The World’s Best Limoncello Recipe

I realize this title is a bit presumptuous, but I truly believe I have the recipe for the most delicious limoncello ever, thanks to Paste magazine.

Let’s start with some quick background. As with most delectably unique dishes (Calabash seafood, gumbo, Chicago-style pizza) the history of limoncello varies based on who you ask. We know its roots lie in the Amalfi Coast in Southern Italy and that it’s traditionally made with Sorrento lemons. The name “limoncello” was only trademarked in 1988, although it is the second most popular liqueur in its native country (falling in line behind Campari).

Oh, and limoncello is typically enjoyed as a post-dinner “digestivo.” (How very Italian, right?) Limoncello is best when enjoyed in warm weather, if you ask me (outside on the porch at the beach is an ideal scenario), and makes for a killer hostesss/house-warming/just-for-the-heck-of-it gift, too.

Kevin and I have enjoyed limoncello since the start of our relationship (he introduced me to the wonderful stuff), and we even have two sets of limoncello glasses now:

So how do you make this citrus-y chilled deliciousness? You need lemons, pure grain alcohol, and a dash of patience. Here goes:


  • Zest from 8-10 lemons
  • 1 liter pure grain alcohol
  • 2 liters whole milk
  • 7 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Essential Tools

  • Ceramic bowl big enough to hold the liter of alochol
  • Micro-planer or zester (to get zest off lemon)
  • Cheesecloth
  • Wooden spoons
  • Pot large enough to hold all ingredients
  • Glass bottles to store the finished product in


  • Pour 1/2 liter of alcohol into a ceramic bowl.
  • Grate the zest from all 8 lemons into the alcohol in the ceramic bowl. It is much, much easier if you use a micro-planer or zester to get the zest off the lemon. Grate only the yellow zest off the peel. If you go too deep and get the white, it will make it bitter.
  • Add the remaining 1/2 liter of alcohol.
  • Cover bowl with plastic wrap and sit on counter (at room temperature — don’t refrigerate) for a minimum of 48 hours. You can let it sit an extra day if desired.
  • After 48 hours, bring the milk and sugar to a SLOW boil, stirring thoroughly. Add vanilla and let it cool completely. We usually do this in the evening, cover it after done cooking it, and leave out overnight to cool. Again, don’t refrigerate, room temp is important.
  • The next day, use cheesecloth to strain out the lemon peel. Add the lemon-flavored alcohol to the milk/sugar mixture. Stir together with a wooden spoon.
  • Put in glass bottles and freeze. The alcohol prevents limoncello from freezing, but you should end up with a thick, eggnog-like mixture. We use a plastic funnel to put it in the bottles.
  • Keep in freezer and serve ice cold. (It’s just not the same at room temperature).

Yield: approximately 3 ½ liters
Serving size: 2 oz.
Makes about 55-60 servings

IMPORTANT: If you deviate from these instructions – a la using different spoons and bowls, refrigerating, etc. – the result won’t be the same. Use glass, ceramic, and wood as described, because for some reason the limoncello can react negatively to metal and plastic.

2 thoughts on “The World’s Best Limoncello Recipe

  1. sounds delicious! I have a feeling if i tried making limoncello it would not turn out very well 🙂 wonder where I can get/try limoncello

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