If you are here, odds are that you had some good limoncello, maybe in one trip to Italy, and you are wondering how to make limoncello at home! I have some good news for you: while many typical Italian dishes are not as easy as they seem (e.g. making a Neapolitan pizza at home), preparing homemade limoncello with grain alcohol is definitely easy!
What you need for limoncello
To make your own limoncello you don’t need any particular skill or equipment, since it is not a distilled liquor. You only need to infuse lemon peels into grain alcohol. Yes, this is the best and authentic way to prepare limoncello: no vodka, no other distilled liquors are used in Italy to make it.
What can vary, instead, is:
- the ratio between alcohol and (water + sugar): use more or less syrup if you prefer your lemoncello to be less or more strong. In the recipe below, I use 1 liter of water, 600 gr of sugar and 1 liter of alcohol. This will result in a limoncello with 37% in alcohol content. If you want a 29% limoncello, usually more appreciated by women, use 1.4 liter of water and 830 gr of sugar
- the ratio between water and sugar: use more or less sugar if you prefer your homemade limoncello more on the sweet side rather than tart and citrusy
- the duration of the infusion: you can leave the peels in the grain alcohol for at least 1 week, up to 1 month. To be honest, there is not a major difference and I usually leave them for about 10 days.
Which lemons to choose and one tip
Here in Italy, Amalfi Coast (Costiera Amalfitana) is the most famous area for limoncello. The reason is very simple: over there you can find the most amazing lemons of the whole country: big, with thick peel and great flavor.
Actually, other regions are very famous for limoncello: Sicily in Southern Italy, but also Lake Garda in Northern Italy, with its famous micro-climate.
What is really mandatory is that you choose organic lemons. This for at least two reasons:
- first, and most important, is that alcohol extracts every substance from the peels. When I say “every”, that will include pesticides and insecticides used to grow lemons in non-organic farming
- second reason is that non-organic lemons often come with a wax coat, that somehow prevents flavor to be released into the alcohol and ultimately into your limoncello.
Regarding the lemons, one tip is crucial. The peel is very rich in essential oils, and those are what you extract from them. But it’s very important that you avoid peeling the white part, since it is really bitter and will give you a bad flavor to your homemade limoncello with grain alcohol. That’s why I recommend using a vegetable peeler, since a simple knife would make this task really tough.
But now, it’s time to answer your question “how can I make limoncello at home” and find out that the most famous Italian digestive is actually easier than you ever thought! And it is incredibly cheap as well, compared to the one you are used to buying. So that it can become a very appreciated gift idea for your friends!
Homemade limoncello with grain alcohol
- a vegetable peeler
- a sealed glass container
- a pot
- a spoon
- a strainer
- a funnel
- 5 organic lemons
- 500 ml grain alcohol
- 300 gr sugar
- 500 ml water
- Start washing accurately the lemons and drying them with a towel.
- Using a vegetable peeler, peel the lemons. It's very important that you don't remove the white part of the peels, you need only the yellow one.
- Put the peels into a sealed glass container (I use a jar) and cover them with alcohol. Seal the container and put it in a fresh and dark place.
- I move the container every day to mix the ingredients, for at least one week, usually for 10 days. You will see every day the peels loose color and the liquid become more intensly .yellow.
- After the resting period, prepare the syrup. Warm the water in a pot and make the sugar melt in it, gently mixing. When the syrup is ready, let it cool down.
- Add the syrup to the alcohol and the peels and mix it.
- With a funnel, strain the liquid into the bottles in which you will store the limoncello.
- Let the limoncello rest for a couple of weeks, then store the bottles in the fridge. To be served really cold. Enjoy!