My wife and her sister made a trip for three weeks to Italy. She brought back to me a bottle of Limoncello, made in Sorrento. It has to be one of the best alcohol treats I ever tasted. My search for sources of it here in the USA, was fraught with problems. There were very few sources for this liqueur and all of them quite expensive.  Since that time, the product has become more popular in the USA and many brands are now available, but the home made recipes provide the most authentic experience.

Limoncello is an infusion of lemon peel oils into alcohol that is then mixed with a sugar solution and then filtered. The internet abounds with recipes for this wonderful appellation. Various amounts of aging are recommended, as are "secret" ingredients and methods.  I reviewed dozens of internet recipes and found most of them wanting. Whenever an alcohol percentage was quoted, it was almost invariably wrong. Actual alcohol percentage in the finished product varied from 13% to over 50%, that's 26 proof to over 100 proof (I can testify that the 100 proof stuff will take the lining right off your mouth). Commercially produced Limoncello manufactured in the Amalfi coast region of southern Italy appear to be around 26 to 37% alcohol by volume, so I formulated my version to be around 35% alcohol by volume. Production times of internet versions (all claiming to be authentic Italian Limoncello recipes) ranged from 7 days to 162 days, with the most often claimed is 80 days. Because of the method I chose to prepare the lemon peel, I find that 2 weeks is all that is needed, (but I have let the  maceration process work for as long as a year).  While developing my recipe, I taste compared my concoction with the authentic product brought to me from Italy by me wife. In this manner, I determined that the best sugar and water component is 3.5 cups each per recipe and 15 large lemons supply the needed oils.  Forget the claim that Meyer lemons are the best: in fact, Meyer lemons are not true lemons but are a cross between lemons and oranges or tangerines that do not have the oils of true lemons.  And, they don’t grow Meyer lemons in Sorrento.  You may find recipes in which Splenda is recommended as a substitute for sugar in the recipe. My advice: forget it. The result is nasty. I am a type 1 diabetic but l can tell you that there is no substitute for the real thing here.

The actual calculations involved in determining the result of measured amounts of ingredients can be a little confusing.  For example, when you add one cup of granulated sugar to 1 cup of water and warm it until the sugar is dissolved, you do not have 2 cups of syrup.  This is due to two things, first the air space between the sugar crystals is removed, AND the water and sugar molecules arrange themselves into a smaller volume than one would expect.  Generally, 1 cup of sugar dissolved into 1 cup of water will yield 1.583 cups of liquid, with the water acting as a solvent.  Additionally, water and ethanol (Ethyl alcohol) experience the same thing when combined, with a cup of each resulting in approximately 1.92 cups of liquid with an alcohol percentage by volume of 52% rather than the expected 50%.   Going further, since the ethanol product being used also contains some water, the amount of water available to act as a solvent will be more than the recipe calls for.  All of this has been taken into account in arriving at the given results.

Here's my version of Limoncello:

15 very large lemons, washed and dried.

1 750 ML bottle of 190 Proof clear grain alcohol (Herein referred to as “The Ethanol Product) (95%) {An additional amount of approximately 185 ml will be needed to compensate for filtering losses, so buy an extra bottle.}

3.5 cups water (828 ml)

3.5  cups sugar (828 ml)

Using a "microplane" zester, remove and save all the colored rind from the lemons, avoiding getting any white pith. If you do not have a microplane zester, get one or forget the whole thing.

Place the zest in a gallon glass lidded jar and add the 750 ml bottle of Ethanol product (Save the empty bottle for later).   Replace the lid and allow to sit  in a dark place. When macerated for at least 14 days, strain the mixture, first with a fine mesh strainer, then with paper coffee filters until the tincture is clear of particles (This may take up to five passes to achieve clarity.)  Return the tincture to the empty bottle.  At this time, using the extra bottle of Ethanol product you purchased,  add to the bottle of tincture until the fluid just reaches the neck, restoring 750 ml of fluid to the Tincture bottle.  This is important to the production of a consistent result from the recipe.  Be sure to thoroughly wash the lidded gallon glass jar, as you will need it later.  Bring the water to a boil and stir in the sugar until completely dissolved. Allow to cool. When completely cool, add to the lidded gallon glass jar and combine with the 750ml of lemon tincture.  Tightly replace the lid and shake the jar until both liquids are completely blended, and set aside.  Later you will need to transfer the Limoncello to a clean spouted pitcher for bottling.

Bottles should be of clear glass, with self-sealing plastic screw on caps. Prepare the bottles by submerging them in water in a large pot and boil for ten minutes to sterilize. Also sterilize the caps. Remove the bottles and drain and when empty replace the caps to maintain sterility.  Fill the bottles using a funnel and cap immediately.  Store Limoncello in your freezer until served.  Serve very cold in very small glasses such as shot glasses which have also been in the freezer.

The results:

Total volume……………………………..2 Liters (Approximately 8 ½  cups)

Alcohol by volume……………………….35.499%

Alcohol by weight…………….………….26.38%

Alcohol per 1 ½ ounce shot glass……..11.61 Grams

Carbohydrates per 1 ½ ounce shot glass…14.45 Grams


How to enjoy Limoncello:

Limoncello is an "Aperitif", a French term for appetizer, taken before a meal to stimulate the appetite or as an after dinner drink.  Limoncello should be served very cold, from the freezer, in a shot glass, and sipped, allowing the sip to remain in the palate for up to a minute. Limoncello has a soft entry and quickly fills the mouth with a crisp, tangy and superbly delicious flavor. The relaxed, lingering finish is balanced and a genuine pleasure. Salute!



1 shot of Limoncello contains 83% of the amount of alcohol as one beer. However, because of the way in which it is consumed it will enter the bloodstream very fast. Do not drive after drinking Limoncello.

As stated above NEVER OPERATE A MOTOR VEHICLE AFTER IMBIBING LIMONCELLO! It has a delayed effect that can last several hours. You have been Warned!!!