Limoncello (Lemoncello) the Italian way

As Kevin said it is grain alcohol. Over in EU they call it pure spirit. It is 95% by volume. In Italy they sell it in the supermarkets.
After 5 days in the spirits, my lemon peel (grocery store variety - Eureka?) still has retained a decent amount of yellow color and the alcohol has a color almost like the shade of corn oil but maybe not quite as dark. The strips of peel have gotten fairly brittle in the spirits.

Should I continue to soak the peel in the spirits for another couple of days?
Hi Rita,
The lemon peel should end up as a pale yellowy white. I'd leave it in for a few more days. If you got the lemons from a supermarket they could be waxed. This can cause problems with the flavor (sometimes it depends how waxed they are) and also with how long the lemon peel takes to get to pale yellowy white. How that helps. Also, I would suggest that when you add the sugar/water solution that you leave the lemon peel in for a couple of weeks for all the flavors to combine. It will also allow the lemon peel more time to give up its flavors.
Thanks, Mike. I'd expect that the lemons were waxed. I did scrub the lemons with a stiff brush and warm water, but I suppose it's impossible to get all the wax off. I'll let them soak for a few more days and will leave the peels in the syrup as well. Logical way to go. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision -- I should have thought to use organic lemons.

Thank you for sharing your pictures. After looking at them, I feel as if I'd been on vacation! Your home is so beautiful and we loved the scenes of Malta and your historical information.

No problem. Hope the lemoncello works out. I tried Kevin's suggestion with one of my last batches and it seems to have worked OK. I have another batch to bottle next week. We are having a big party tonight so, hopefully, I will have a few more photos tomorrow.
Just started a batch of Lemoncello today. Using store-bought lemons. Scrubbed with a stiff brush in warm water to remove any possible wax. Put the peel in the alcohol and it started extracting the color immediately. After only a few hours, the liquid is quite yellow. Can't wait to taste the final result! I have never tried a commercial version of this, so I will not have anything to compare with. Thanks for posting this Mike, it sounds fantastic!
I compared mine to a commercial one a few weeks ago. The homemade is much better, imo. Many commercial versions, as one, unfortunately, expects, are yellower--from artificial color of course--and this commercial had a flavor obviously boosted by additional lemon oil, reminding me of furniture polish. While not bad per se, it lacked any brightness.

I have a calamondin version going now. Looking forward to trying it.
At the local package store. Some states bar the sale of grain alcohol and some limit the proof (in Florida the proof is limited to 153). I do not think Mass bars or limits grain alcohol but am not positive.

Many stores stock it near the vodka, though in some it is only available behind the counter.
After my first try with the alcohol I have been able to get in Malta I was not to pleased with the result. Too sweet. I put it down to a lower alcohol content than I have become used to with the Italian alcohol I had been using. Have now made a second batch using more of the alcohol and that seems much better. I think this means I will have to experiment until I get it back up to the standard I was used to with the Italian stuff. Will let you know. It is nice to see so many others being successful with my recipe. Hope you all continue to enjoy.
Originally posted by Al Silverman:
O.K. This stuff sounds to good to pass up. Where are you guys getting the grain alcohol?


It's been years since I've bought any, but can you not buy Everclear in the liquor store? As I recall, it is 190 proof.

Just to let you know that the last batch I made with the local spirit I can get turned out much better. Still not as good as I made with the Italian spirit, but getting there. Hope yours turned out OK.
I have been making limoncello for years and I use 100 proof vodka. the everclear will work and perhaps a little quicker, but I like the vodka. i make a 1 to 1 simple syrup. I always add the zest of one lime to my lemon zest. Soak for around a week before staining and diluting. The lemons from Italy and I am sure Malta are way different than what we have. However, this is great stuff and easy to make by whatever method
I think I have researched dozens of websites, blogs, and forums on limoncello making, but I come back to this one as among the best. Aren't the Italians the inventors, and thus the experts? I first tried limoncello in Italy about six years ago, and so M Marlow's recipe sounds most authentic.

Interesting how many opinions there are about vodka vs grain alcohol, but the proof is in the tasting, and after reading, and then tasting Everclear-based 'cello, I would not even think of using vodka. Why simulate when you can make the real thing? But, to each his/her own. My pal made his own first-rate limoncello, but Villa Massa is good and is easily purchased. Thus, it's time to explore the other citrus candidates! I'll follow the lead of others who have commented here. Thanks to all who have shared... this is intriguing!

Bill In Bay
Hi Bill. I don't know about being most authentic as we have been able to travel about Italy alot during the last 20 years and every restaurant has its own recipe. The one I put in this link came from a small pizza place on the south point of Puglia in Italy and was the one I most enjoyed, but I have had many others over there equally as good as every bar, and restaurant make their own and if you ask they are more than willing to give you the recipe. Glad you enjoyed.
This is a similar recipe as to what I was given by the next door neighbour of my GF's family. I flew to Italy a year ago and got a chance to try commercial, home made (from the neighbours batch) and even made my own. One VITAL (!) step is to ensure that there is NO (none, nada, zip) of the white from the fruit peel, only the zest. The white will impart a bitter aftertaste (not nice).
In regards to the grain spirit vs. vodka debate, the best vodka is pure spirit diluted to drinking strength anyway, so there is no 'taste' difference. As vodka is already diluted, the maceration just takes longer. At 95% ethanol (180 proof) plus sugar and lemon peel, the maceration should be left for at least a week. 10 days is better. I have never tried it with vodka, but know that it takes considerably longer. The good thing is that you can't over-macerate, so you can leave it be in a corner whilst you are doing the vacation with the family thing.
Thanks, Mike and Francis.

I like the "Marlow method" because it looks closest to other good Italian-oriented recipes I saw, and it is also consistent with the great little Food Network spot I saw recently, on Villa Massa and how they make limoncello commercially in Sorrento. Villa Massa is the tastiest retail brand I have found here.

The taste question is debatable, but I think the Everclear advantage, from a chemical extractables standpoint, is not only speed, but total extractables efficiency, from a chemist's angle. I don't know for sure, but it may pull out certain tasty flavonoids that vodka might miss (?). I also happen to enjoy that Everclear "kick" that some speak of.

Now I'm practicing and researching about other citrus candidates. More comments to come...

Bill in Bay
OK. You guys got me. I bought 2 bottles of grain alcohol last weekend on a trip to Chicago (can't get it here in Ohio). Tonight I start the process. My wife can't understand why I would want to make it when I can buy it, but she humors me. When I am done, I'll report on how it tastes. Thanks for all the cmments.
Hi Mark.
Don't forget to use unwaxed lemons. You can tell your wife that it is good for you after a meal. It also tastes better than the ones you can buy, and it is cheaper. Good luck.