Limoncello kitchen in Sorrento
How to make limoncello

If you have spent any time in southern Italy, and in particular Sorrento, you will find that almost everyone and anyone is producing and selling home made Limoncello. From pizza parlours to small factory set-ups in high street shops, wherever you go you can find yourself being offered free tasters of someone's secret family recipe.

How to make limoncello
Unfortunately, with my old man tastes buds, all Limoncello's taste the same, but is no bad thing as that just means they all taste amazing.

The problem is that once you have finished off the non-breakable bottle you smuggled home in your luggage, you are left wanting more but can't justify the air fare to purchase another bottle.

Of course you can probably buy a Limoncello facsimile in your local supermarket, but why bother if you can pool the raw ingredients yourself and manufacture your own family brand of 'unique' Limoncello I am aware that it is far easier to just buy a bottle down the road from Tesco's, but that isn't the point of this article.


How to make limoncello
Limoncello is made using only four ingredients:

Fresh lemons

You will also need a number of bottles.

The lemons need to be fresh and organic as any chemical sprays used on the lemons will taint the final flavour. The water has to be of excellent quality. Tap water should be fine, but if you are not convinced then use mineral water. Sugar has to be refined white, otherwise the Limoncello will end up looking muddy. The best alcohol to use is clean and clear 90% or 95% (180-190 proof). While this is easily obtainable in Italy you may not be so lucky where you live. In which case consider using Vodka instead.

The two recipes below are for both alternatives. The ‘pure’ alcohol version will give you a Limoncello at a very pleasant 31-32% liqueur; the Vodka version will get you to 28-29%, which is still very good.

With 95% alcohol

Wash 6 large or 10 small lemons thoroughly in cold water and dry. This is to remove any dirt or reside that may be on them.

How to make limoncello
Scrape or grate the lemon zest, but only the yellow skin. Do not go into the white pith and certainly no juice. Place the zest into a completely clean 1.5 litre bottle that has a air tight sealable top.

Now pour in 1 litre of 90% or 95% clean and clear alcohol and seal the lid. This can now be stored in a cool dark place.

Leave for 4 weeks, but give the bottle an occasional shake. During that time, the alcohol pulls the colour and the essential oils from the lemon zest.

When the four weeks are up, boil 1.5 litres of pure water in a clean pan. Once it boils, turn the heat down to simmer and add 400g of refined white granulated sugar. Keep stirring the sugar until it dissolves then turn off the heat and let the syrup cool down until its just about tepid.

Prepare the bottles you are going to use for storing the Limoncello - re-used 750ml fizzy pop bottles will do, so longs as they are properly clean.

How to make limoncello
However, if you are making limoncello on a regular basis then it may well be worth investing in some old fashioned glass bottles with the rubber ring, stopper and metal latch.

At this stage you will have 3 litres of liquid, so you will need at least four of these 750ml bottles

Use a funnel and pour the alcohol mixture into a decanting bottle first. This is to separate out the liquid from what remains of the lemon zest. If you prefer you can put the zest into a muslin bag to squeeze out the last remaining alcohol.

Pour the filtered alcohol into the pan with the syrup and stir gently. Once fully mixed, use the funnel to pour the fresh Limoncello into your bottles and cap them.

Limoncello is best served cold you your new batch can be placed in the freezer until required.

With 40% Vodka

For this recipe you will need more lemons - 8 large or 12 small - as the weaker alcohol level won’t be as effective. Everything else regarding the preparation of vodka Limoncello is exactly the same as above. However, the quantities are slightly less. Instead use 1 litre of water and 300 grams of sugar

Good luck and good health.

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