Limoncello is an Italian lemon liqueur with an intense lemon flavor! Drink it straight or add it to cocktail recipes for a citrus burst.

Limoncello

Once you’ve had limoncello, there’s no going back. The burst of pure citrus flavor is mind-bogglingly intense and invigorating! This Italian liqueur sends us right to the Amalfi Coast of Italy, where it’s sold in every shop and it’s served at the end of a big meal. It’s great as a shot, but we also love it in cocktail recipes where it adds a lemon candy-like flavor. Here’s more about this uniquely delicious liqueur and the best drink recipes to use it.

What is limoncello?

Limoncello is an Italian lemon liqueur made with lemon zest, sugar, and neutral alcohol (usually vodka). It’s the second most popular liqueur in Italy after Campari. While it’s most strongly associated with the Amalfi Coast and the island of Capri, it’s made all over Italy by large and small producers. Limoncello is commonly served straight and chilled after a meal, called a digestif or digestivo.

Limoncello originated in the early 1900’s, though the exact origin story is debatable. People in Capri claim the recipe comes from a woman named Maria Antonia Faracehas, whose grandnephew trademarked the term “Limoncello” in 1988. The city of Sorrento has other origin stories. Either way, it’s commonplace in many countries in Europe and has recently become very popular in the US.

What alcohol is in limoncello? Limoncello is made with a neutral alcohol: vodka, grappa or rectified spirit (highly concentrated ethanol).

How to pronounce limoncello? It’s Italian, so say it “Lee-moan-cheh-lo.” 

What does limoncello taste like?

Limoncello tastes sweet with an intensely concentrated citrus flavor, like drinking lemon candies. Drunk straight as a chilled shot, it’s both refreshing and invigorating. The pure lemon flavor is like no other liqueur.

How much alcohol is in limoncello? It is 30% ABV (alcohol by volume), so it has a relatively high alcohol content for a liqueur.

Are there any limoncello substitutes? Not really. You can try a lemon syrup, like Torani Lemon Syrup or Monin Lemon Syrup. But your best bet is the real thing. It’s easy to find at most liquor stores.

Can you make limoncello?

Yes! Limoncello is relatively simple to make at home. You’ll need vodka, lots of lemon peels, and sugar. The lemon and alcohol mixture sits for 5 days and up to 1 month (for the strongest flavor), so it’s a long-term commitment. Go to How to Make Limoncello.

Why we like it

The pure lemon flavor of limoncello is uniquely citrusy, with the bonus of nostalgia factor if you’re a lover of all things Italy. It’s great as a chilled shot (you can store it in the freezer). But we like to get creative with it and use it to infuse massive lemony flavor into cocktails.

How much does it cost?

Compared to other liquors, limoncello is mid-priced. A 750 ml bottle costs about $20. We like the Luxardo brand (shown here).

Best limoncello drink recipes

Limoncello is traditionally consumed as a shot, so it’s not often mixed into cocktails. But it’s a fantastic drink mixer because of its jolt of zingy lemon flavor. Here are a few great limoncello cocktail recipes to start with:

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Limoncello

3 Limoncello Cocktails!


  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 drink 1x
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

Limoncello is an Italian lemon liqueur with an intense lemon flavor! Drink it straight or add it to cocktail recipes for a citrus burst.


Ingredients

Scale

For the Limoncello Mojito

  • 3 mint leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 1 ounce* lime juice
  • ½ ounce simple syrup
  • 1 ounces limoncello
  • 1 ounces white rum
  • 4 ounces soda water
  • For serving: Ice (try clear ice!)

For the Limoncello Spritz

  • 2 ounces* limoncello, chilled if possible
  • 3 ounces Prosecco or other sparkling wine, chilled
  • 1 ounce soda water
  • For the garnish: ice (try clear ice!), mint, lemon rounds

For the Limoncello Martini: 

  • 1 ½ ounces* limoncello
  • 1 ounce vodka
  • ½ ounce fresh lemon juice
  • ½ ounce simple syrup

Instructions

  1. For the Limoncello Mojito: In a cocktail shaker, muddle the mint leaves. Add the lime juice, simple syrup, limoncello, and rum and fill the cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until cold. Fill a hurricane or highball glass with ice, then strain in the liquid. Top off the glass with soda water. Garnish with additional mint leaves.
  2. For the Limoncello Spritz: Add the limoncello to a glass filled with ice and stir. Top with the sparkling wine and soda water. Add mint and serve.
  3. For the Limoncello Martini: Add the limoncello, vodka, lemon juice and simple syrup to a cocktail shaker. Fill with ice and shake until cold. Strain the drink into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon wedge, if desired.

Notes

*To convert to tablespoons, 1 ounce = 2 tablespoons

  • Category: Drink
  • Method: Shaken
  • Cuisine: Cocktails

Keywords: Limoncello, limoncello recipe

More cocktail guides

Need more liquor guides? We’ve got them! Here’s all you need to know about home bartending:

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Meet Sonja and Alex Overhiser: Husband and wife. Expert home cooks. Authors of recipes you'll want to make again and again.

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