Making Limoncello

Today I will diverge from my Holiday theme because I was able to taste my homemade Limoncello.

Il Limoncello di Capri

It is still up for debate where this lemon liqueur originated between Sorrento, Amalfi and Capri. The liqueur first appeared in 1900, but only in 1988 Massimo Canale registered the first trademark “Limoncello”.  Still, at that time only a few restaurateurs on the Amalfi coast, Sorrento and Capri were producing it. However, it was often only reserved for special guests (ospiti).

The first time I tried the lemon liqueur was in 1986. I was with my recently married husband in a little family owned osteria in Tramonti, a small town in the Amalfi coast area sitting at the foot of the Lattari Mountains. At the end of what I recall as a delicious lunch (pranzo), the host, feeling cheerful  in the presence of this happily newlywed couple, offered a taste of his precious homemade lemon liqueur. Oh . . . it was special! The aroma of the lemon alone was exhilarating!

A few years went by before I saw this liqueur Limoncello, on the shelves of restaurants and markets. Today the Limoncello is everywhere in Italy and abroad. Does it all taste good? I don’t believe so. At first, the recipes were passed on from mother to daughter, but now they are all over the internet. There are many variations, such as the use of grain alcohol or Vodka, how long the peels have to steep in the liquid, and so on.

I personally only trust my Zia (aunt) Anna’s recipe. She makes the best homemade Limoncello! However, there is a catch! She tells me ”the only lemons you can use are the ones handpicked from Sorrento” It’s easy for her to say, she lives ten minutes from Sorrento!

Well . . . I live on the other side of the Ocean. So I had to give up the idea of making my own Limoncello and, I did. Until two months ago, when one of my clients from my cooking classes asked me if I would teach her how to make Limoncello. I couldn’t say no.

Four weeks ago Mary Anne and I met to start the long process of making Limoncello.     Earlier that morning I had been to the local organic market in search of the perfect lemons (limoni). And, lucky me! I found these beautiful lemons, medium size and with still a tiny hint of green, just what I needed! Most of all  they had a wonderful aroma, I was all set!

Mary Anne and I peeled the lemons to perfection with no trace of the bitter pith on the rinds.

We transferred the rinds into two glass jugs, added the alcohol, sealed the jugs and wrapped them in kitchen towels.

For four weeks the jugs  sat in my kitchen (cucina) cabinet. Finally, yesterday I added the water-sugar solution and let it rest overnight. This morning Mary Anne and I finally strained and bottled the liqueur. 

The bottled Limoncello should have rested in the refrigerator for at least four hours before the first taste, needless to say . . . we couldn’t wait!

Here it was, the moment of truth! And then Mary Anne said “Oh my . . . it smells so good! and . . . it is yummy!”

This Limoncello surely will be under someone’s Christmas Tree!

Dear Zia Anna, thank you for the recipe. The lemons are not from Sorrento, but I think you would be proud. Cin cin!

And you . . . have you ever had Limoncello? Do you like it? Where did you have the best one? Do you make your own?  Tell me!

I know what you are thinking . . . and here it is, Zia Anna’s Limoncello recipe (ricetta).

Limoncello di Zia Anna


10 medium organic lemons

5 cups granulated sugar

1 qt filtered water

1 qt Everclear (190-prof) grain alcohol

Make sure you use organic lemons. DO NOT WASH THE LEMONS,  just rub them with a clean damp kitchen towel.

If you cannot find organic lemons, wash them in warm water and brush them, then dry them completely.

Using a vegetable peeler (Y peeler works best), remove the peel from the lemons in long strips.

My suggestion: reserve the lemons for another use such as scaloppine al limone or tagliolini al limone.

Using a small sharp knife, trim away any residual white pith from the lemon peels; discard the pith.

Place the lemon rind in a glass jar (3-qt jar with wide opening and with lid).

Pour the alcohol over the rind and seal the jar.

Cover the jar with a large kitchen towel and let the lemon rind steep, in a dark place for one month.

After one month, stir the water and sugar in a large saucepan over low heat until the sugar completely dissolves, about 10 minutes.

Cool completely. Pour the syrup over the alcohol/ rind mixture.

Seal the jar and allow to rest overnight.

The next day, strain the limoncello into a large pouring bowl,  by lining a strainer with heavy-duty cheesecloth  to make sure that no rinds or residuals get into the limoncello. You might have to do this in batches.

My suggestion: save the rinds in a Tupperware in the refrigerator and wait for my next blog!

You are now ready to bottle. Use sterilized bottles. Line a funnel with cheesecloth and fill the bottles, seal and refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours.

Transfer the bottles in the freezer.

Alway serve ice-cold. Enjoy!

12 thoughts on “Making Limoncello

  1. Evelyn jonas

    Hi Could you please tell me where the picture if all the limoncello bottles was taken. My husband and I were recently on Capri for our honeymoon and spotted the barrel shaped limoncello bottle with the shot glasses in a liquor store on Capri. My husband really liked it be unfortunately, we did not buy it at that time. I would love to surprise him with this gift for Christmas but do not know where I can purchase it. I can’t seem to find it anywhere on the Internet. Do you know the name if her store that sells it or where I may purchase it. I would really appreciate any help you could provide. Thank You!
    Evelyn Jonas.


    1. Hi Evelyn,
      The picture was taken in Capri, however I do not remember the name of the store. I tried to search on line but I could not find anything. I will keep you in mind and I will get back to you if I find anything.
      Thank you for stopping by!


  2. Mary Anne OFarrell

    I loved making the Limoncello – it was not hard at all and the results were oh so good! You must be patient thought with the process – and Maria Giovanni was an excellent teacher! Yes, all my bottles will be under many trees – and I cannot wait to make more!


    1. Mary Anne, I am so glad you enjoyed making the Limoncello and that it came out to your liking. Thank you so much for the compliment and for giving me the opportunity to work with you.


    1. It should be your New Year resolution! Make it and let me know. Sorbet Limoncello is great. In the next few days I will have more suggestions on how to use the liqueur and the zest!


  3. David Crosson

    Sounds delisiosa. I want to make cook a Capon for Christmas day. Do you know where I can find one near Frederick. And also Cotechino sausage. Love the blog. David


    1. David, glad you like the blog. I have ordered a Capon for Christmas few years ago to Whole Foods. They even deboned it for me so I could stuff it the way my mom used to do. The Cotechino I have not found locally however, you can order on line.


      1. David Crosson

        Found a 10 lb. Free Range frozen Capon at Wegman’s!!
        And this recipe from Pino Loungo

        red wine
        black pepper
        capon, with interiors
        fresh chestnuts
        fennel seeds
        sweet Italian sausage
        fresh sage

        Preheat the oven to medium. Rub the inside of the capon with butter. Place chestnuts in a pot of water and add fennel seeds and red wine for flavor. Boil until chestnuts are done – when they can be penetrated with a fork. Start checking them after about 10 minutes, because you don’t want them to get too soft. Let the chestnuts cook, then peel and cut them into pieces.

        Remove the skin from the sausage and cut it into sections. Place the sausage in a pan and, as it cooks, break it into small pieces. Season with salt and pepper. When the sausage is done, remove it to a bowl, leaving the grease behind.

        Sauté the interiors in butter and sage until cooked, then chop them. Add the interiors and chestnuts to the sausage and mix well. Stuff this mixture inside the capon, place capon in the oven, and roast for about 1 hour per pound. If you see that the capon is getting too dry as it cooks, add water.

        Variation: This capon is also good stuffed with Polenta and sausage.

        What do you think??


      2. It sounds great. My Thanksgiving turkey stuffing is very similar to this. I use a more traditional stuffing for the capon with meat and mortadella and other seasoning. And I cook the stuffed capon in broth. I then serve the broth with cappelletti, tortellini or tagliolini.


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