Homemade Limoncello For The Holidays

I know it’s only mid-August but now is the time to start planning for some Holiday sipping and gifts with Homemade Limoncello. Yes, that’s right, I mentioned the word Holiday!  This recipe is from one of my favorite chefs, Joanne Weir – it was her cooking class in Tucson that introduced me to the finer points of food, and started me on this path. Her limoncello recipe was featured in Fine Cooking magazine (March, 1997) and is still a winner today.  Limoncello comes to us from the Amalfi Coast in Southern Italy and is served ice cold as an after dinner drink or aperitif.  The color comes from lemon peels and the flavor is pure lemon steeped in smooth alcohol.  It’s a special treat to be offered a sip of someone’s homemade limoncello after a meal.  Mom makes this recipe often and thankfully she shares her bounty with us, complete with handwritten labels for a personal touch.  The recipe is super simple to make with only 4 ingredients: Lemon peel, good quality 100-proof vodka, sugar and water (simple syrup).  But you will need to wait for 80 days to let the flavors steep, that’s why you need to plan – or at least start thinking about it – now.

You’ll also need a 4-quart/gallon glass container with a lid for this homemade limoncello recipe. Joanne Weir’s recipe is listed below, but here is a quick break-down of the 80-day process:

Day 1: August 16, 2012
Add lemon peels and vodka to a covered jar, let sit for 40 days in a cool, dark place
(Save the juice for later use: after peeling, juice the lemons, transfer juice to ice cube tray, freeze and store cubes in freezer bag or container)

Day 40: September 24, 2012
Add simple syrup and more vodka to jar, let sit again for 40 days in a cool, dark place

Day 80: November 3, 2012
Strain, pour into clean bottles and keep in freezer (yields 3 quarts/12 cups)

I will share my progress with you around the 40-day mark, and remind you that there still may be time to make a batch for the Holidays!   

For a vacation-inspiring post about limoncello, read this Rick Steves’ Europe article; the author’s closing paragraph sums up limoncello with finesse: “Take a sip of limoncello. Smell the aroma of the lemon and see the vibrant color in your glass. Close your eyes and you will be transported back to Italy. Hear the rustling of the leaves of the lemon trees as the breeze comes in from the Bay of Naples. Feel the warmth of the sun on your skin. Take another taste and feel the cold liqueur cool your taste buds. Remember how it was such a welcoming finale to your Italian meal. As you drink in the memories and drink in the liqueur, you will find yourself dreaming of your next sojourn to Italy.”

Eat well and share the love!

Homemade Limoncello, by Joanne Weir
Limoncello must steep for 80 days
Yields 3 quarts

15 thick-skinned lemons
2 750-ml bottles 100-proof vodka
4 cups sugar

5 cups water

Day 1: Wash the lemons well with a vegetable brush and hot water; pat dry. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the peel from the lemon in long, wide strips. Scrape away any of the bitter white pith from the lemon peel with a paring knife.

Combine the lemon peels and one of the bottles of vodka in a large (at least 4 quarts) glass jar with a lid. Cover the jar and store it at room temperature in a dark cabinet or cupboard for 40 days. As the vodka sits, it will slowly take on the bright yellow color of the lemon zest.

Day 40: In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar with 5 cups of water. Bring to a boil over high heat and let the syrup boil for 5 minutes. Let the syrup cool, then add it to the limoncello mixture, along with the remaining bottle of vodka. Cover the jar and return it to the cupboard for another 40 days.

Day 80: Strain the limoncello into bottles and discard the lemon zest.


A note of remembrance: Yesterday would have been Julia’s Child’s 100th birthday, a pioneer in the culinary field. She left her mark on the world with her groundbreaking talents, passion for enjoying and understanding food, by introducing (and demystifying) French cooking techniques to Americans, and with her cookbooks and TV shows. Now that’s a woman I would have loved to share a dinner table with! Here is a funny, endearing re-mix music video that PBS put together in her honor:

12 responses to “Homemade Limoncello For The Holidays

  1. I’m inspired! Your date chart is a really smart way to get us motivated to get a batch started asap. Love your addition of Rick Steves’ vision how to enjoy a glass of limoncello. I’m going for the Dec.31 completion date 🙂

  2. I had to comment again….Maybe you could do a post on Julia’s hot chocolate truffles? I would try to make them and of course eat them! I thinks it’s a great dinner party dessert 😉

  3. I love this limoncello recipe, Mark and I made some this past spring with lemons that grandma brought out. I also like that it has become a bit of a family tradition to have some at the ready. Great post, thank you so much. Oh and by the way, we watched the Julia Child video and Mark almost died laughing. So thank you for sharing. ❤

    • Every time I watch the Julia Child video I find myself smiling the whole time and laughing out loud! I agree that Grandma has done a good job of making this a family recipe – it’s a special one. I was also so excited to see that the chef herself, Joanne Weir, read and commented on this limoncello post. Cheers!

  4. Pingback: Homemade Limoncello, and a shout out from Joanne Weir! | My Love Affair With The Vine

  5. Thanks for including me! Love your blog!

    • Wow, what a treat to receive your comment – it made my day! Thanks for stopping by. Mom and I have been enjoying your recipes (and cookbooks) since Culinary Concepts in Tucson; many are family favorites like your limoncello. Thanks for inspiring me!

  6. Enjoy your limoncello! Great video.

    • Thanks for bringing up a bottle when you visited for Mother’s Day! Unfortunately it is all gone, every sip savored. In the video, I just love the clapping sound effects in sync with Julia Child’s knife chopping and roller pin smacking.

  7. This post came at the perfect time for 2 reasons. 1st we are having friends over for dinner and the limoncello in the freezer will be how we end the evening and 2nd, we are down to our last bottle so I need to make more!

    Love this Julia Child Remix! Wish I could have dined with her!

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