Too Many Lemons? Make Limoncello!

I have this hard-working little dwarf Meyer lemon tree that I picked up for $3 at a nursery 15 years ago. It rewards me with hundreds of lemons every year. (Short story, we have a great organization here in Santa Barbara that will come to your property and harvest any fruits or vegetables you have and take the harvest to a charitable organizations. This is true of everything except lemons, no one wants the lemons.) So if God gives you too many lemons, make Limoncello!

Our mighty and prolific little lemon tree

Limoncello is an Italian lemon liqueur mainly produced in Southern Italy, especially in the region around the Gulf of Naples and the coast of Amalfi.  There is an on-going debate about the exact origin of the drink, which won’t be settled anytime soon. We do know it is a liqueur that has been around for at least one hundred years.  It is also a popular homemade liqueur. So today I thought I’d share my recipe with you. I usually make 2 gallons this time of year. We give it out as gifts. But I have tried to pare it down so you’ll have approximately 2 liters.

Traditionally, Limoncello is made from the lemon zest, (unwaxed lemons) or peels without the pith (the white part), is steeped in rectified spirit (Everclear Grain Alcohol 190 U.S. Proof, 95% alcohol by volume, however, many people also commonly use grappa, or vodka) until the oil is released. The resulting yellow liquid is then mixed with simple syrup. Varying the sugar-to-water ratio and the temperature affects the clarity, viscosity, and flavor.


If you do not live in a place where you have the luxury of owning your own lemon trees, you can still buy lemons at the store and make Limoncello. To insure that the lemons you buy are wax-free it is relatively easy to remove the wax coating from a citrus fruit. Put the fruit in a colander and pour over water from a recently boiled kettle or rinse the fruit under a hot running tap.


  • Ingredients: 10 Lemons, (unwaxed), 1 liter Everclear, 4 cups water, 2 cups sugar, 1 large, clear glass jar with seal-able lid.
  • Peel lemons insuring that you get as little as possible white part underneath the skin.
  • Place the lemon peels in a glass jar. Pour in Everclear. Put on lid. Let it rest in a cool dark place at least two weeks. Agitate twice a day.
  • Stir together sugar and hot water in a pot. Bring to a boil. Stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Let the mixture cool completely.
  • Pour lemon mixture through a sieve, discard lemon peels
  • Add syrup to taste to lemon liqueur. About 2 parts syrup to 1 part liqueur.
  • Pour into stoppered bottles. Store in a cool dark place. Some people start drinking their Limoncello within a couple of weeks. I let mine sit for a least a year, the longer it sits the more mellow it becomes. Some things are just worth waiting for.

Limoncello is traditionally served chilled as an after-dinner digestif. I keep mine in the freezer. Remember it’s alcohol, it won’t freeze. When I can remember, I also chill the glasses.

Leave a Reply