Life Giving You Lemons? Make Limoncello!


ROME! What’s not to like?

It’s got excellent cuisine, gorgeous Italian men and luscious limoncello (pronounced lemon-chello)—a lemon liqueur that smells heavenly and looks like liquid sunshine in a bottle. Made from lemon zest and grain alcohol, it explodes on the tongue in a vibrant burst of citrus that will cleanse your palate and leave you giggling.

During my first trip to Rome, I discovered that if I dined at restaurants off the tourist track—and flirted with the Italian waiters—they’d whip out the house limoncello to cap off the evening. Sipping shot glasses of their home-brewed liqueur is how I fell in love with this yellow nectar of the gods.

Back in America, I scoured the local liquor stores for limoncello. I bought a few “ok” brands for $25–$30 per liter, but their flavor paled when compared to the stuff I’d tasted in Rome.

On the Internet, I found many variations of limoncello recipes and made multiple batches until I settled on the formula I like best. It’s surprisingly easy but requires a challenging combination of virtues: forethought and patience.

If you want to be creative, impress your dinner guests or give a cool present, then brew your own limoncello. Here’s how.

You’ll Need:

12 small (or 9 large) lemons (preferably organic)
One-gallon wide-mouth glass jar and lid
1 liter Everclear® (151 proof)
4 1/4 cups water
3 cups white sugar
a fine strainer
a funnel
3–8 weeks (patience is a virtue, remember?)


  1. Rinse lemons well.
  2. Remove peels with a paring knife. You want only the yellow layer, not the bitter white pith.
  3. Place peels in the glass jar, add the Everclear, close the lid and date it.
  4. Let the mixture sit for 10–30 days. The longer it steeps, the more intense the infusion.
  5. After 10–30 days (you did wait, right?), make a simple syrup: Heat 4 1/4 cups of water until warm enough to dissolve 3 cups of white sugar. Set syrup aside; cool to room temperature.
  6. Add the simple syrup to the jar of peels and Everclear. An intense yellow emulsion blooms right before your eyes! Reseal and let the mixture steep another 10–30 days (hard part, round two).
  7. I commend your patience. Now, using a fine strainer, decant the mixture into a mixing bowl. Discard the peels.
  8. Use the funnel to distribute the limoncello into containers. Recycled wine bottles work well. Recipe yields 2 1/2 liters of 60-proof liqueur.
  9. Store limoncello in the freezer. It’s best served cold. Cin cin! (Italian for Cheers!)

tilta-worrellTilta-Worrell (my husband’s creation):
Put ice cubes in a tumbler. Add:
1 jigger vodka (1.5 oz. per jigger)
1 jigger limoncello
1 jigger all-natural cranberry juice (the bitter stuff)
2– 3 jiggers club soda or carbonated lime water
Stir and serve with a lemon slice.