Limoncello: The Lemon-Flavoured Liqueur From Italy
Image Credit: iStock, Limoncello

Meals in Italy are usually finished off with a glass of limoncello, a bright yellow drink. Usually served cold in an aperitif glass, limoncello is a liqueur and digestive that’s made by infusing the skins of locally grown lemons in pure alcohol. It’s almost neon-yellow in colour and tastes like bitter lemon candy. Historically, the drink was a staple along the Amalfi Coast and is Italy’s second most popular drink after Campari. 

Italy is the world's largest producer of lemons and so Italians developed a creative and tasty way to use the fruit. Lemons from the Sorrentine Peninsula and the island of Capri follow the rules for the Limone di Sorrento IGP (Protected Geographical Indication) and produce the best limoncello.

Legend has it that limoncello and other liqueurs made with fermented spices, fruits, and herbs were developed in convents. The nuns of the Santa Rosa convent in Conca dei Marini used this citrusy liqueur to add the signature flavour to their popular lemon pastry sfogiatella Santa Rosa in the early 1600s. 

Image credit: Pixabay

Another story says that its origins are linked to Capri and the events of the family of the businessman Massimo Canale, who registered the first trademark “limoncello”  in 1988. It is believed that the liqueur originated in a small boarding house on the island of Azzurra from the beginning of the 1900s. Both Sorrento and Amalfi have their own legends and stories regarding the production of limoncello.

Shops in Sorrento and other small Italian villages display bottles filled with the bright yellow liquid with pride. Customers are often offered a sample of the drink in small cups. 

The recipe for limoncello, from


  • 15 organic lemons, scrubbed
  • 2 (750 ml) bottle of very good quality 100-proof vodka
  • 4 ½ cups sugar
  • 5 cups water


  1. Wash a large glass jar with a lid (1-gallon size is best) with hot, soapy water. Rinse well and dry.
  2. Scrub the lemons to remove any dirt or other substances with warm water and pat dry. Carefully peel the lemons so that no white pith remains on the peel. Place in the jar along with the vodka. Cover and let sit in a dark place at room temperature for anywhere from ten days to two months (the longer that the lemon peels are infused, the better the taste will be).
  3. When you think the flavor has fully developed, make the sugar syrup. In a large saucepan, combine the sugar and water; boil over medium-high heat until thickened, about 5 minutes. Allow to cool. Add the sugar mixture to the lemon-vodka mixture. Cover and store as before for another month.
  4. Wash a couple of bottles and make sure that you have caps or corks to fit. Strain the alcoholic mixture through several layers of cheesecloth to remove all traces of peel and pour into the clean bottles. Seal tightly with the cork or cap.