How to Make Limoncello, According to an Italian Bartender (Video)

This limoncello recipe will instantly transport you to the Italian coast.

Imagine it: You’re sitting at a cafe on the idyllic Amalfi Coast, gazing at the pastel-colored buildings that dot the cliffs above the turquoise water. You have a limoncello in hand after a dinner of fresh seafood and pasta. Now, it might be a little while before you can experience the Italian coast for yourself, but we have the next best thing — a limoncello recipe that will make your kitchen feel a little more like Positano.

Limoncello is one of the most popular liqueurs in Italy, and while its precise origins are debated, this beverage is said to have been created on the coast of southern Italy around 100 years ago. Traditionally, it’s served chilled as an after-dinner digestif (a drink to aid digestion following a meal). And although it’s found in the southern part of the country, you’re bound to find it almost anywhere you go in Italy. While there are some brands that produce their own limoncello, it’s a popular homemade liqueur, so with the help of an expert, we’ll explain how to make limoncello for yourself.

Sofitel Rome Villa Borghese terrace
Alberto Blasetti/Courtesy of Sofitel Rome Villa Borghese

Franco Bongiovanni is the bar manager at the Sofitel Rome Villa Borghese, a former 19th-century Roman palazzo turned five-star luxury hotel. He gave us his own take on limoncello or arancello (an orange version of limoncello), complete with optional spices so you can bring Italy home to you.

Here’s how to make limoncello, according to Bongiovanni.

Limoncello, a tradtitional Italian homemade lemon beverage.
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Limoncello Recipe

Limoncello Ingredients

  • 500 ml. 190 proof grain alcohol
  • 2 ½ cup water
  • 2 ⅛ cup white sugar
  • 10 lemons or navel oranges (lemons for limoncello, oranges for arancello)
  • Clove (optional)
  • 1 cinnamon stick (optional)
  • 1 to 2 cardamom pods (optional)

How to Make Limoncello (or Arancello)

  1. With a peeler, lightly peel the skin from the oranges.
  2. Combine the alcohol with the skins in a glass container. Cover with plastic wrap or use an airtight lid. Let the container sit in a cool place for at least four weeks.
  3. After four weeks, remove the skins from the alcohol with a strainer and discard. Strain two more times to remove smaller bits of orange. Set aside.
  4. In a saucepan, combine the sugar and water and heat until dissolved. Set aside and let cool.
  5. Combine the infused alcohol with the cooled simple syrup.
  6. Add any optional ingredients before corking.
  7. Serve and enjoy!
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