When life hands you lemons, it’s time to make Limoncello!

As we all must surely know by now, Limoncello is an Italian cordial – but what we may or may not know, is that it’s a relative newcomer to the game. There is no historical documentation regarding the use of Limoncello before the beginning of the twentieth century, and outside of a handful of families and social circles, few drank it before 1988, when the entrepreneur Massimo Canale of Capri registered the trademark “Limoncello di Capri.” The rest, as they say, is history.

The lemons of Southern Italy are what makes Limoncello so extraordinary… It is assigned the denomination of Indicazione geografica tipica (IGP), using the characteristic oval lemons from Sorrento. This lemon must be produced in one of the town districts of the area that spans from Vico Equense to Massa Lubrense and the island of Capri.

Who knew there were regulations on the types of lemons?!? But, unlike the USofA, Europe takes their food seriously.

This is one of those items that is relatively easy to make at home. You’re probably not going to easily find fresh Italian lemons – although they are available in the USofA – so use a good organic lemon. Organic, because you’re using the peel to make this and you don’t want pesticides in your beverage.

**since originally coming up with this recipe in 2006, we have cut back the sugar tremendously. This is the revised recipe.


  • 15 organic lemons, well scrubbed
  • 1 1.75 liter bottle vodka (80 or 100 proof – higher proof=stronger)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water

Wash the lemons well and pat dry. Carefully zest the lemons with a zester or vegetable peeler so there is no white pith on the peel.

Step One:
In a large glass jar (1-gallon jar), add the vodka and the lemon zest. Cover the jar and let sit at room temperature for at least 10 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 thick and syrupy, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Cool the syrup and then stir into the limoncello mixture. 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.

It’s a process – and takes a couple of months to do it right – but it’s well worth the wait!


It’s also fun to make a lot of it and share it with family and friends!

I get my bottles and other supplies at Fillmore Container in Lancaster! Great prices and a great staff!