The BEST Homemade Limoncello

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Homemade limoncello is so easy to make! All you need is lemons, sugar, and a strong clear spirit like grain alcohol or vodka. Plus, a little bit of patience. Waiting is the hardest part.

I use this limoncello recipe to make my Lemon Drop Martini. It can be used in all kinds of cocktail recipes. Traditionally limoncello is served as an icy cold apertivo.

If you love limoncello check out my post on how to make Arancello.

limoncello served in fluted cocktail glasses

The best limoncello is sweet and smooth with a lemony flavor. You can drink it straight or with club soda. You can also use it to mix into cocktails.

In Italy, limoncello is often served as an apertivo, before the meal. The intention is to open the stomach before a meal.

You’ll want it cold, really cold. This lemony cocktail is best right out of the fridge or even better, straight out of the freezer. Traditionally, it’s served chilled in a small glass or apertivo glass (affiliate link).

limoncello, made from scratch the old fashioned way

Recipe Notes

Everything you need to know about how to make homemade limoncello.

Limoncello is an infused spirit made by steeping lemon peels in grain alcohol for an extended period of time. The infusion is then sweetened with simple syrup. You can adjust the sweetness to your liking.

What You’ll Need


Any lemons will work for this recipe. It’s best to use organic lemons because you don’t want the waxy coating on them.

Traditionally, lemons from the Amalfi coast are used to make Limoncello. My favorite lemons are Meyer lemons which grow all over California. In fact, I have a tree in my yard.

Spirit Alcohol

Traditionally, limoncello is made with cask-strength grappa distilled from grape skins. However, in the states grappa is only sold in 40% alcohol by volume (80 proof).

This limoncello recipe is made with Everclear. Alternatively, use the highest proof vodka you can buy.

Everclear is 190 proof which means it is 95% alcohol. It’s also sold in 120 proof which is 60% alcohol. If you’re using vodka, use 90 or 100 proof vodka, which is 45 to 50% alcohol respectively.

Originally, I made this recipe with grappa. While grappa does work, its lower alcohol content is less effective at extracting the lemon essence from the lemon peels.

Keep in mind that the limoncello alcohol content will vary depending on which alcohol you choose to use. The higher the proof of the initial spirit, the higher the final proof you’re limoncello will be. (see notes on how to dilute the limoncello)

Simple Syrup

Simple syrup is a mixture of water and caster sugar. A true simple syrup is made by mixing equal parts of water and sugar together in a saucepan and then heating until the sugar is dissolved.

For this recipe, we are going to make a leaner simple syrup by using less sugar. 3 cups of water + 1 cup of sugar.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Step 1 – Peel the lemons using an angled peeler or Y-peeler. Make sure to remove all of the white pith.
  • Step 2 – Steep lemon peels in alcohol. Add the alcohol and the lemon peels to a glass jar and pour over
  • Step 3 – Strain the lemon peels.
  • Step 4 – Add the simple syrup.

How to Dilute Homemade Limoncello

how to use the dilution equation to make limoncello

One of the biggest challenges of making this recipe in California was that I am unable to find 190 proof Grain Alcohol. I’m stuck using a lower alcohol Everclear unless I source.

So source it I did. For this recipe, I used 190 proof Everclear, which is 95% alcohol. This alcohol is great for extracting flavor, not delicious for drinking. But, we change that with the addition of sugar syrup at the end.

Because I’m nerdy, I used a dilution equation to figure out how much of my original lemon extract would be needed and how much sugar syrup I would need to bring my alcohol content to 40% at the finished product stage.

I bottled my limoncello in 375ml bottles and used:

  • 167 ml of limoncello extract
  • 208 ml of light simple syrup

FAQs and Expert Tips

What alcohol to use?

The best alcohol to use is grain alcohol or Everclear 190. However, if you can’t find the alcohol find the highest proof Everclear available.

You can also use Vodka or Grappa. Just keep in mind that end result will be much lower in alcohol.

What lemons to use?

Limoncello can be made with any type of lemons.

I prefer using Meyer lemons because I really like the flavor of Meyer lemons.

Traditionally, limoncello is made from the zest of Femminello St. Teresa lemons, also known as Sorrento or Sfusato lemons

How much sugar?

The amount of sugar in the final limoncello will depend on how much simple syrup you end up using.

The nice thing about making limoncello from scratch is that you can adjust the amount of sweetness to your taste.

How long to infuse the lemon peels?

You will start to get a nice lemon flavor in the infusion in about 5 days. But, infusing for 3 weeks is optimal.

The longer you let the lemon peels infuse, the stronger the lemon flavor will be in the final product.

How to store limoncello.

Store limoncello in the refrigerator or the freezer.

I prefer storing mine in the freezer so that it is super cold. The high alcohol content in limoncello keeps it from freezing through. It may be slightly slushy depending on which alcohol you used.

How long will limoncello keep?

Limoncello will keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 months or in the freezer for up to a year or longer.

How to serve limoncello?

Serve limoncello in either shot glasses or small fluted shot glass.
It should be served cold but not over ice.

made from scratch limoncello stored in flip top bottles

What to do with all of the lemons that you’ll have leftover.

You won’t want to waste all of the delicious leftover lemons. My favorite option for using up the leftover lemon is making Lemon Curd.

You can juice the lemons and then put the juice in ice cube trays to use with your favorite lemon recipes.

Recipe Variations

You can use this recipe to make arancello [orangecello] with orange peels and even limecello using lime peels.

Infused spirits make great cocktail mixers.

Limoncello Cocktail Recipes

There are a lot of drinks to make with limoncello. The only hard part is picking just one.

Other Cocktail Recipes That You’ll Love

limoncello, made from scratch the old fashioned way

Homemade Limoncello Recipe

Homemade limoncello is so easy to make! All you need is lemons, sugar, and a strong clear spirit like grappa or vodka. Plus, a little bit of patience. This is the hardest part.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Waiting Time 21 days
Total Time 21 days 20 minutes
Course Cocktail
Cuisine Italian
Servings 28 2 ounce servings
Calories 166 kcal



  • 200 grams lemon peels, 15 to 20 lemons, depending on the size
  • 750 ml pure grain alcohol [190 proof | 95% alcohol by volume], alternatively vodka or grappa
  • 950 ml water, approximately 4 cups
  • 700 grams sugar (affiliate link), approximately 3.5 cups


Peel the lemons

  • Wash the lemon skins with a vegetable brush. Peel the lemons, using a vegetable peeler.
  • Add the peels and the alchol to a glass container.
  • Let this mixture sit for 10 to 21 days.

Make the simple syrup

  • Combine the water and the sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a low boil and then simmer until the sugar is completely dissolved.
  • Strain the alcohol and lemon peels. Reserve the infused alcohol.
  • Add the simple syrup to the lemon-infused alcohol. Adjust the sweetness if needed.
  • Store the limoncello in the fridge or the freezer.
  • Serve chilled!

Laura’s Tips + Notes

Alcohol Substitutions
Grain alcohol is commonly marketed as Everclear. It’s 190 proof, 95% alcohol by volume. 
Other alcohol that can be used is:
  • Vodka: 100 proof, 50% alcohol by volume
  • Vodka: 90 proof, 45% alcohol by volume
  • Grappa: typically 90 proof, 45% alcohol by volume
Recipe Variations
This recipe can be used to make arancello with orange peels and even limecello with lime peels. 


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Serving: 2ouncesCalories: 166kcalCarbohydrates: 28gProtein: 1gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 3mgFiber: 1gSugar: 26gCalcium: 8mgIron: 1mg
Keyword cocktail, lemons, limoncello
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  1. Yes I did try arancello, limecello and clemencello as well. I decided to experiment with a Meyer lemon substitute, by zesting regular lemon and mandarin orange, but could only find clementines. I consider clementines, mandarins and tangerines all one and the same. The Lemon – clementine mix worked great. I couldn’t tell the difference between the mix and real Meyers, in either colour or taste. It was during the summer, when Meyers were out of season and I had an extra bottle of 95% grain alcohol at my disposal. I did 250-ml grain alcohol batches, diluted rot 33%. I also did pomelocello a while ago, but didn’t like the taste, so will stick to the tried and true.

    1. I can definitely see how pomelocello would have a medicinal flavor. The fruit is like a perfume-y or floral grapefruit. I would love to make liqueur with other things like raspberries or blackberries. I’ve made AF cordial syrups before.

  2. Nice easy to understand site. I’m in Mississauga Canada, where we also can’t gat 95% Evercleafr, but neighbouring NY State does. I use ratios. somewhat like yours, but tailor lemons to 1 per 150 ml final volume. Sweetener preferred is agave syrup, at 1 cup per Litre of final volume. Honey, sugar, maple syrup, xylitol, monffruit/eithritol and stevia I tried in the past, but agave is my go-to with best results. I dilute to 35% alcohol, but have made 45% which most people find too strong. Your 40% is great, but 35% is a happy medium for most in our circle A 45-day maceration period and another 45-day rest period after dilution and sweetening I find ideal. The latter mellows out the flavours nicely. Meyer lemons are indeed preferred, which we only get December to about mid February. If the batch is started shortly after New Year, the final product can be bottled just before Easter.

    1. It sounds like you are an expert Limoncello maker. I love hearing about all the things you’ve tried. You might be almost as nerdy as I am. Have you tried arancello as well? I just finished a batch this afternoon.

  3. I recently bought 190 proof Everclear in Las Vegas (1.75 liter), however, I have previously made limoncello using Everclear sold here in Los Angeles and it worked perfectly. The key is that in order to get 40% alcohol in the end, there is enough volume for sugar/water and that was very much possible…
    Now with 190 proof, I have to calculate “differently” how I dilute…I haven’t done that yet… : )
    Limoncello easily ends up cloudy and I know people think that’s the way it should be, but I try to get it clear, or as clear as possible….

    1. I’ve made this limoncello with the California Everclear too. It does come out pretty good. I really wanted to find grain strength grappa but wasn’t able to. How do you make sure you’re limoncello is clear? Is there a secret? I felt like mine wasn’t necessarily cloudy but it wasn’t translucent either. It was very bright and slightly opaque. I’ve read that the lower-proof alcohol does yield a clearer end product.

      Let me know if you end up making this. I hope you found the dilution in the post helpful. ๐Ÿ˜Ž

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