2-Phase Homemade Limoncello Recipe | Alexandra's Kitchen (2024)

Home » Recipe Type » Drinks » 2-Phase Homemade Limoncello Recipe

5 from 4 reviews

//By Alexandra Stafford onDecember 19, 2014 (updated November 7, 2020) Jump To Recipe

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.

2-Phase Homemade Limoncello Recipe | Alexandra's Kitchen (1)

This homemade limoncello recipe hails from an Italian friend’s mother, Antonietta. It’s a two-phase process, so you’ll need to plan 3 to 4 days in advance, but the work is mostly hands-off, and the recipe is incredibly simple. Homemade limoncello makes a great gift — it’s such a festive drink to have on hand during the holiday season. Top it with heavy cream and serve it after dinner. Cheers!

How to Make Homemade Limoncello

Phase one:

  1. Peel two pounds organic lemons. This is my favorite peeler for this task.
  2. Place in a Mason jar.
  3. Pour vodka or grain alcohol overtop.
  4. Let sit three to four days, shaking every so often.

Phase two:

  1. Strain out the zest.
  2. Make a simple syrup, and pour it over the zest-infused alcohol.
  3. Bottle it all up, store in the freezer.

How easy is that?

Here’s the play-by-play: First, place the lemon peel in a Mason jar and cover with vodka or grain alcohol.

2-Phase Homemade Limoncello Recipe | Alexandra's Kitchen (2)

After three or four days, the zest will petrify in the alcohol. At this point, strain it out and discard.

2-Phase Homemade Limoncello Recipe | Alexandra's Kitchen (3)

Make a simple syrup and add to the zest-infused alcohol. When you use grain alcohol, the mixture will glow.

2-Phase Homemade Limoncello Recipe | Alexandra's Kitchen (4)

Funnel the limoncello into glass bottles.

2-Phase Homemade Limoncello Recipe | Alexandra's Kitchen (5)
2-Phase Homemade Limoncello Recipe | Alexandra's Kitchen (6)

If you live in the area, Honest Weight Food Co-op in Albany sells these glass jars in a variety of sizes for a little over a dollar a piece:

2-Phase Homemade Limoncello Recipe | Alexandra's Kitchen (7)

This is Antonietta, the lovely Italian mother of friends of ours, who taught us how to make this limoncello. (Incidentally, she also taught us how to make prosciutto.)

2-Phase Homemade Limoncello Recipe | Alexandra's Kitchen (8)

This is the cold room of Antonietta’s basem*nt. Prosciutto and capicola hang from the ceiling.

2-Phase Homemade Limoncello Recipe | Alexandra's Kitchen (9)
2-Phase Homemade Limoncello Recipe | Alexandra's Kitchen (10)

Homemade wine aging in carboys line the perimeter:

2-Phase Homemade Limoncello Recipe | Alexandra's Kitchen (11)


2-Phase Homemade Limoncello Recipe | Alexandra's Kitchen (12)

2-Phase Homemade Limoncello Recipe

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

5 from 4 reviews

  • Author: Alexandra Stafford
  • Total Time: 72 hours 20 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings
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Note: Vodka or grain alcohol? I have used both. Vodka is less potent, less body warming, and more subtle in flavor than grain alcohol. Both work well, but my preference is vodka. Unfortunately, vodka doesn’t cause the finished limoncello to glow the way grain alcohol does.


  • 2-lbs organic lemons
  • 1 750-ml bottle vodka or grain alcohol
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 ½ cups sugar


  1. Peel lemons with peeler, trying to avoid white pith if possible.
  2. Place the zest in one or two large glass mason jars and pour vodka over top.
  3. Let the zest sit in the vodka for 3 or 4 days shaking every so often. Strain the vodka, which will feel petrified, into a large bowl and discard the zest.
  4. Next, heat the water and sugar until the sugar is completely dissolved. Let cool completely. Add sugar-water mixture to strained vodka. Pour into bottles and store in freezer.
  5. Serve as is or topped with heavy cream.
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Category: Drink
  • Method: Steep and Stir
  • Cuisine: Italian

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.

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    46 Comments on “2-Phase Homemade Limoncello Recipe”

  1. Alicia (foodycat)Reply

    I want to visit Antonietta’s house!

    • alexandraReply

      Come visit! Any plans to visit the States? You have a home in upstate NY! And I am sure Antonietta would love to give you a tour 🙂

  2. sue|theviewfromgreatislandReply

    I can’t resist that fabulous glow! Sharing this today…

    • alexandraReply

      Thank you Sue!

  3. SandraReply


    • alexandraReply

      Sandra, I have a bottle for you. Stop by immediately, or I’ll chuck it out the window into your ice rink.

  4. CarrieReply

    What a magical life you lead! I love catching up with you and the family via your beautiful blog. Hope you guys are well (it seems so)! Enjoy the holidays with your three wee ones! XO!

    • alexandraReply

      Oh Carrie, so great to hear from you! My only regret about leaving VA is not taking a tour of your basem*nt and Mike’s home-brewing operation. Every Xmas I think about investing in the mini fridge and keg and brewing kit, and then I get scared. I think next winter we will be ready. Happy Holidays to you and your family!! xo

  5. aliReply

    That basem*nt would make any house my dream home. It’s kind of making me wish I lived somewhere colder, where basem*nts are standard– and as a born and raised SoCal girl, that’s never been on my list before.

    Can you please clarify what it means for the zest or the vodka to “petrify”? I’ve never heard that before, thanks!

    • alexandraReply

      Me, too 🙂 Where in SoCal are you? I lived in San Clemente for three years. It was a dream.

      So, the zest doesn’t totally petrify as in the true meaning of the word, but after 3 or 4 days in the vodka, it becomes rock hard, so when you strain it and feel it, it will crack and crumble like potato chips.

  6. Alley @ alleys recipe bookReply

    I made limoncello once before… The recipe I was following required three months! And it didn’t turn that creamy yellow color that you see in Italy either. Maybe I shall try again!

    • alexandraReply

      Yes, definitely do! This recipe couldn’t be simpler!

  7. LizReply

    Antonietta looks even more lovely than her limocello. What a perfect
    post for last minute ideas and maybe a potion to keep us all calm during the holiday madness!

  8. Mary DianeReply

    The photo of the limoncello with the black background should be framed. Magnificent photography!!!!

    • alexandraReply

      Thank you Mary Diane!

  9. dawnReply

    I shared this post on my pinterest and facebook pages. this post is jam packed with great ideas… I am quickly becoming a fan of this site… Thank you!!!!

    • alexandraReply

      Oh thank you! You are too kind!

  10. Carol at Wild Goose TeaReply

    I loved this post—-meeting Antoinette and all the wonderful
    goodies. ‘Meeting’ a bit of your grandmother. Sweet—Happy Holidays!!!!!

  11. JeromeReply

    Hi Alexandra-

    Funny I saw in earlier comments that you used to live in San Clemente which is where we reside!

    I served this last night to neighbors at a casual holiday cookie exchange ( I used fresh lemons from our backyard tree). It was well received, and the cream was a nice touch.

    Question for you- I brewed the lemon rinds for three days but my completed batch never glowed like your final picture. Any suggestions for next time?

    • alexandraReply

      So fun, Jerome! I miss San Clemente so much. Where do you live? We lived on Acebo Lane, a tiny street just a few blocks from the pier. It was a dream!

      Amazing that you made limoncello from your own lemons! OK, I think I have an idea as to why your final batch didn’t “glow.” Did you use vodka? And if so, what proof? The batch I made with vodka also did not glow, unfortunately — I need to make a note of this in the recipe — and I asked Jim (Antonietta’s son) why and he referred to something called the “ouzo effect,” and basically said that if the alcohol isn’t a high enough proof, it won’t glow or become cloudy. So, I need to find a high-proof vodka bc I do prefer the taste, but I also love the glowing yellow color.

      Anyway, so sorry for the delay here! I will report back if I make any discoveries re glowing vodka 🙂

  12. EarleneReply

    Made this for the holiday. we are not sure on it! Just kidding!!! I could get in trouble with this deliciousness!!! Sadly, I don’t drink much and too old! LOL!!!

    • alexandraReply

      Haha, love it 🙂

  13. EarleneReply

    Just wanted you to know that one bottle broke in the freezer, but didn’t totally make a mess till I moved said bottle, I am sad!! Oh well, I didn’t know if that bottle would stand the freezer anyhow, but still have 2 bottles left, well, maybe 1 1/2 bottles left, :)!!!

  14. LADY TOFUReply

    Can another type of sweetener (agave, maple syrup?) be used as a substitute ( with equal effectiveness)?


  15. SarahReply

    Great instructional! Your pictures are absolutely stunning.
    I just wanted to emphasize something you pointed out. Lemons used for limoncello must be organic. It is virtually impossible to remove the chemical accrued from conventional growing from the lemon peel. The couple extra dollars is certainly worth it!

    • alexandraReply

      Yes, absolutely, thank you for emphasizing! Organic is important here.

  16. CarolReply

    How long does this last please ?

  17. TaylorReply

    Does it have to remain refrigerated? I think this would be cute to send to some of my friends.

    • alexandraReply

      I think mostly for serving purposes. I don’t know much about limoncello but I think typically it is stored in the freezer and served ice cold. It makes a great gift for sure!

  18. Stella jonesReply

    What a muddled page, too full of ads. Terrible

    • alexandraReply

      Do you know what it costs to run a blog? Those ads muddling up the page allow you to access recipes for FREE.

      Happy Holidays to you!

  19. SallyReply

    I’m trying this for the first time and did not realize the importance of organic lemons until too late. Is my recipe doomed?

  20. AnnEReply

    My batch was very sweet….too sweet to enjoy. I think that it might be because I used Meyer lemons which are not as acidic as “regular” lemons. Also, it was not lemon in color but instead more yellow/red which I’m sure is also due to the fact that I used Meyer lemons. Thoughts?

    • alexandraReply

      Bummer … yeah, I haven’t made this with Meyers, but that would make sense regarding the sweetness and color. I’ve always just used organic lemons. You may want to compare the ratios, too, to other recipes because that might encourage you to reduce the sugar. Sorry about this!

      • AnnEReply

        Not your fault at all!

  21. SandraReply

    DON’T THROW OUT THOSE LEMON PEELS!!!! Instead you can candy them or preserve them The Alcohol adds another dimension to them and can be used in candy making or in savory recipes as well

    • CaralineReply

      Thank you!!!

  22. WilliamReply

    Hi Alexandra, when pouring the vodka over zest in mason jars, do you leave the jars open or put a lid on them?

    • alexandraReply

      Hi William! I cover the jars.

  23. Robert HendersonReply

    Iwasgiven a small bottle made from this recipe by my granddaughter and after consumming it Iencouraged her to get cracking on the next batch.

    • alexandraReply

      I hope she listened!! So nice to hear this, Robert 🍋🍋🍋🍋

  24. Carmen DapilosReply

    I love the Italian Limoncillo very much. How I wish to follow the recipe, but here in the Philippines our local “Lemosito” is green and smaller compared to the European lemons. So, Limoncillo drink needs only the peel and not the juice? Would it be possible to use our local Lemonsitos?

    • alexandraReply

      Hi Carmen! Yes, only the peel! I think you should definitely give your lemonsitos a try!

  25. SandiReply

    Just found your Limoncello recipe so am going to give it a try. I just have to convert yur measurements as I live in Australia and we are on a metric system. Fortunately I have my own organic lemon tree.

    • alexandraReply

      How nice to have a lemon tree! Sorry the measurements are not in metric … hope the conversion goes OK.

  26. TomReply

    Excited to try this. Thanks

2-Phase Homemade Limoncello Recipe | Alexandra's Kitchen (2024)


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