with the black olives and oranges be baked with some Pecorina Romano or Parmesan and maybe some Apple slices without destroying your recipe?

    1. Hi Vinnie: I don’t think this would be good baked. The oranges won’t taste great with cheese on them. Maybe take a look at this baked fennel recipe –> https://ouritaliantable.com/fennel-gratinati/ I know this one worked. Joe

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