DIY Gift: Making your own Italian Limoncello

Julie Miguel is a digital content producer with a specialization in food media as well as an active food blogger located in Toronto, Canada. The focus of her blog, Daily Tiramisu, is to empower home cooks to be fearless in the kitchen and she does this by taking traditionally difficult recipes and making them easier to execute.

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blogger image 14346046541 desserts DIY Gift: Making your own Italian Limoncello

For years now I have wanted to try making my own Italian Limoncello.  Sorrento, Italy was one stop on our honeymoon and that is where my husband and I developed an appreciation for this Italian liqueur.  

The landscape of the Amalfi Coast is covered with beautiful lemon trees.  They are gorgeous to look at and they bring a freshness to the air.  Unfortunately, there are many signs around that say “do not pick the lemons” – they are the inhabitants prized possessions!  In the Main Piazza Tasso in Sorrento, there are so many little shops that sell Limoncello.  After a while, it was difficult to taste the difference between them so we decided to go with the best price for best value – and a nice looking bottle was also part of our criteria.  To this day, every time I have a taste of this delicious Italian liqueur, I am transported back to our honeymoon five years ago.

This year I decided to make a huge batch of Limoncello for ourselves and my family (I’m Italian so of course I made enough for a small village).  Making Limoncello is easy.  It involves infusing vodka with lemon flavour from the lemon’s peel and then adding a simple syrup to it to give the drink that sweet and smooth liqueur flavour.  Some recipes ask you to leave the lemon rinds steeping in the vodka for 10-40 days but after a little bit of research, I discovered that most of the infusing process happens in the first 4 days.  So, yes, leaving the peels steeping for longer will definitely give you a better tasting Limoncello, however, Christmas is coming very quickly so I don’t have that kind of time!  
I thought the lemons would be expensive but lucky for me I found a grocery store that just received a huge shipment from Spain so I was able to get a bag of ten lemons for $2.00!  You will need about 10 lemons per 1 Litre of Limoncello.  Also, thanks to my sister’s extreme couponing, I have enough sugar to last me for a few years!
In case you bought your lemons but you can’t get around to making the Limoncello just yet, make sure to keep them fresh.  Here are some tips to keep your lemons fresh for up to four weeks.  Basically, store them in a ziplock in your fridge and not on your counter.
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Limoncello 2B6 desserts DIY Gift: Making your own Italian Limoncello

Next, I had to source the vodka.  Recipes I had been looking at mentioned 80-100 proof vodka.  I had no idea what “proof” meant but after a short discussion with a helpful lady at the liquor store, I now understand that dividing the “proof” in half gives you the alcohol content you need.  This made a lot more sense since all of the vodka I was seeing was 40% alcohol.  I couldn’t find any 50% (100 proof) vodka anywhere which I am okay with as I want to make a Limoncello that is easy to drink.

I bought my bottles from Ikea for $3.49 (Korken Bottle).  I also used a few left over maple syrup bottles I kept.  It is best to use a bottle with a rubber stopper because it keeps the most air out and it allows your Limoncello to stay fresher longer.  Also, it won’t leak.  I wanted to find a wine label I could print on to label my bottles but those are hard to source, expensive and time-consuming to create.  I ended up finding myself at Michael’s where they carry glass paint, glass markers, and stencils.  I decided to use glass markers with a pretty stencil to label my bottles.

Ok, so here is a summary of what what you will need to make 1 Litre of Limoncello:

10 lemons, washed and dried
1 750-ml bottle vodka (100-proof preferred, or 80-proof)
2 cups simple syrup, to taste (recipe below)

Equipment needed:

  • Vegetable peeler
  • Paring knife
  • 2- 1 quart mason jars with lids to store your vodka while it is being infused and to store your simple syrup while it is cooling
  • cheese cloth
  • A sieve
  • 4-cup measuring cup
  • Small funnel
  • 1 clean 1 Litre bottle or several bottles equalling similar volume
Day 1:
Wash the lemons: with a vegetable brush and hot water to remove any residue of pesticides or wax; pat the lemons dry.

Peel the lemons: Use a vegetable peeler to remove the peels from all the lemons. Try to remove only the outer yellow skin and as little of the pith as possible. Trim aw
ay any large pieces of pith with a paring knife, but don’t worry about trimming every last scrap.

Limoncello 2B1 desserts DIY Gift: Making your own Italian Limoncello
Limoncello 2B2 desserts DIY Gift: Making your own Italian Limoncello


Cover the peels with vodka: Transfer the lemon peels to a 1-quart mason jar and cover with vodka. cap the jar with a lid.

Infuse the vodka: Let the vodka and lemon peels infuse somewhere out of the way and out of direct sunlight for at least 4 days or as long as a month. The longer you let the vodka infuse, the more lemony your limoncello.

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While you’re waiting for your vodka to infuse, here are some tips of what you can do with all of those naked lemons:

Limoncello 2B4 desserts DIY Gift: Making your own Italian Limoncello

What to do with Naked Lemons:
So I have made a huge batch of Limoncello (5 litres = 50 lemons!) and I am left with all of these peeled lemons!  Usually I can find a use for naked lemons after using the zest for baking or whatever the case may be but this was a special case where I had to plan quickly how I would put the naked lemons to good use so that I wouldn’t waste them.  Here are some uses for naked lemons:

  • Squeeze and freeze – It is a great idea to squeeze your lemons and freeze the juice in ice cube trays.  Once they are frozen into cubes, put them into a Ziplock bag and you have a squeeze of lemon juice whenever you need it!  You can use your lemon juice to make a vinaigrette or even lemonade.
  • Slice up and refrigerate – slice up your naked lemons and store them in your fridge.  You can use them for squeezing into your hot tea, iced tea, water, or other cold or hot beverage of choice. You can even put half of a naked lemon into a chicken and roast it.


Prepare your bottles:  wash your bottles thoroughly and create your labels so they are ready to go when your limoncello is ready.  I tried to find labels but like I mentioned earlier, they are a little bit cumbersome to create.  I stumbled across glass markers and paints, which come in many colours, at Michaels, as well as stencils.  I think these supplies created a beautiful label for my bottles and it was incredibly easy to do.


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Prepare simple syrup: Prepare a simple syrup of at least 2 cups of water to 2 cups of sugar — heat in a saucepan until the sugar is completely dissolved; allow to cool. 
Day 5:

Strain the vodka:
Line a sieve with a cheese cloth and set it over a 4-cup measuring cup. Strain the infused vodka through the filter. 
Mix the sugar syrup with the infused vodka: Pour the cooled simple syrup into the infused vodka. Stir gently to mix. Taste and add additional simple syrup if desired (see above).

*You can play with the ratios of water to sugar.  I personally prefer the 2 cups alcohol to 2 cups simple syrup ratio.  The limoncello is smooth but still has a nice kick. Start with the 2 cups of simple syrup, stir and taste the limoncello.  Add additional simple syrup mixture gradually until you reach a flavor you like — up to 4 cups of simple syrup. Adding more water will dilute the alcohol base, making a less alcoholic, milder, and smoother-sipping liqueur. Adding more sugar will make a sweeter limoncello.

Bottle the limoncello:  Insert the funnel in the neck of one of the bottles and fill with limoncello. Repeat with remaining bottles.

Chill and store: Chill the limoncello in the fridge or freezer for at least 4 hours before drinking. Limoncello can be kept in the fridge for up to a month or the freezer for up to a year (and often much longer!).

(With notes from
Photography & Styling By: Julie Miguel


With Love,
Daily Tiramisu

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