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Homemade Limoncello

One of Italy’s most famous drinks is Limoncello. Families have passed down recipes for generations and it seems that everyone has their own recipe. This lemon drink is wonderful as a palate cleanser or as an after-dinner drink.

Crisp and fragrant, mildly sweet and the color of liquid sunshine, limoncello is a simple combination of lemons, sugar and alcohol, but its intense citrus flavor makes it so much more than a sum of its parts. Commercial brands are easy to find, but for a fresher-tasting liqueur, a homemade limoncello is well worth the effort, but it does require patience!


  • 1 liter Everclear (190 proof)
  • Zest of Sfusato d’Amalfi lemons
  • 5 Sfusato d’Amalfi lemons
  • 4 cups water
  • 5 cups sugar


Wash the lemons with a vegetable brush in hot water to remove any residue of pesticides or wax; pat the lemons dry. Carefully zest five of the lemons with a zester or vegetable peeler so there is no white pith on the peel. You will use only the outer part of the rind, the pith (the white part underneath the rind) is too bitter.

Place the alcohol and lemon zest in a large glass jar. Using cheesecloth, suspend the five whole lemons (not the zested ones) in the jar above the alcohol, taking care not to let them touch the liquid. Seal the jar and let rest in a cool, dark place for 30 days. Agitate the jar every few days.

On the last day, combine the water and sugar in a large saucepan and heat over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, strain the infused alcohol into a clean jar, discarding the zest and lemons. When the sugar has dissolved, 3 to 5 minutes, remove the pan from the heat and allow the syrup to cool, about 20 minutes.

Add three-quarters of the syrup to the jar with the alcohol. Taste and adjust the sweetness, adding more syrup as needed. Seal the jar and allow the liquid to rest in a dark place at room temperature for 1 week.

Serve very cold or over ice. The limoncello will keep in a sealed container in the refrigerator for at least 6 months and in the freezer for well over a year. Due to the high alcohol content, the liquid will not freeze.