Joan Lewis’ Limoncello

Limoncello is a lemony Italian liquor has its home along the southwestern coast in the Campania region including Sorrento, Positano, and Amalfi. No surprise there, given the endless summer sunshine lends itself to produce the main citrus fruit which is central to the Limoncello recipe. Limoncello is very delicious, very strong in terms of the alcohol content, and must be served ice cold, which is very convenient because you can store it in the freezer and not worry about it turning into a block of solid lemon ice. It’s served year-round as an after-dinner drink, but is very popular in the summertime.

Most Italian families have their own recipes, but the main ingredients include lemons, sugar, and lots of grain alcohol. Although my dear friend, Joan Lewis of EWTN and Joan’s Rome fame, is not Italian, she has lived and worked in Rome for decades and is the hostess and chef with the mostest as I like to say, and this includes her fabulous Limoncello recipe which she is gracious enough to share with T’s Italy followers. Oh, and by the way, Joanie will be the first to agree that this delightful drink is also great over a nice dish of vanilla ice cream.

Buona Estate! Happy Summer!


Click here to Watch a Tutorial Video
by Joan Lewis in Rome
Making Homemade Limoncello

(Recipe Below)


Joan Lewis’ Limoncello Recipe

A truly great limoncello depends on two things – truly great lemons and good water!

We are blessed in Rome to have superb drinking water from our faucets and that is what I use. If you have bad tasting faucet water the only thing I can suggest is to buy bottled still water, not sparkling. (I measure in liters, as you will see)

lemonsThe right lemon is the true secret. Since you will be using the zest only, you want good sized lemons with a thick rind – not the small lemons we might use in a cup of tea or to flavor fish. I am blessed to get mine from the Amalfi Coast!

With your potato peeler, peel the zest only from the rind. Pieces will be finger-nail size and thin. You should not have a lot of white on what you trim – that will make limoncello bitter.

With these hints in mind, you will need:
1 liter of grain alcohol (do NOT use vodka or anything else)
1 liter of water
1 kilo (2.2 pounds, about 5 cups ) of sugar
Zest of 8 lemons

1. Trim the zest from the lemons and set inside a 1.5 to 2 liter glass jar.

2. Pour a liter of alcohol over the zest. Place the container in a dark, cool place. Stir once daily. When the alcohol turns bright yellow and there is no yellow left on the zest (this can be 4 or 5 days or perhaps even 8 or 10 – (it all depends on the lemons!), take a strainer, pour the now yellow alcohol into a recipient and throw zest away.

3. Put the liter of water and kilo of sugar in a large pot. Heat and cook over medium temperature until the sugar is entirely absorbed, stirring constantly. Cool. One final stir and you can now add the alcohol mixture. Stir well. Pour into liter-sized bottles (you should have about 2.5 liters total).

Bottle of LimoncelloWith all the right ingredients you should have a great limoncello! By the way, it should be very opaque.

Place the bottle in your freezer several hours before serving guests. To be honest, I also place my glasses (prosecco flutes are nice) in the freezer about a half hour before serving. The chilled limoncello and chilled glasses really please the palate.






Photos courtesy of Joan Lewis