Organic Limoncello

by Maggie Battista on May 24, 2009

in Drinks, Featured


Today was one of those days where I totally deserved this entire bottle of Limoncello. I was in the garden most of the day, a big chunk of time spent in that very bed in the above photo. It was over-run, weedy and totally misshapen from clunky Spring growth. On hands and knees, I dug up big hostas, trained climbing hydrangeas, and laid dark mulch around soon-to-be pink sedums. It was a lot of work for a holiday weekend.

Making my organic Limoncello is not so hard! It takes a while but each step is easy, almost effortless. I started the above batch about six weeks ago, and it’s now ready just in time for a little thimble full each evening post-dinner. (Who am I kidding? A thimble full would do me no good! I need at least a solid, thick ounce to end my evening, especially those evenings where I need to breath a sigh of relief after a day of digging in the earth.)

Organic Limoncello


  • 1 bottle (750 ml) of organic vodka, or any type (if organic doesn’t do it for you)
  • 8 organic lemons, washed
  • 3 cups organic cane sugar
  • 3 cups water

Special Equipment

  • 2 – 750 ml clean bottles with caps
  • Funnel

In a large, clean bottle (with a wide opening and a cover), pour the entire bottle of vodka. Very carefully, peel the yellow thin layer of zest off of each lemon, making sure to avoid taking up any of the white pith. (I use a simple potato peeler for this.) Place the zest strips in the same bottle that holds the vodka. Cover and hide it away in your cupboard for at least four solid weeks. The longer you stow it away, the better the resulting liquor. Every couple of days, I shake the bottle up a bit.

When the four weeks are up, strain the vodka-zest mixture. Discard the zest, and evenly distribute the vodka into two 750 ml bottles (using the funnel). Over medium heat, gently boil the sugar with the water to make a simple syrup. This should take about 10 minutes. Once the sugar has dissolved, take the mixture off the stove and let it cool a short while.

Using the funnel, distribute the simple syrup evenly into the bottles with the vodka. The bottles won’t necessarily be filled to the top, but that’s okay. You want to be able to shake the concoction. Gently shake both bottles and put the bottles back in your cupboard for two weeks. (You really don’t have to do this extra step. The syrupy liquid is perfect right now. But I let it sit a little bit longer to get even more gorgeous and sweet.)

Place the bottles in the freezer and pour a solid ounce every now and again when you need to relax or finish up a tasty meal. This Limoncello will not be bright yellow, like the sort you see on the liquor store shelves. My version looks like thick olive oil (the organic sugar makes it darker) and tastes a little like heaven. To make a great cocktail, just cut a short pour with a few ounces of seltzer, ice and a slice of lemon.

Friends always love when I pull the bottle out of the freezer. I love how instantly relaxed I feel after a couple sips – especially after too many hours in a messy garden – a garden that’s now gorgeous and ready for Summer – kinda like my Limoncello!

Note: This isn’t a boozy type of Limoncello. It’s fairly mellow and doesn’t give you that alcohol feeling in the back of your throat, likely because I opted to use Vodka instead of grain alcohol. A friend (or two) may like it with more bite, but my husband thinks this is the way Limoncello should be – mellow, easy, simple. I’ll test it out with some Italian friends this Summer.


Maggie Battista

Founder at Eat Boutique
Maggie, is the founder of Eat Boutique. She started Eat Boutique as a blog in 2007, and sold out of her first gift box of small batch independent food in 2009. Maggie continues to offer unique and delicious handmade food in tasting subscriptions and seasonal gift boxes for food fans and home cooks. Maggie also hosts Eat Boutique Markets, where she spotlights cookbook authors and food makers. She’s written for Style Me Pretty, Food52, Time Out New York, Spencer Magazine, and writes a cocktail column for the popular wedding blog, Snippet & Ink. Maggie's also created retail experiences for the largest floral and event design company in New England. She regularly travels far distances to find the next great chef, farmer, food maker or host. You can follow her worldwide – and homemade – gastronomic adventures on Twitter at @mizmaggieb or @eatboutique. Maggie's first-ever cookbook Food Gift Love will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in October 2015. You may pre-order now.


  • Don Cosseboom

    I love this recipe. As the resident taste tester, I can say that this Limoncello is some of the best I have had.

  • forever1856

    Lovely recipe. I can not wait to try it. Thank You :)

  • forever1856

    Lovely recipe. I can not wait to try it. Thank You :)

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  • Karen

    I'm just discovering this site! And this recipe. And I can not wait to try it out.
    This site seems just about perfect and inspiring and lovely. Thank you.

  • sraymond

    Maggie, this concoction is going to happen in my life. I'll even go looking for some extra-strong vodka! I'll be sure to let you know how it turn sout.

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  • ratatoskyr

    If you use 80 proof vodka for this recipe, the limoncello finishes at around 40 proof. That’s fine as such, but you mention putting the bottle in the freezer… At 40 proof, this mixture will freeze at around 8 F degrees. Most freezers are set to around 0F, so we’re talking burst bottles. If you want to have a “less boozy” limoncello, keep it in your fridge, not the freezer. Otherwise, use less water, or a stronger proof vodka.

    • Maggie

      This is such good advice, thank you so much! I wish I could find a higher proof vodka! This mixture hasn’t frozen in my freezer but it has gotten stronger. Good advice, xox!

  • Robin

    I know this is an old post, but I just found it. I’ve been making my own “cello” for a while. I use grain alcholol & freeze when I’m done. This stuff is awesome! I find when I put a strip of rind in my final bottle, it gets really yellow! I also make watermelon & pineapple cello! Talk about refreshing! Thank you for your post!

    • Maggie

      Hi Robin! Thank you for commenting. It’s an older post but so core to my heart – I love making all sorts of cello but never watermelon or pineapple. How do you do the watermelon? We cannot get grain alcohol in New England so have to use vodka. Anyway, THANK YOU! XOX Maggie

  • Stella Rae Vintage

    I’m going to try this as presents for Christmas…..I can’t wait to taste it!

    • Maggie

      Hi Stella Rae, it’s so delicious – I hope you enjoy it! xox

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