HOME > Chowhound > Spirits >


Making Limoncello

I'm thinking of making my own limoncello tonight after reading about it in the papers.

What brand vodka do you suggest to use?
How long should I steep the zest in the vodka it? Should I keep it in the fridge or in the basement?

Thanks for any other input.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I don't know if my technique is "right", but I just used regular vodka. I know that most recipes call for something that's higher proof, but I was lazy and that's what I had around after a party. I made three different kinds - one with regular lemons, one with limes, and one with Meyer lemons, and left the zest in the vodka for anywhere from 2-4 weeks, in a dark cupboard in my kitchen. I don't know how hot your kitchen gets, but since it was November-December (in LA) when I made my limoncellos, my kitchen was pretty cool. Perhaps more experienced people out there can specify a better answer, but I think your basement would be fine.

    1. I use Smirnoff's 100 proof vodka. Some people prefer Everclear if you can get it. I let my limoncello sit either on the counter or in my pantry for 40 days, then add the simple syrup and other bottle of vodka, then let it sit for 40 days more. There are recipes that require less time - I just think you get a much better flavor the longer it sits.

        1. I have made cello(both lemon and blood orange) the past three years. I found this recipe on egullet. for limoncello I used 12 organic lemons and one lime. used a microplane zester to zest all citrus and combined it with 100 proof vodka. let it sit for 6 wks in a cool dry place then strained it and mixed it with 80 proof vodka. and let it sit 6 more weeks. at this point I put it in the freezer for a few days and then use it in all kinds of drinks. Some add simple syrup and let it sit some more. I prefer to as the syrup to my drink as needed. Of the ones I have made the bload orange is the best. I've used tried smirnoff and absolut, noted no improvement from the pricier absolut

          1. I always do mine with everclear. I found I didn't get a strong enough lemon taste when I used vodka [though I didn't have 100 proof].

            I put in the zest of as many lemons as I can scrounge up with one bottle of everclear. I leave it until the peels are scary [ie white and crunchy which probably ought to make you think twice about drinking alcohol]. I strain out the peels and toss them. Then I think with simple syrup until drinkable--generally about 50-50. To avoid making it too sweet, I don't make a very strong syrup. I think I originally found my recipe in Savuer but now I just make it from memory.

            I use the same process for making a grapefruit version.

            In any case, the one thing to watch out for is including the white part in the mix. It can really add a not very pleasant bitter taste to the mix and I haven't found any good way to cover it up.

            Can't say I have had any complaints!

            1. I second the Smirnoff 100-pf vodka. It's a good quality base for any infusion.

              1. As for time, in his "Ratafia" recipe, Escoffier recommends 40 days.


                1 Reply
                1. re: jerry i h

                  In answer to jerry i h posts which he has removed/edited.

                  I disagree with your comments about using high quality vodka such as a pricey triple distilled one. Also your comments that one should never use a vodka that says "neutral grain spirits" or "charcoal filtered".

                  Why would you use a good vodka? What a waste of money. Any decent vodka that doesn't give you a hangover is fine. In Limoncello the taste of the lemon zest is so overwhelming that you could use lousy vodka and as long as the lemons are good quality and no white pith gets in there it will be great. Regular Smirnoff is the best I would use. I find that Gordons has a very clean profile. It is made by the folks who make Tanqueray.

                  Why wouldn't you use a vodka that says charcoal filtered or neutral grain spirits? All vodka is filtered. Some many times, and charcoal is used in most of the filters. And by definition vodka is neutral grain spirits, or neutral spirits from potatoes, but is definately neutral spirits.

                  ATF definition of vodka is "The standard of identity for vodka was promulgated in 1949, in T.D. 5707, 1949-2 C.B. 252. The standard for vodka provided that it was neutral spirits distilled from any material at or above 190 proof, reduced to not more than 110 proof and not less than 80 proof and, after such reduction in proof, so treated as to be without distinctive character, aroma, or taste. "

                2. Whichever prep you choose, Lemoncello sounds wonderful tonight!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: TheDexter

                    I made kumquatcello this spring (bumper crop in souther louisiana, also made a huge batch of kimquat chutney). Anyway, i just haved the whole fruit and filled liter Grey Goose bottles up about 2/3 with fruit then refillled with vodka and added simple syrup and/or soda to make a pretty tasty cocktail. The fruit was on the tree long enough to really develop some nice sugar. The infused vodka even worked great as a chilled shot. That said i found no real noticable improvements to the flavor after about 3 weeks. I think the vodka had gotten all it was going to get out of the fruit by that point. But, i did not zest them. It looks like this is also going to be a bumper year for my lemon tree so hopefully i'll be able to put half a case or so up this fall. Next time i do it though i wont waste Grey Goose on it. Stoli would have worked just fine.

                  2. I have made limoncello for years. Used many recipes before settling on my own.
                    I now use only the cheapest vodka I can get. 80 proof. I get limoncello that is 65 proof.
                    Cheap vodka; but buy the BEST organic lemons you can find.

                    1. 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 Reply
                      1. re: ShadowedOne

                        My favorite Italian resto gave me the following recipe for their hand-made lemoncello:

                        Two liters of Seagrams 100 proof vodka
                        Peels of 15 lemons - as little of the pith as possible!
                        Simple syrup - Two parts sugar to one part water, heat till dissolved.

                        In a foodsafe container, combine one of the liters of vodka and the lemon peel. Set aside, pantry is fine, for 40 days.

                        Strain out peels and combine with second liter.

                        Simple syrup to taste.

                        Re-bottle and enjoy.

                        Store in the freezer.

                        Tips they gave me:
                        - Again, as little pith as possible. I should have used a veggie peeler instead of a knife..My first attempt was on the bitter side.
                        - To make simple syrup, run plain water through your coffeemaker to get the hot water. Add hot water to sugar, stirring, until the solution becomes clear. With this method, you can make just the amount of syrup you need.
                        - Do not add any more syrup than necessary..to taste...otherwise the end product will freeze solid.

                        If I had it to do over, I would cut the recipe in half to ensure that I get it right and not make a 2 liter batch that's on the bitter side.

                      2. I use Smirnoff vodka because it's relatively cheap and widely available in 100 proof form, which you need for limoncello. I filter it with a Brita filter to make it even better though. You can steep with the zest for as little as a few days but I think 30 days is a minimum. The zest will turn white when it loses all its oil to the liquor. I keep a lot of mine in the basement or in a closet in the house. I don't think it matters much. You can see my results at my blog, limoncelloquest.com.