Limoncello-bottles-4Limoncello has always been a favorite liquor of mine, not necessarily for drinking heavily on a Friday night, but wonderful in small quantities after a large meal. It’s best served immediately from the freezer in a chilled limoncello glass. I’ve had homemade limoncello in many different parts of Italy, however my favorite thus far was on the tiny island off the coast of Napoli called Procida. The balance of sweetness and acidity in the lemons from Procida was perfect, and the lemony finish of the drink seemed to last forever. The crema di limoncello  (limoncello with cream) I tried was also incredible, rich, and memorable. I’ve had a good number of commercial brands of limoncello but none can compare to a well prepared homemade batch. I think most of the commercially produced products lack a real pronounced lemon flavor and vivid color. It’s evident that some producers try to make up for this with colored glass, or worse, colored limoncello and concentrated juice. The limoncello, and crema di limoncello recipe that follow are my personal favorites.  

lemonsUnfortunately when making homemade limoncello most people think a lemon is just a lemon, this is far from the case. The lemons that grow on the tiny island of Procida, and throughout the Amalfi Coast are very large, with a thick skin and are far less bitter than the standard Lisbon or Eureka lemons most people are accustomed to in the United States.

Until the late 1800’s most of the lemons imported to the US came from Sicily or Naples. It wasn’t until the 1900’s that California and Arizona were able to grow substantial quantities of lemons for US consumption. Florida all but abandoned lemon production after the devastating freeze of 1894-95, and interest in commercial lemon growing wasn’t renewed there until the mid 1950’s. I can only assume that the reason for the heavy planting of the Eureka and Lisbon varietals here in the US was due to crop yield and growth success. The lemons in the Campania region and on the island of Procida are of the Femminello Ovale variety. For reasons unknown it is still virtually impossible to find any variety of Italian lemon in a grocery store here in the United States. I was lucky enough to plant several Femminello Santa Teresa lemon trees in my yard, which are a disease resistant version of the Femminello Ovale.





The lemons I used for this limoncello recipe were from my friends tree. I don’t know what the varietal was but I do know the lemons were gigantic, pesticide free, and produced excellent juice!

Limoncello Recipe:

  • zest from 22 organic lemons
  • 1500 ml of Everclear (or other grain alcohol)
  • 4 cups of white sugar
  • 1400 ml of filtered or bottled water



First, thoroughly wash, scrub, and dry the lemons. Using a microplane or lemon peeler remove only the lemon zest, taking care not to remove any of the bitter white pith. Transfer the lemon zest to a large glass, airtight container and add the grain alcohol. Let this mixture sit in a cool, dark place for 40 days. After 40 days all of the oils should be extracted from the lemon peel. The peel will be slightly white in color and the alcohol dark yellow. At this point you can remove the peel by doing a basic filtering of the liquid into another container. Boil the water and stir in the sugar to create the simple syrup. When the syrup cools add it to the lemon and alcohol mixture. Let the limoncello rest for 40 more days to allow the flavors to further develop and mellow. The limoncello should then be filtered using a coffee filter or cheese cloth and bottled. I usually filter five times using a variety of coffee filters in a large funnel.

Crema di Limoncello Recipe:

  • zest from 22 organic lemons
  • 1500 ml of Everclear (or other grain alcohol)
  • 4 cups of white sugar
  • 750 ml organic whole milk
  • 750 ml organic heavy cream
  • 1 whole vanilla bean

When making crema di limoncello; the milk, cream, sugar, and vanilla bean are heated together to make the syrup. When the milk and cream have cooled remove the vanilla bean and add the mixture to the filtered (5x) lemon alcohol. It must then be bottled and immediately placed in the freezer where it should remain until drunk!



Limoncello-ArnacelloIn this picture the middle jar is arancello, made using the same recipe above but with oranges. Many different types of fruit can be substituted for lemons, such as grapefruit, blood orange, or mandarins.

The finished bottles

Limoncello & Arancello

Limoncello labeled and ready for the freezer!



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