Limoncello: When Life Hands you Lemons…

September 4, 2014
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Limoncello is a lemon flavoured liqueur from southern Italy (traditionally from the regions of Napoli and the surrounding area). It is generally consumed as a digestif after a large and delicious Italian meal, but it can be enjoyed anytime. This post will walk you through how to make it from scratch so that you can impress your friends and your tastebuds.

Photos by ADV Photography

What You’ll Need

  • The rind of 12 lemons
  • 1L high-proof grain alcohol – we used Everclear (95% ABV)
  • Enough simple syrup to properly dilute and sweeten the alcohol (more on this below)

Most versions of the limoncello recipe call for a 1:1:1 alcohol – to – water – to – sugar ratio.


How To Do It

Step 1 – Peel the Lemons

Peel the lemons, ensuring you have as little pith as possible (the pith is the white part of the peel which is quite bitter). Depending on how much limoncello you are planning to make, this step can be pretty time-consuming and boring. Your best bet would be to trick someone into doing it for you. (Thank you Sebastian Ortega!)

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Step 2 – Flavour the Base Alcohol

Once one of your easily-deceived friends has peeled all your lemons for you, you’ll need to place them in a large jar and add all of the base alcohol. Close the jar tightly and place the mixture in the fridge for approximately four weeks.

Step 3 – Remove the Rinds

After approximately 4 to 5 weeks, the oils from the lemon rinds should be fully incorporated into the base alcohol mixture. Strain out the rinds and discard them (They will be whitish and brittle). DO NOT USE THE LIMONCELLO YET, UNLESS YOU ARE INTENDING TO APPLY IT TO A WOUND!

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Step 4 – Adding the Simple Syrup and Creating Your Very Own Limoncello!

As you may have guessed, 95% ABV is slightly too high for a nice tasting limoncello. In order to reduce the alcohol content in this digestif to a more reasonable amount, you will need to dilute it with the appropriate amount of water. This is done by following the formula below.

Final Volume = Quantity of Base Alcohol × (ABV of Base Alcohol ÷ Desired ABV)

Final Volume = 1L × (95% ÷ 35%)

Final Volume ≅ 2.75L

Since you are starting with 1L of base alcohol, you will need to add approximately 1.75L of water in order to give the limoncello a 35% ABV content.

Considering that the base alcohol is so strong, you will need to deviate slightly from the 1:1:1 ratio. Our main recipe would contain 1L of the flavoured 95% ABV Everclear and 1.75L of simple syrup using approximately 6 cups of sugar. For more information on how to make simple syrup see our post on the topic.

Once the syrup has cooled, add it to the base alcohol mixture and you have limoncello!


Our Three Flavours

We decided to make three separate batches of limoncello using slightly different simple syrup recipes. The first flavour follows the main recipe above, the second recipe uses half the sugar, and the third recipe substitutes sugar with organic honey.

The recipes for each batch are as follows;


Batch 1 – Lots and Lots of Sugar

  • 0.33L lemon-flavoured Everclear
  • 0.57L water (or enough to dilute the Everclear to your desired strength)
  • 2 cups sugar

This is the standard recipe and is very sweet and syrupy.


Batch 2 – A Little Less Sweet

  • 0.33L lemon-flavoured Everclear
  • 0.57L water (or enough to dilute the Everclear to your desired strength)
  • 1 cup sugar

This recipe is obviously less sweet and more liquidy than the first batch (although it is still pretty sweet when not compared to the first batch).


Batch 3 – The Super Healthy (Kinda) Honey Version

  • 0.33L lemon-flavoured Everclear
  • 0.57L water (or enough to dilute the Everclear to your desired strength)
  • 1 cup honey

To my pleasant surprise, this version is actually quite flavourful. The addition of the honey gives this limoncello a very unique sweetness. The only downside is that the honey tends to settle to the bottom of the bottle, so it must be shaken before serving.


Let us know what you think of the recipe in the comments section. If you have any unique recipes, we’d love to hear about them too!

Buona Digestione!

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  • Reply Mark September 4, 2014 at 3:45 pm

    where did you get the everclear from? i didnt think it was sold in canada

    • Reply Marco Provenzano September 4, 2014 at 7:06 pm

      Unfortunately you’re right. Everclear isn’t sold in Canada (At least not in Ontario or Quebec without the proper paperwork). We got our bottle in New York State.

      There are, however, some other spirits you could try using. For example, some LCBOs sell a 75% ABV spirit from Poland called Spirytus Gdanski. This should work fine when making something like Limoncello, but you’ll have to adjust the amount of water you use to dilute the base alcohol.

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