HOME > Chowhound > Spirits >


Limoncello questions...

  • p

I am going to make Limoncello from a recipe in the most recent Saveur. It calls for the peel to infuse for 48 hours with a pure grain alcohol. My 3 questions are:
1. Does 48 hours seem like a long enough infusion period?
2. Can one use a vodka instead of pure grain?
3. Do you have a good recipe?
Thanks and Happy Weekend.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. 1. Seems a bit short, but the infusion period can vary depending on how you peel your lemons and the strength of the liquor. You can monitor your infusion and see the yellow get pulled out as you go. And of course try to remove all the white pith as it will add bitterness.

    2-3. Yes but try to find 100 proof vodka which will suck those lemon flavors out better. My limoncello was made with lemon zest infused in 100 proof smirnoff (all I could find) + 1 bottle of the cheapest bottle of 80 proof vodka at BevMo that was still pretending to be a premium product plus ~ 2 cups of simple syrup. You will have to double check my recipe and calculate for the booze you buy but you are looking for 30%-32% alcohol in the final product.


    1. 48 hours seems like a ridiculously short time to me. We infuse ours for weeks, and all of the recipes I can find say several weeks as well.

      If you can't get Everclear where you live, get the highest proof vodka you can find.

      1. The late actor Vincent Schiavelli in his wonderful
        memoir/cookbook "Many Beautiful Things" has a
        recipe for Limoncello on pg.251
        Essentially he uses Everclear and lets the peel
        macerate at least 4 days.[* he recommends using
        some green(unripe)lemons along with the ripe
        yellow ones-from unwaxed fruit].He then dilutes
        this with a lite simple syrup(2 parts sugar to 3 parts
        water) to the desired strength(68 proof).He then
        stores,and serves,straight from the freezer.
        I haven't tried it yet,but now you got me thinking
        about doing it!

        1. I did a lot of research before making my first batch of limoncello and the consensus was don't use grain/Everclear. 100 proof vodka makes a much smoother limoncello. I am posting the recipe I use below. I let it sit for 40 days and then add the simple syrup and the other bottle of vodka and let it sit for another 40 days. It is absolutely the best and I am told not to come to certain social gatherings without it! (FYI, I have used regular lemons, oranges and Meyer lemons. In my opinion the regular lemons make the best!)

          15 lemons*
          2 (750 ml) 100-proof vodka**
          4 cups sugar
          5 cups water

          * Choose thick-skinned lemons because they are easier to zest.

          ** Use 100-proof vodka, which has less flavor than a lower proof one. Also the high alcohol level will ensure that the limoncello will not turn to ice in the freezer.

          Wash the lemons with a vegetable brush and hot water to remove any reside of pesticides or wax; pat the lemons dry.

          Carefully zest the lemons with a zester or vegetable peeler so there is no white pith on the peel. NOTE: Use only the outer part of the rind. The pith, the white part underneath the rind, is too bitter and would spoil your limoncello. Check out my web page on How to Zest.

          Step One:
          In a large glass jar (1-gallon jar), add one bottle of vodka; add the lemon zest as it is zested. Cover the jar and let sit at room temperature for at least (10) ten days and up to (40) days in a cool dark place. The longer it rests, the better the taste will be. (There is no need to stir - all you have to do is wait.) As the limoncello sits, the vodka slowly take on the flavor and rich yellow color of the lemon zest.

          Step Two:
          In a large saucepan, combine the sugar and water; cook until thickened, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Let the syrup cool before adding it to the Limoncello mixture. Add to the Limoncello mixture from Step One. Add the additional bottle of vodka. Allow to rest for another 10 to 40 days.

          Step Three:
          After the rest period, strain and bottle: discarding the lemon zest. Keep in the freezer until ready to serve.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Susan

            The fact is, Italians make limoncello using grain alcohol. I'm glad that your limoncello turns out so well, but after years of making limoncello, plumcello, etc., and discussing it with many people who make their own infused liquors, I have found no such consensus on not using Everclear. Absolutely the opposite. If you can get Everclear, it works wonderfully. I feel limoncello should have a little bit of a kick to it, and I think the flavor is more complex if one uses very high proof liquor.

            Link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/...

            1. re: KathyR

              I agree. I made it from a recipe in Gourmet (I believe). When looking around Los Angeles for 100% alcohol, I was told we cannot get anything higher than a 51 or 71 or something here, and the next best thing to use is Grain Alcohol = Everclear. I made it and it came out good (strong, but good). I still have a bottle in the freezer!

            2. re: Susan

              I don't like the taste of Vodka, so I am using the Everclear. My next batches will be made with 151 rather than 190-proof, however.

            3. f
              fai jay (fai jackson)

              Strange that I just read this post, the morning after I was looking through an older cookbook, The Flavours of Puglia, and there is a recipe in that book and here it is:

              About 1 1/2 quarts

              8 large lemons, preferably organic
              1 bottle (4/5 quart) 100 proof vodka
              3 cups spring water
              1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

              Zest the lemons. (If not organic, scrub well to remove residues, the dry well)

              Put the rinds and the vodka in large glass jars, screw down lids, and set aside in a cool place (not refrigerator) for 1 week

              Strain and discard rinds

              Make a simple syrup with spring water and sugar. Cool to room temp. and mix with strained vodka. Bottle in 2 pint containers and seal for 24 hrs. Then refrigerate.

              This recipe comes from a restaurant in Lecce.

              I think it may be regional (as are all things in Italy) as to what alcohol one uses.

              I was planning on trying this one out.

              1. I have a recipe that is reportedly a family secret from a woman who hails from Sorrento, Italy, home of the greatest Limoncello. It does call for grain alcohol but after my first batch which tasted suspiciously of cheap tequila, i switched to any other vodka. In addition to soaking with lemon rinds for 10 days, I usually squeeze three full lemons in for added citrus. The last batch I made proves this point as no other batch has had such a good balance between sweet, tart, and booze. If you'd like the recipe, let me know. Its not really much of a secret.

                2 Replies
                1. re: mokow

                  Would love to have the recipe, please post. Thanks in advance.

                  1. re: paprkutr

                    I've been making limoncello for about 2 years now and everyone loves it.

                    I have a simple recipe that has never failed.

                    one 750ml of vodka ( I use monopolowa but have also experimented with cheaper ones and haven't been able to taste the difference )

                    zest of 8 lemons.. you can do them in strips or a micro grater for more lemon flavor and to extract more of the essential oils.

                    one cup of water and one cup of sugar... cook down until only one cup of liquid remains.

                    let the vodka/zest mixture sit for one week...

                    then strain off the zest, mix the syrup, decant into bottles ( I reuse wine bottles or liquor bottles with the artificial corks )... put into freezer until cold.. then enjoy!!

                    If you use too much syrup, the mixture will freeze a bit... you can mitigate this by using a higher proof alcohol.. but I and my friends prefer it with 80 proof vodka, which gives us just the right amount of kick.

                    I have also done the same thing with fennel seed from my garden this year, and the results were incredible!!!

                2. I just finished my first batch of limoncello, and I am not pleased. I used the zest of 8 lemons, 750ml of 100-proof vodka and soaked for 10 days. But it's not as lemony as I want it. What does it need? A higher lemon/vodka ratio? More time? The recipe I used also required that you let the mixture set for three weeks after removing the lemon zest and mixing in the sugar syrup, which I did, although it seems kind of useless. What would be the point of such a step?

                  10 Replies
                  1. re: mordacity

                    My recipe, which I love dearly is as follows:

                    1.75 L of Everclear
                    10 - 14 Citrus Fruits (I use 9 Lemons, 3 Oranges, 2 Limes)
                    7.5 Cups Water
                    7.5 Cups Sugar

                    1) Zest Citrus Fruits
                    2) Marinate Zest in Everclear for 1 week
                    3) Strain Everclear
                    4) Combine Sugar and Water to make simple syrup
                    5) Combine Syrup and Infused Everclear
                    6) Bottle + Enjoy

                    I think the orange and lime zest add a lot to the flavor profile, but you could of course use only lemons if you so desire. A note of caution, this is pretty powerful stuff (~80 proof) so drink in moderation.

                    1. re: ShadowedOne

                      One note I should add is that I use a mico-plane grater to zest the citrus fruits. This assures that only the zest is removed and none of the bitter white pith.

                      Also since the zest pieces are so fine the infusion takes place very rapidly.

                      1. re: ShadowedOne

                        Hi ShadowedOne,
                        If I use a microplane to zest, do I strain with cheesecloth? Or will a fine mesh strainer work by itself?

                        1. re: melanie1128

                          I would do both. First use the cheesecloth then the fine mesh

                          1. re: melanie1128

                            I usually only use a fine mesh strainer. There are sometimes very small bits of zest left over. You could certainly double strain through both fine mesh and cheese cloth if the micro particle bother you.

                            1. re: ShadowedOne

                              Thanks very much! I put it together last night using the microplane. Now, I wait....

                              1. re: melanie1128

                                It turned out great! I only had to use the fine mesh strainer. No micro particles at all.

                      2. re: mordacity

                        I would let it sit on the zest longer and I usually use twelve or more lemons. The recipe I have gotten on this board and egullet comes to zest 12-20 lemons and zest of I lime in 100 proof for 45 days. shake jar every day. strain and mix with 80 proof vodka sit for 45 more days. I usually add the simple syrup as I make a drink. Patience is the key.

                        1. re: mordacity

                          My ratio is more like 15 lemons per 750 ml vodka. I also let the mixture rest for at least 4 weeks before straining off the zest. Sometimes I split and scrape a vanilla bean before dropping the whole business into the mixture.

                          1. re: sazall

                            i'm making my annual batch of limoncello and thinking about using Demerara Cane Sugar for the simple syrup. i know the color will change, what about the flavor? anyone tried this?

                        2. I let it steep for a couple of weeks and always use vodka. I also always use meyer lemons for an extra nice and special taste.

                          1. My wife and I really enjoy Limoncello. I think I need to try and make some for us ourselves. How do you do the zesting?

                            Best regards, tony

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: aea6574

                              When making limoncello, would quality of the alcohol matter? Can I just find whatever is cheapest and still produce something worthwhile?

                              1. re: mrpotato

                                I liken this to the question about what kind of wine to cook with. Since the alcohol you choose will become the base for you limoncello I would strongly suggest getting something you'd be willing to drink on its own (unless of course you're going the everclear route).

                                Basically if your base spirit doesn't taste good it's not going to produce a limoncello that tastes very good.

                                1. re: ShadowedOne

                                  I have a question re: bacteria. I have been making limoncello. I have now steeped my rinds for nearly 2 months in 80 proof vodka and have had them in a dark place, covered with a tight sheet of saran wrap- the new sticky kind so it is sealed to the glass pitcher. The rinds have paled and I think I am ready for the sugar syrup..

                                  But recently I was listening to the splendid table radio show and they were talking about making kind of a fruit liquor( hunks of peaches etc. steeped in alcohol for a long time) and how it can get bacteria/botulism if the jar is not sealed while steeping.

                                  I am sure a bit of air leaked into my pitcher at some point with just the saran wrap on top. Is this an issue in the making of limocello too- in all the recipes/info I viewed I did not see it mentioned. Do I need to start over? Thank you.

                                  1. re: indeliblepress

                                    Ethyl alcohol isn't very friendly to bacteria, I'm not personally too worried about stuff growing in 40%.

                                    1. re: Soybomb

                                      thanks- i guess that's true. we'll give it a shot ( yikes- bad pun) and hopefully you will hear from us again!

                            2. I'm bumping up a pretty old thread here, but for the ones like me who come across this post in the future, I wanted to contribute. Ever since my dad and I had some limoncello in upstate New York, then had some while in Italy, we've tried a few various types. One was oranges, one was lemons and limes, and one that didn't work out so well was melon (we had this kind in Rome though and it was fabulous!).
                              I've since found some pretty good recipes out there, including this guy's site; as you can see, he's taken the matter VERY seriously, and has documented each and every deviation from what he eventually settled on as his perfect recipe.
                              His lime-cello variations have me thinking, and I may try my hand at it in the future. I've currently got a batch going that 'steeped' for 45 days and is almost through with the 45 day, post-filtration aging.

                              1. I've seen everything from 2 weeks to 90 days. Mine is 90 days, which really seems to get the lemon flavor in there. If you want something quicker, I cannot imagine two days working at all. You can use vodka. Just be aware that it has a flavor of its own, which will alter the outcome. Everclear on the other hand is neutral. Some people like the 151-proof version rather than the 190-proof which I am now using. My 5th batch probably will be based on 151 just to test the taste difference. Right now I'm just playing with the sugar content because many on-line recipes seem way too sweet for me. Tomorrow I'm making the simple syrup for Batches 3 and 4, which also play the type of lemons against each other --Meyers or not. Usually I only alter one thing at a time in a batch, but I couldn't find the same, small organic lemons I used last time.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: alice_rice

                                  Have you come to any conc.lusion on the amount of sugar? I've just made my first batch of Limoncello and I'm quite pleased with it. But I would like to try and make it less sweet..

                                  1. re: Jibe

                                    Hi Jibe. Alas, I fear that I will never know the answer to the question, "What is the perfect amount of sugar?" Unfortunately, lemons vary in size and type. Apparently choosing the lemon is the most significant question in determining how much sweetness is appropriate. My last two batches surprised me. I purchased one batch of Meyer lemons for Batch 3 and one batch of regular lemons for Batch 4. When I purchased the lemons, both types were larger than the previous ones, and I could not find the same size anywhere. So I bought them and used them anyway. I doubled both batches. On the first double batch, I reduced the ratio of sugar by 1/2 cup. On the second batch I reduced the ratio of sugar by 3/4 cup. The first double batch was made with the Meyer lemons, and it seems to be the less tasty of the two batches to me. It has a whang I don't like as well, although it mixes fine. It has less sugar, but I have surmised that the Meyer lemons are too tart for me, and I probably won't use them again. On the other hand, the second batch, the one with the regular lemons same size as the Meyer ones I bought, I find quite tasty even though it has less sugar than the first double batch. I'm going to keep my sugar ratio about the same as in the fourth batch (the second double batch with 3/4 cup less sugar) but continue to use regular lemons or organic ones of the same size if I can find them.

                                    Finding enough organic lemons can be difficult, so I just scrub the regular ones really well. Again, the two batches of lemons were the same size, but the batch of regular lemons was better than the batch of Meyer lemons, even though the regular lemons had less sugar than the Meyer lemons had. I had expected them to be better than the regular lemons because I had hear that so often on line. My next move will be to use Everclear 151 rather than 190 to see if I can keep it tasty, but not so bright in flavor.

                                    1. re: alice_rice

                                      Thanks Alice, I appreciate the input. I just added a bunch of orange peels to some everclear. We'll see how the orangecello turns out. I figure that I can always start with less sugar, & add more if its not sweet enough.

                                      1. re: Jibe

                                        I have heard that orangecello is more difficult than limoncello, and the sugar ratio would definitely be different. For the sugar component, however, you will want to be sure to make enough simple syrup and cool it sufficiently ahead so you can alter the sugar amounts if you want. How many bottles does your recipe yield?