August 12, 2023

Homemade Limoncello - Italian Lemon Liqueur

Homemade, recipe, Limoncello, Italian, Lemon Liqueur, vodka

Do you find yourself ever going on food tangents?  You know, an idea pops into you head, a food idea mind you, and you’re off down the rabbit hole, chasing a new food adventure.  So much fun, amirite?!

Well, this time I got tangled up in an old food obsession of mine, lemons.  I LOVE lemons, they are so amazing!  The flavors and fragrance from the peel to the juice that they gift to us is just endless and wonderful.  I mean, have you ever had lemon curd?  To die for amirite?!  

Anyhoo, I discovered a traditional Italian liqueur called limoncello that can be simply made at home  with lemon peels, vodka and sugar syrup.  Of course I had to try it right away.  Straight down the rabbit hole I went.

At the end of this food adventure I have to honestly say I cannot believe how well it turned out.  It was gosh darn mind blowing.  Our homemade Limoncello liqueur was astounding: so fragrant, so lemony, so delicious, so beautiful!  Surely a gift of nectar from the gods of lemon ;)

Homemade, recipe, Limoncello, Italian, Lemon Liqueur, vodka

As this liquor is really about extracting the essence of the lemon oil from the peel it's important, I feel, to use organic lemons.  So I went looking for organic lemons in Hong Kong.  The organic lemons that I finally found were really ugly things, big and weirdly shaped.  However, they were also really packed with extremely fragrant lemon oil.

Tip:  Look for organic lemons at one of the many farmer's markets that are happening in Hong Kong!

You can check the fragrance of a potential lemon peel by scratching lightly with a fingernail to release the oil aroma.  Sniff and you can immediately assess the potential of that lemon peel.  (Learned that trick at the organic grocers.)

Homemade, recipe, Limoncello, Italian, Lemon Liqueur, vodka

You'll want to peel off all the lemon peel.  For most excellent peeling control use either a Y peeler or a swivel peeler.  Try to avoid the pith, the white bit, as much as possible as it is bitter.  As you do this task you will be rewarded with the fragrance of lemons all around you, very refreshing!

Homemade, recipe, Limoncello, Italian, Lemon Liqueur, vodka

Okay, it's time to drop the lemon peels straight into the vodka.  I used the cheapest vodka I could find cuz I spent $$ for the organic lemons.  Did not effect the results one bit as far as I could tell.  But shoot, I'm gonna use the best stuff next time!

Give it all a good ‘ol shake and stick somewhere darkish for a couple of weeks.  Remember to shake it up once in a while.  

Cannot believe how easy it is to make this liqueur.  Just saying…

Homemade, recipe, Limoncello, Italian, Lemon Liqueur, vodka

This is the jar after a couple of weeks.  You can see that the vodka has taken on a golden yellow hue from the lemon essential oil that has infused into it from the peels.  Beautiful, no?

Homemade, recipe, Limoncello, Italian, Lemon Liqueur, vodka

Deplete of their oil, the lemon peels are now extracted from the vodka.  Thank you, lemon peels, for your generous gift!  The vodka infusion is then combined with a simple sugar syrup and poured into bottles.  Oh what pretty golden bottles of limoncello!  

Naturally we had to taste it right away.  Oh, it was wonderfully lemony, but, alas, our limoncello had a slight hint of bitterness to it.  I was bummed and thought that I had done something wrong.  You never can know for sure with food adventures, amirite?  So I just forgot all about it.  

A couple of weeks later I rediscovered the bottle of limoncello lurking about and decided to give our homemade liqueur another try. This time we were absolutely blown away by the heavenly, perfect full blown lemon flavor and fragrance.  Not a hint of bitterness.  Just the taste of lemon floating thru the palate like the memory of a perfect summer's day...

Homemade, recipe, Limoncello, Italian, Lemon Liqueur, vodka
Homemade Limoncello - Italian Lemon Liquor Recipe
(adapted from recipe here(makes 2 liters)  
Prep time: 10 mins  Infuse time: 2 weeks  Rest time: 1-2 week



Wash and dry the lemons.  Use peeler to peel just the zest off the lemons, avoiding the white pith as much as possible.  Put the lemons peels into the vodka.  Give it a good shake, then put somewhere dark for two weeks.  Try to give it a good shake everyday.

At the end of 2 weeks prepare the simple sugar syrup by boiling the sugar and water together until sugar is dissolved.  Let cool to room temperature.  

Strain the lemon peels from the vodka and discard.  Mix vodka and sugar syrup together.  Pour into two nos. sterilized liter bottles.  Let rest in dark area for another 1-2 weeks to allow the flavors to develop.  

Limoncello is meant to be served ice cold in small shot glasses after a meal as a digestif, or a drink meant to help digestion.  Keep one limoncello bottle in the freezer, alcohol will stay liquid but become very cold.  That way your limoncello is ready to serve anytime.  Enjoy!



  1. That sounds amazing! I also love lemons. I also love soaking kumquats in vodka because then eating one is like taking a very citrusy shot.

  2. Hi Lolai - Happy Holidays! If you love lemons you should totally try this, it will blow your tastebuds! So freaking lemony and seriously to die for. I love your idea of kumquats soaked in vodka, wowzer, gotta try that, sounds perfect! ~ellen