How to make your own homemade limoncello

Share this:

The minute we got back from the Amalfi Coast, Brian wanted to make homemade limoncello. When you go out to dinner in any of the towns in that area, they serve you little shots of icy cold limoncello after dinner – you know Italians and their wonderful digestifs obsession.  You get used to it pretty easily.  It’s a nice custom. So we started researching recipes when we got back.

Beautiful limoncello glasses from my sister-in-law, Auleta

There are a lot of recipes out there for making homemade limoncello, but basically all you do is take the zest of lemons and steep them in vodka or grain alcohol for a certain amount of time and then strain the liquid.  You then add simple syrup (sugar water) to the alcohol and then let that sit for a few days. That’s really all there is to it.  The big differences really come from the quality of lemons that you have and how much sugar you add to your concoction.  The amount of sugar is really up to you and how sweet you like this – a good reason to experiment with a couple of batches!

We settled on a recipe from a very authentic source – Mamma Agata.  Mamma Agata lives in the beautiful town of Ravello on the Amalfi Coast. Her family has lived there for generations. She has cooked all her life and now runs a cooking school out of her home there, which is quite well known.  She has cooked for a number of celebrities and has a lot of interesting stories.  She was kind enough to send me a copy of her wonderful cookbook. This is her recipe for limoncello and we found it to be really delicious – not overly sweet but just right.

On the Amalfi coast, the lemons are, of course, incredible – you won’t be able to replicate that over here. But you can certainly make very good limoncello.  Buy organic lemons if you can, since the peel is what you will be using.

What to do with all the lemons after you are done zesting them for the limoncello?  I made a big batch of lemon sorbet and a batch of homemade lemonade.

Homemade Limoncello
(lemon liqueur)
from Mamma Agata’s cookbook

for a printable recipe click here

You will need a large glass jar


  • zest of 6 or 7 large organic lemons
  • 1 litre or quart of pure grain alcohol or vodka
  • 5 cups (1250 ml) water
  • 3 cups (700 gr) sugar


Peel the zest from the lemons with a vegtable peeler and place them into a large glass jar.  Try to avoid the bitter white pith of the lemon skin, under the yellow zest.

Add the alcohol to the jar with the lemon zest.

Cover the glass jar with plastic wrap and store it in a cool place for 7 days.

1. Place lemon peels in large glass jar.  2. Pour alcohol over lemon peels
3. After seven days, strain the alcohol from the peels  4. Add simple syrup and pour into bottles

On the sixth day: Boil the water and add the sugar to the boiling water. Stir the sugar until it is fully dissolved in the water. Set the sugar syrup aside to let it cool over night.

On the seventh day: Strain the lemons peels from the alcohol and discard the peels.

Pour the sugar syrup into the glass jar with the alcohol and stir well.

Serve chilled, from the refrigerator or freezer.

NOTE: The limoncello will keep for one to two years. Store it in bottles with a cap or cork in your bar or cellar. When you want to drink it, chill the limoncello in the refrigerator or freezer before serving. 

All photos by The Italian Dish

About The Italian Dish 29 Articles
My name is Elaine and I live in neighboring Okemos. My mother, Angela, was from Italy and I guess I just have that Italian gene in me — I love to feed people. I began this blog to teach people how to cook. It pains me that so many people do not cook for themselves and instead order carryout five nights a week. Cooking from scratch is much easier than most people think. It's healthier and cheaper. Cook along with me — I'll show you how. I love photography and, in a previous life, was a painter. My food photography enables me to really show you how to create things, step by step. I love the beauty of food and the creativity of the kitchen. Developing my own recipes is just another way to fill a canvas. I hope you enjoy what I love so much — cooking for people and the joy of the table.