A Taste of the Amalfi Coast: How to Make Limoncello
Native to the Amalfi Coast, traditional sweet and potent limoncello is a simple mixture of lemon zest, vodka, water, and sugar.
The history of the Amalfi Coast’s famous lemon-flavored liquor is shrouded in myth. Some believe limoncello was first enjoyed by monks in the Middle Ages; others insist that fishermen have been drinking it for centuries to ward off sickness. Most agree that limoncello is at least one hundred years old, though it wasn’t sold commercially until 1988, when Massimo Canale of Capri registered the trademark “Limoncello di Capri.” Since then, its popularity has spread rapidly throughout Italy and the world.
Served ice cold, limoncello is sweet and potent, a drink best enjoyed in a post-meal revelry. Though there are only four ingredients (lemon zest, grain alcohol or vodka, water, and sugar), the quality of the ingredients, the amount of time the lemon zest and alcohol mixture are allowed to soak, and the amount of sugar used make a big difference in the final product.
Traditionally, limoncello is only made with certain varieties of lemons grown on the Amalfi Coast (which can grow to the size of a large grapefruit), but in lieu of Sorrento lemons, you can use any lemon with a smooth, thick skin; Meyer lemons work well. Since you’re using the peels, you’ll want to clean your lemons thoroughly and/or choose pesticide-free or organic lemons. Some recipes insist on soaking the lemon zest in the alcohol for up to two months, and while a longer steep time will lend your limoncello a deeper color and flavor, ten days will work fine, too.
Keep your bottle in the freezer with a few shot glasses, and bring it out after a hearty meal with friends. You’ll be transported back to your Amalfi Coast villa vacation – or inspired to start planning your next trip, pronto. If you’re interested in seeing how locals make limoncello, our concierge team can arrange a lemon grove tour and limoncello tasting during your Amalfi Coast villa stay, so you can learn your recipe straight from the source.
Makes 7 cups
1 750 ml bottle of good quality 80- or 100-proof vodka
Zest of 6 lemons
3 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
Combine vodka with zest in a half-gallon jar and let stand at room temperature, tightly covered, for at least 10 days (and up to two months). Swirl the jar occasionally. The mixture is ready when the zest has turned pale and the vodka is a deep yellow color.
Pour liquid through a strainer into a large bowl. Leave zest in the strainer and place strainer over a separate glass measuring cup or bowl. Bring water and sugar to boil in a large saucepan over high heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Boil for 3 minutes. Pour the hot syrup through the zest in the strainer into the glass measuring cup or bowl. Discard the zest. Allow the syrup to cool completely.
Add the syrup to the vodka. Pour the liqueur into a large bottle or smaller decorative bottles with tight-fitting lids. Let stand for at least 5 days before serving (and up to one month). Store in the freezer and serve ice-cold in shot glasses or stemmed cordial glasses.
The best way to experience authentic limoncello? On your private balcony looking out over the Amalfi Coast, surrounded by friends and family. Explore Amalfi Coast villa rentals and start planning.