How I Came to Make Lemon Vodka


My good friend, Mark, asked me over the Summer if I would steep a batch on Limoncello.  I had never tasted it but remembered that scene from the movie Under the Tuscan Sun when Diane Lane drinks it with her new Italian friend on the beach.  Limoncello is a lemon liqueur that is served well chilled.  It is meant to cleanse the palate after dinner or served as an after dinner drink.  It is to be consumed in a very small amount.  The strong, refreshing lemon flavor married with the simple sugar syrup makes it easy for the vodka to go down.  Mark brought over 100 proof vodka and the recipe and I started to work on the Italian concoction.

It takes a full 80 days to have the fullest lemon vodka flavor from this recipe.  There's two stages of steeping that last 40 days each.  The original recipe said 30 days works, too, but 40 is better.  Locate a cool, dark place to store the jar during the stages.  My bedroom closet was the perfect spot in my house.


  • A large 1 gallon glass container with lid, like a pickle jar, sterilized
  • 15 small size lemons
  • 2 (750 ml) bottles 100 or 80 proof vodka, save the bottles
  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • 5 cups water
  • extra sterile bottles or jars with lids for storing in the freezer

Wash the lemons and pat dry.  Carefully shave off the lemon's rind without picking up the white pith.  The white pith is bitter and said to spoil the lemon vodka concoction.  It's almost impossible not to get a little white in the mix, but try to keep it to a very minimum.

Finding the right tools to remove the rind was by trial and error for me.  Because the recipe I was following said to "zest", I naturally started with a microplane zester.  That made fine particles of zest that made me worry I would not be able to strain out later.  Then I tried a vegetable peeler, it picked up more pith and was hard to make thin shavings. Finally, I settled on my trusty pairing knife.  I had a much easier time getting under the rind and moving over the small lemons much quicker.  This step takes time.  Time enough to watch a Jane Austin film on Netflix on my laptop while I shaved lemons.  The large pickle jar shown in the picture was my vessel of choice for my home brew.  It turned out to be just large enough to hold all the liquid.

lemoncello-stage 1

In the large jar, add one bottle of vodka to the lemon rinds.  Cover the jar and let sit at room temperature for 40 days in a cool dark place.  There is no need to stir.  All you have to do is wait.  Meanwhile, the vodka slowly takes on the flavor and rich yellow color of the lemon rinds.


lemoncello-stage 2STEP TWO

41st DAY In a large saucepan, stir 4 cups of sugar into 5 cups of water and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until all the sugar is dissolved and syrup thickens.  Allow the syrup to cool before adding to the lemon-vodka jar.  Add the second bottle of vodka. Give a light stir and cover with lid.  Allow to rest for another 40 days.

STEP THREElemoncello-80th-day

80th DAY Notice the lemon peels sink to the bottom of the jar.  Use a clean tea towel over a strainer to strain lemon vodka, discarding the lemon peels.  Bottle Limoncello and keep in the freezer until ready to serve.

This makes A LOT of Lemon Vodka, so plan to share it out to friends and family.  A little goes a LONG way.  This recipe would make great gifts to all those who appreciate homemade foods.


The Limoncello turned out a beautiful bright yellow with a surprisingly fresh taste. We threw an Italian potluck dinner to celebrate. A few of us, not accustomed to drinking liqueurs, were completely surprised by the light and fresh taste. And even though we were drinking straight vodka, it was extremely smooth and sweet. It was not difficult to take it in and appreciate.