Who Gives… You Lemons

Everybody knows what Limoncello is. Not everybody knows how it should taste. I don’t. I haven’t been to Italy and didn’t have a chance to get a sip of “as good as Nonna’s” Limoncello. Nevertheless, there is an ideal flavor I am looking for every time I buy a promising bottle of this authentic, imported from Southern Italy liqueur. So far, it’s always been a disappointment. Maybe an authentic Limoncello is about lemon zest, not a lemon? Maybe our local lemons are not good enough?

Last year, a couple of times I’ve been served a Limoncello made by an Italian chef for his or her Italian restaurant in the U.S. Being handmade in small batches by a pro and native, I expected the drink to be exciting. But all Limoncellos I had were lacking the flavor of lemon. They were way too sweet and with alcohol up front. Implying life gave me the best organically homegrown lemons, can I make my version adjusted to my expectations?

Californian homegrown lemons
Californian homegrown lemons

Californian homegrown lemons
Californian homegrown lemons

Modifications to the Original Recipe

I decided to replace water in simple syrup with lemon juice and see what happens. I also reduced the amount of sugar per amount of alcohol. I used high-end Ukrainian vodka — Shevkoff Black Ultra Premium. The result is a Limoncello I can truly enjoy.

Limoncello and lemons
Limoncello and lemons


Prep Time28 d
Cook Time5 mins
Total Time30 d
Course: Drink
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: citrus, drink, lemon, lycooking, lyukum cooking lab, recipe
Servings: 2 0.5L bottles


for vodka infusion

  • 750 ml vodka Shevkoff Black Ultra Premium Vodka
  • 12 each lemons organic

for sugar syrup

  • 2 cups sugar white
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup lemon juice freshly squeezed, strained


  • A great tasting limoncello starts with freshly harvested organically grown lemons. Wash them. Using your favorite tool for zesting, remove just the thin yellow skin, or zest, of the fruit.
  • Combine the lemon zest and vodka in a large glass jar, secure a lid, and let sit for at least 1 and up to 3 weeks. See Recipe Note below for the options with 12 zested lemons.
  • After infusing the vodka for 1 to 3 weeks, prepare sugar syrup. In a pan, combine water, lemon juice, and sugar and bring to simmer until sugar is completely dissolved. Take it off the heat and let cool to the room temperature.
  • Add sugar syrup to infused vodka and stir. Cover and let it sit for 1 to 3 days, then strain and bottle. Refrigerate limoncello for at least 1 day before serving.


So, we end up with 12 zested lemons. How to use them?
  • Slice them and make lemon-infused honey
  • Juice the lemons. Reserve one cup of juice for the syrup to add to your infused vodka when finishing the limoncello. Measure and freeze it until ready to use.
  • Use the rest of the juice to make lemony ice cubes
  • Use the rest of the juice to make lemon tart
  • Use the rest of the juice to make lemon curd
Limoncello and lemons