From Sorrento to Your Glass: The Limoncello Experience

Step into the world of Limoncello, where its name alone evokes the sun-kissed Amalfi Coast. Here, we’ll explore how this delightful liqueur has left its mark on people’s hearts and taste buds worldwide. And, of course, I’ve got a fantastic Limoncello recipe waiting for you at the end, so you can experience its magic firsthand. Let’s uncover the citrusy wonders of Limoncello together.




Ready In:


1-3 months




Good For:



About this Recipe

By: Silvana Lanzetta

Limoncello! Just saying the name lifts your spirits, doesn’t it? It’s this magical concoction of deliciously sweet and tangy goodness, and oh, that aroma! It’s like a one-way ticket to a sunny day on the Amalfi Coast. Seriously, what more could you ask for in a drink?

Back in Naples making Limoncello at home is a bit of a tradition, and my family was no exception. As a kid, I’d watch in fascination as my parents meticulously measured the pure alcohol, and my mum peeled those gigantic lemons my dad brought back from Sorrento. Then, she’d drop those fragrant lemon peels into the alcohol, seal the bottle, and stash it away in a cupboard.

I’d forget all about it, and then, out of nowhere (at least, that’s how it felt in my childhood memory), the bottle would resurface. Only this time, the liquid was this stunning shade of yellow, and it smelled like an Italian summer in a bottle. My mum would whip up a syrup with sugar and water, pour it all into the bottle, and poof, it would vanish again, until, like magic, it reappeared after dinner when we had guests over. I remember those guests raving about how utterly delicious it was.

My personal Limoncello journey continued during my university years. It was at a dinner with my dear friends  that it happened.  A bottle of homemade Limoncello, perfectly chilled, made its grand entrance at the end of our dinner. And that’s when it all clicked – I finally got what my family had been raving about all those years! Limoncello is pure liquid delight. It’s refreshing, sweet, and oh, that fragrance! Is there anything better? 

But here’s the beauty of Limoncello – it’s not just a solo act. It plays incredibly well with other recipes too, like this mind-blowing strawberry and Limoncello tiramisu. If you think I’m exaggerating, well, you’ve got to taste it to believe it!

2 shots of limoncello in small glass and a bottle full of limoncello, surrounded with lemons
capri, view from villa san michele0

Capri, view from Villa San Michele

Amalfi Coast - iew of Minori

Amalfi Coast – Minori



a basket full of huge sorrento's lemons

A little history of limoncello

Let’s take a stroll down the Amalfi Coast – a breath-taking stretch that’s more than 50 km long, hugging the shoreline from Positano to Vietri sul Mare. Picture this: the highest point soaring to 1,036 meters, covering an area of 107 sq km, and wrapping up 15 charming little towns. It’s not just geography; it’s a historical treasure trove. Back in 839 AD, it was even the powerhouse behind the Maritime Republic of Amalfi. No wonder it got its spot on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Limoncello, the iconic liqueur we all love, had its very beginnings right here in the early 1900s. Imagine a quaint guesthouse on the Island of Capri, where signora Maria Antonia Farace was the boss of a citrus wonderland – lemons and oranges galore. Fast forward to post WW2 times, and her grandson decided to set up a restaurant near Axel Munthe’s villa. The star of the show? You guessed it – the lemony concoction made from his grandma’s secret recipe.

Jump to 1988, and his son, Massimo Canale, stepped onto the scene. He set up his own artisanal Limoncello production and even got his trademark registered. But let me tell you, there’s more to this story.

In the charming spots of Sorrento and Amalfi, whispers of tales about crafting the classic yellow liquid are everywhere.

Take Sorrento, for example. In the early 1900s, the big-shot families made it a tradition to treat their fancy guests to a sip of authentic Limoncello. And in Amalfi? Well, they claim it goes way back, almost connected to the very roots of lemon farming. Of course, like any good mystery, the truth plays hide-and-seek, with more theories than you can count.

Some legends say that fishermen and farmers used Limoncello to ward off the morning chill, even during those Saracen invasions. Others are convinced it was brewed up in a monastery, bringing some sunshine to the monks’ prayer time. The actual truth? Well, it’s like chasing a rainbow. But hey, let’s step back – beyond these local tales – and see how this golden nectar has spread its wings across the globe, winning hearts and palates in every corner.

close up of various lemons
close up of a wooden spoon filled with white sugar, resting on a small mound of sugar



Enjoy your delicious homemade  limoncello sensibly, considering its alcohol and sugar content, to maintain control over calorie and alcohol consumption.

Due to its 50% ABV, exercise discretion when consuming limoncello to prevent excessive alcohol intake.


  • Proteins 0% 0%
  • Carbs 100% 100%
  • Fats 0% 0%
bottle and 2 small glasses with lemoncello

Ingredients for the traditional  Limoncello from Sorrento


These measurements represent the dilution ratios to achieve specific ABV percentages for 1 litre of homemade Limoncello based on the type of alcohol you choose.

Spirit Used
Grain Alcohol (95% ABV)
Vodka (40-50% ABV)
Everclear (80% ABV)
Dilution to 30% ABV (ml)
300 ml water + 700 ml alcohol
200 ml water + 800 ml vodka 40%
200 ml water + 800 ml Everclear
Dilution to 40% ABV (ml)
400 ml water + 600 ml alcohol
200 ml water + 800 ml vodka 50%
300 ml water + 700 ml Everclear
Dilution to 50% ABV (ml)
500 ml water + 500 ml alcohol
50 ml water + 950 ml vodka 50%
400 ml water + 600 ml Everclear

Let’s chat about which sugar works best when you’re whipping up a batch of Limoncello – that sunshine-filled Italian lemon liqueur. Now, the go-to sugar for this citrusy delight is good old white granulated sugar, and here’s why:

It’s Neutral in Flavour: White sugar plays nice and doesn’t steal the spotlight from those zesty lemons. It lets their natural, vibrant flavours take centre stage, creating that refreshing Limoncello taste we adore.

Keeps the Colour: You know that gorgeous, sunny yellow shade of Limoncello? White sugar helps maintain it, so your liqueur looks as inviting as it tastes.

Dissolves Smoothly: Making Limoncello involves creating a syrup by dissolving sugar in alcohol and water. White granulated sugar dissolves like a dream, ensuring a silky-smooth blend with the lemon infusion.

Easy to Find: No need to go on a sugar scavenger hunt – white granulated sugar is a supermarket staple, making it super convenient for your Limoncello adventures.

Budget-Friendly: It won’t break the bank. Making Limoncello should be a joy, not a financial burden.

Now, while white granulated sugar is the top pick, you might stumble upon recipes suggesting superfine or caster sugar. These finer sugars dissolve even quicker, but honestly, the difference is subtle.


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Let’s dive into the magic of making Limoncello and talk about the star of the show: grain alcohol, also known as rectified spirit or neutral spirit. It’s like the secret ingredient that makes your Limoncello truly shine, and here’s why:

Grain alcohol is like the backstage crew in a theatre production – it doesn’t hog the limelight. Its neutral taste and smell won’t steal the spotlight from those zesty lemons. It’s all about letting those lemon peels take center stage.

This stuff packs a punch with a high alcohol by volume (ABV), usually around 95% or even more. That’s crucial because it’s what extracts all those fantastic lemony oils and flavors during the maceration process.

When it comes to mixing, grain alcohol is a team player. It makes sure that the sugar syrup and lemon infusion blend together like best friends at a party.

The high alcohol content acts as a natural preservative, so your homemade Limoncello can hang out on the shelf without any need for artificial additives.

Here’s the fun part – you can customize the final alcohol strength of your Limoncello by adding water to the grain alcohol. It’s like being your own master distiller.

But, what if you can’t find grain alcohol? Don’t fret! Here are some alternatives:

Vodka to the Rescue: High-proof vodka (around 40% to 50% ABV) can step in as a worthy substitute. It may take a bit longer to coax out those lemony vibes, so be prepared to give it a little more time.

Everclear: In some places, you might find Everclear, which is pretty much grain alcohol under a different name. It works brilliantly too.

Other High-proof Spirits: Look for neutral spirits with a high ABV, like potent rum or gin, if they’re available to you.

Just remember, when you’re using these alternatives, you might need to tweak the dilution to hit that perfect alcohol content.



In the world of Limoncello, it’s all about those lemons, and here’s a crucial secret ingredient: they absolutely must be organic and unwaxed. These lemons are the stars of the show, particularly the oval Sorrento IGP and the Amalfi IGP varieties. These lemons are like little bursts of sunshine – their peels, rich with essential oils, are the heart and soul of this exquisite liqueur. They not only give it its lively color but also infuse it with an intense flavor and a captivating aroma.

Now, if you can’t get your hands on IGP lemons, fret not – untreated Italian lemons with robust peels will do the trick just as splendidly. And for those lucky enough to have a lemon tree in their garden, it’s like having a treasure trove of citrus right at your fingertips. Limoncello truly is like summer in a glass, a bright and invigorating taste of the sun-kissed Mediterranean coast.


Important Warning. Please Read.


This recipe uses grain alcohol, which is the traditional ingredient we use to make limoncello. Let’s discuss why it’s crucial to avoid consuming pure grain alcohol.

Pure grain alcohol is like the superhero of the liqueur making world, packing an ABV (alcohol by volume) that’s way higher than your average tipple, often soaring beyond 95%. Now, while it might sound intriguing to some, it’s important to know that this potency comes with serious risks.

Firstly, that sky-high ABV means pure grain alcohol can get you intoxicated frighteningly fast. We’re talking about a level of inebriation that can be dangerous and unpleasant.

But the real problem here is the risk of alcohol poisoning. Even a tiny sip of pure grain alcohol can push you over the edge into this life-threatening territory. Think severe nausea, uncontrollable vomiting, confusion, seizures, and, worst of all, slowed or irregular breathing, possibly leading to unconsciousness.

That’s not a road anyone should venture down. So, as appealing as the idea of drinking pure grain alcohol might seem, it’s vital to steer clear of it for your safety and wellbeing. Stick to the recipe and ALWAYS dilute it before consuming it. And remember, moderation is the golden rule when it comes to enjoying a tipple. Your health and happiness are worth safeguarding.


More information can be found on the following websites:


Drinkaware UK

Drugabuse USA

Traditional Limoncello Recipe

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bottle and 2 small glasses with lemoncello

Traditional Limoncello recipe with grain alcohol

  • Author: Silvana Lanzetta
  • Total Time: 31 minutes
  • Yield: 1 litre 1x


Creating your own homemade Limoncello is a straightforward process. You’ll require just a handful of ingredients, but it’s crucial to adhere to the method diligently to achieve a delightful result.

While the traditional recipe calls for grain alcohol, you can easily substitute it with vodka if grain alcohol isn’t readily available. Refer to the accompanying notes for the adjusted quantities. If you discover that your Limoncello is a bit too potent for your taste, simply increase the amount of syrup until you reach your desired level of strength. It’s all about customizing your Limoncello to perfection.



500 ml of 90% or 95% (180190 proof) grain alcohol (Everclear) (check the notes in the article above to adjust the potency)

6 organic unwaxed lemons

500 ml of water

400 grams of sugar


  1. Begin by thoroughly washing the lemons under hot water. Use a brush to remove any impurities.
  2. Rinse the lemons with cold water and gently pat them dry using a clean kitchen towel.
  3. Carefully peel the lemons, making sure to extract only the yellow zest. Use a sharp knife or a peeler for this step.
  4. Avoid including the white portion of the peel, as it can impart bitterness to the liqueur’s flavour.
  5. Place the lemon peels on a cutting board and slice them into thin strips.
  6. Take a hermetically sealed, sterilized glass jar and add the sliced lemon peels to it. Pour 500 ml of alcohol into the jar, ensuring that the lemon peels are fully submerged. Seal the jar tightly and place it in a cool, dark location.
  7. Allow the mixture to rest for 30 days. Remember to shake the sealed jar gently once every day. This helps in the proper blending of flavours. The longer the infusion, the more flavourful your limoncello will be.
  8. After the infusion period, it’s time to prepare the syrup. In a large saucepan, combine cold water and granulated sugar. Gently dissolve the sugar over low heat, stirring frequently to avoid burning.
  9. Once the sugar is completely dissolved, increase the heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Allow the syrup to boil for 1 minute, then remove the saucepan from the heat source. Let the syrup cool down to room temperature.
  10. Next, gently pour the syrup into the container holding the lemon peels. Give the jar a good shake to ensure that the syrup is thoroughly mixed with the lemony goodness.
  11. Now, it’s time to exercise patience once more – let your concoction rest for a further 40 days. Remember, keep it in a dark spot, far from any heat sources.
  12. Once the resting time has passed, retrieve the jar containing your liqueur. Give it a gentle shake to awaken the flavours.
  13. Then strain the liquid through a fine sieve
  14. Using sterilized glass bottles, carefully transfer the limoncello mixture into the bottles. Seal the bottles securely to prevent any leakage.
  15. Place the bottled limoncello in a cool, dark place for a couple of weeks.
  16. Once the two-weeks maturation period is over, your homemade limoncello is ready to be enjoyed.
  17. Β Remember to serve it well chilled for the best taste experience.


When peeling the lemons, be meticulous in removing only the yellow zest, leaving the bitter white pith behind.

If you cannot find grain alcohol, you can use vodka instead. Adjust the quantity of water according to the following: for limoncello at 30% abv, use 200 ml of water for 800 ml of vodka at 40% abv.Β  For Limoncello at 40% abv, use 200ml of water for 800 ml of vodka 50% abv. For Limoncello at 47% abv, use 50 ml water and 950 ml of vodka at 50% abv

To make the Limoncello’s flavour more unique, you can also add zest from other citrus fruits.

When adding the sugar syrup, make sure it’s fully cooled before mixing it with the lemon-infused alcohol.

To preserve your Limoncello, store it in a cool, dry place, or keep it in the refrigerator or freezer. Don’t worry about it freezing – the alcohol and sugar will prevent that.

A word of caution: if you ever observe any unusual changes or alterations in the product, it’s best to err on the side of caution and avoid consuming it.

Drink Responsibly: Limoncello is a delightful liqueur, but it’s still alcohol. Enjoy it in moderation to avoid overindulgence.

Age Restrictions: Ensure that you’re of legal drinking age in your country before making or consuming Limoncello.

Alcohol Content: Be aware of the alcohol content in Limoncello. It can be quite strong, so pace yourself accordingly.

Never Drink and Drive: Never drive or operate machinery under the influence of alcohol, including Limoncello.

Health Considerations: If you have health conditions or are taking medication, consult a healthcare professional before consuming alcohol.

Alcohol Dependency: Be mindful of your alcohol consumption habits to prevent alcohol dependency or misuse.

Pregnancy and Alcohol: Pregnant individuals should abstain from alcohol completely, including Limoncello, due to potential risks to the baby.

Know Your Limits: Everyone’s tolerance to alcohol varies. Know your limits and listen to your body.

Remember, while Limoncello is a delightful treat, it should be enjoyed responsibly and with an understanding of its effects on your body and well-being.

  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • maturation time: 2-3 months
  • Cook Time: 1 minute
  • Category: Spirits
  • Method: Infusion
  • Cuisine: Italian
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How long does homemade limoncello last?

Homemade Limoncello can last for a long time if stored properly. When stored in a cool, dark place, away from sources of heat or direct sunlight, it can maintain its quality for up to a year or even longer. Some enthusiasts claim that well-stored Limoncello can remain enjoyable for several years.

However, over time, the flavours may subtly change, and it could become slightly less vibrant. To preserve the freshness and taste of your homemade Limoncello, it’s best to consume it within the first year or so.

What degree of alcohol is in limoncello?

The degrees of limoncello range from a minimum of 30% to a maximum of 50%, depending on the percentage of pure alcohol used in the recipe. Traditonally, limoncello is a 50% ABV (100 proof) liqueuer.

What is the best vodka to make limoncello?

The choice of vodka for making Limoncello can vary based on personal preference and availability. It’s generally recommended to use a good-quality, neutral-flavoured vodka when making Limoncello. This allows the bright and zesty lemon flavours to shine without any interference from strong vodka notes.

Popular options include brands like Absolut, Grey Goose, Belvedere, or Ketel One. However, you don’t necessarily need a top-shelf vodka for Limoncello, as long as it’s a decent-quality vodka with a neutral taste.

Ultimately, the key is to select a vodka that you enjoy the taste of and one that fits your budget. Experimenting with different brands can also lead to unique variations in your homemade Limoncello’s flavour profile, so feel free to explore and find your preferred vodka for this delightful liqueur.

What if my limoncello is too strong?

You can make a sugar syrup (equal parts sugar and water), allowing to completely cool down, and mix it into the Limoncello. This will not only reduce the alcohol content but also sweeten the liqueur. Add the syrup gradually and taste as you go.

What is limoncello made of?

Limoncello is made from a few simple ingredients:

1. Lemons: The primary ingredient is lemon zest, specifically the outer, yellow part of the lemon peel. The zest is rich in essential oils and imparts the lemony flavour and aroma to the liqueur.

2. Alcohol: High-proof alcohol, traditionally grain alcohol, is used to extract the flavours from the lemon zest. It serves as the base for the liqueur.

3. Sugar: A sugar is added to sweeten the Limoncello, balancing the tartness of the lemons. The amount of sugar can vary according to personal taste.

4. Water: Water is typically used to dilute the alcohol and sugar to the desired strength and sweetness.

These ingredients are combined in a specific process that involves maceration, mixing, and resting to create the delightful and refreshing Limoncello liqueur.

What town in Italy is known for limoncello?

The town of Sorrento, located in the Campania region of Italy, is particularly renowned for its production of Limoncello. Sorrento and the nearby Amalfi Coast are famous for their high-quality lemons, which are the key ingredient in crafting this iconic Italian liqueur. Visitors to Sorrento often have the opportunity to sample and purchase authentic Limoncello produced in the region.

What do Italians drink Limoncello with?

Italians enjoy Limoncello as a standalone liqueur, sipping it chilled after a meal as a digestif. It’s a refreshing and sweet way to conclude a meal. However, Limoncello’s versatility means it can also be used in various cocktails and mixed drinks. Some popular options include:

1. Lemon Spritz: Mixing Limoncello with sparkling water or Prosecco for a fizzy and citrusy drink.

2. Limoncello Martini: Creating a martini by blending Limoncello with vodka or gin and a splash of lemon juice.

3. Limoncello Sorbet: Using Limoncello to make a delightful lemon sorbet for a refreshing dessert.

4. Lemon Drop: Preparing a Lemon Drop cocktail by combining Limoncello with vodka and a touch of simple syrup.

5. Limoncello Mojito: Adding Limoncello to a classic Mojito for a zesty twist on this popular cocktail.

What is the traditional way to drink limoncello?

The traditional way to drink Limoncello is as follows:

1. Serve Chilled: Limoncello is typically stored in the freezer to ensure it’s ice-cold when served. The liqueur should be well-chilled but not frozen solid.

2. Use Small Glasses: It’s traditionally served in small, narrow glasses, often referred to as cordial glasses or shot glasses. These small glasses help maintain the cold temperature and allow for slow sipping.

3. Sip Slowly: Take small sips of the Limoncello, savoring the bright and zesty lemon flavour. It’s customary to enjoy Limoncello slowly, allowing the refreshing taste to linger.

4. After a Meal: Limoncello is commonly consumed as a digestif, so it’s typically enjoyed after a meal. It’s believed to aid in digestion and cleanse the palate.

5. Enjoy the Aroma: Before sipping, take a moment to appreciate the aromatic lemon scent that wafts from the glass. The fragrance is an integral part of the Limoncello experience.

6. Sip Responsibly: Like any alcoholic beverage, it’s important to drink Limoncello in moderation and be mindful of its alcohol content.

By following these traditions, you can fully appreciate the delightful and refreshing qualities of Limoncello in the way it’s been enjoyed for generations along the Amalfi Coast and throughout Italy.

Where is the best place to keep limoncello?

The best place to store Limoncello is in a cool, dark, and dry location. Here are some tips for storing your Limoncello:

1. Cool Temperature: Limoncello is best kept at a consistent cool temperature, ideally between 0Β°C (32Β°F) and 4Β°C (39Β°F). This can be achieved by storing it in the freezer or a cool cellar.

2. Dark Environment: Exposure to direct sunlight can cause changes in the flavour and quality of Limoncello over time. Therefore, it’s crucial to store it away from light sources in a dark environment.

3. Airtight Container: Limoncello should be stored in airtight containers, such as glass bottles with tight-sealing caps or lids. This helps preserve its freshness and prevent any external odours from affecting its flavour.

4. Avoid Temperature Fluctuations: Rapid temperature changes can affect the liqueur, so try to keep it in a place with minimal temperature fluctuations.

5. Dry Atmosphere: Ensure the storage area is dry, as moisture can compromise the quality of Limoncello and lead to spoilage.

By following these storage guidelines, you can keep your homemade Limoncello in excellent condition, allowing you to enjoy its vibrant flavour and aroma over an extended period.

Silvana Lanzetta

Silvana Lanzetta

β€œCiao, I’m Silvana, a fourth-generation pasta artisan from Napoli with a lifetime of experience! I began making pasta at the tender age of 5 under the watchful eye of my pasta-making generalissimo, my granny. Through her guidance, I’ve become a master in crafting traditional pasta dishes. Since 2014, I have been teaching pasta making classes in London, sharing my expertise with aspiring pasta enthusiasts. I’ve also had the privilege of showcasing my knowledge on BBC and in national newspapers like The Sun and iNews, and held pasta making demonstration in Harrods. Join me in exploring the world of Italian pasta and let’s create unforgettable culinary experiences together!”

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