When Life Hands You Lemons…

…you make Limoncello!

One of the first trees we planted in our yard when we purchased our house almost 30 years ago was a lemon tree. Although we’ve enjoyed its bounty since then, this was the first year I decided to try my hand at making the sweet, golden elixir called Limoncello.

Just about anything made with lemons gets a “yes, please” from me, but usually they are an ingredient of a savory dish or a dessert. In fact, one of my favorite dinners we’ve made included baked lemon chicken, a green salad with a lemon vinaigrette, and lemon pudding cakes baked in individual ramekins.


So, where was I?

Oh, yes, Limoncello.

I have had commercially made Limoncello before, but I never thought to make it myself until a friend gave us a bottle of her home-made brew. Not only was it tasty, but I was excited to learn that it is easy to make. In fact, the hardest part is allowing the lemon peels and vodka enough time to mingle and do their magic before decanting. 

Just four ingredients: lemons, vodka, sugar, and water.
Peel just the yellow part of the lemons.
Soak the lemon peels in vodka… watch it turn a lovely yellow.

If you’ve never tried it, Limoncello is a classic Italian liqueur with a refreshing lemon flavor. It is traditionally served after dinner as it is thought to aid digestion (and, who am I to argue with sound medical advice?). It is typically kept in the freezer and served cold so it’s perfect for summer. It can also be used in dessert recipes, including a delicious-sounding Limoncello and Ricotta Almond Cake (thanks, Widow Badass) I plan to try.    

You can find a lot of recipes for Limoncello online, but they are all pretty much the same: organic lemons, vodka, sugar, and water. Recommended vodka proofs vary (most recipes suggest higher proofs), as does the time to infuse the lemon peels in the vodka (as little as four days to as much as three weeks) before mixing with the syrup. The only recommendation I have after making my first batch is: don’t buy the Costco-sized bottle of vodka (1.75 liters vs. the more normal size of 1 liter). I now have so much limoncello that not only will we be enjoying it all summer, but we’ll giving a few bottles away to friends. Not a bad problem to have.  

Bottles ordered from Amazon… label designed by moi. Cheers!

So, What’s on Your Plate (or, in this case, your glass)? Join Donna and Deb for their monthly blog challenge. Link your own food-related post or just read what others have shared.

Author: Janis @ RetirementallyChallenged.com

My blog is about travel, relationships, photography, and whatever else pops into my head (even, sometimes, issues surrounding retirement and aging).

129 thoughts on “When Life Hands You Lemons…”

  1. Wow, wow, wow! Thanks for reminding me of the limoncello I have in my drinks cupboard (which I have not touched since I attempted THAT cake – thanks for that reminder too!). Janis, your limoncello looks wonderful. If I ever get through my bottle, I would definitely try making the next bottle on my own. Love those labels you made!


  2. Okay, so not only did you make your own Limoncello, from lemons that you grew in your yard, you also designed the label and bottled this yourself?! You are absolutely my hero!! What time should I come by to pick up my order? 😀
    Thank you for joining us at WOYP with this very inspiring post!

  3. Limoncello… feels sweet and refreshing indeed. Perhaps I should try it out one of these fine days. From your description it feels exactly the kind of adventure one would love to make. Thanks for sharing, dear Janis. ❤

  4. Coincidently, my brother-in-law arrived home from Italy less than a week ago, and limoncello came up in conversation while I was driving him home from the rental car agency. I have always loved lemons and the exquisite flavor they impart, so I am VERY envious of the lemon tree in your yard. One would definitely not survive in our climate but, somehow, that doesn’t make me any less envious!

  5. Your own lemon tree? Now, I’m jealous. 🙂 We enjoyed that tasty drink on a trip to Italy. Matter of fact, we enjoyed it multiple times on that two-week trip. Too much you say, well, I cannot imagine a better gift that a bottle of your very own Limoncello. You’ll probably get requests for refills.

  6. Thank for the introduction of limoncello to my long list of alcoholic beverages! I will try the recipe as soon as I get a hold of some organic lemons.

  7. Excellent project! Some friends came back from Italy raving about Limoncello and since they have a lemon tree, they started production right away. Delicious stuff. What a great gift idea.

  8. Now you’ve done it. I’ll have Peter, Paul, & Mary singing in my head for the rest of the day. But extra points to you for not featuring (or using) Stolichnaya vodka in your recipe. It looks really good! – Marty

  9. My daughter was recently visiting us in Arizona. She found a lemon tree on one of her walks. She made lemon curd and lemon bars!

  10. Ah lemon trees! I love fresh lemons and the chicken supper sounds so good. I don’t do liqueurs as a rule but our son and daughter in law brought us a bottle from the Italian part of their honeymoon. Guess I should give it a try. Like everyone else is I’m impressed with your labels. Bernie

  11. You got my mouth watering for a refreshing splash of home-brewed limoncello fresh from the freezer, Janis! I’m wondering if you used Canva for your labels? I love that site, even the free version (which I use) is quite comprehensive and user friendly.

  12. I love limoncello and made a couple bottles of it several years ago. The only problem…it’s TOO delicious, LOL!! How fun that you made yours from your very own home-grown lemons, and you designed your own beautiful label. Your lemon-themed menu that you mentioned sounds divine. Obviously, I also love lemons, especially Meyer lemons. I’ve been thinking of planting a Meyer lemon here in north Florida, and you might have provided just the inspiration for me to do it!

    1. It is too delicious… but somehow I’ll persevere 🙂 Our older lemon tree is an Eureka but we planted a Meyer last year and are just starting to get fruit. I hope you decide to go ahead and plant your own… and make limoncello!

  13. Oh, I am also a big fan of anything lemon, but I can’t recall ever trying limoncello. (Just what I need is another favorite alcoholic beverage!) I must try making some. I agree about your lovely labels.

  14. I LOVE limoncello but have never tried making it. I’m also loving the sound of that limoncello ricotta cake… how very Italian.

      1. I have one lemon tree but it hasn’t produced much yet. At the moment it’s full of fruit that hasn’t ripened – all the nutrients were washed away in the rain.

  15. What a great idea! I have tons of lemons and I’ve never thought of making my own limoncello! You’ve really inspired me, Janis. 🙂

  16. Impressive Janis, and made from lemons off your own tree. That makes it extra special. I agree with everyone else, the label is a nice touch and makes this a lovely gift. Cheers!

  17. Congrats, Janis, you’re officially a Limoncellist 🙂 What a fabulous way to use your lemons and personalize your gifts.

  18. Nice work! So far we’ve been using all our lemons for cooking, but I can foresee a day when we’ll have huge quantities.

    Care to share the lemon pudding cake recipe? It sounds amazing.

  19. Clever you. I enjoyed my discovery of this drink years ago. Funnily enough, I now don’t drink alcohol due to Les not being able to. It has lemon in it so sort of healthy and bound to keep the bugs at bay.

  20. I love lemons, too. In fact, lemon cake is a birthday go-to. Never would have thought to make my own Limoncello, though. Thanks for planting the (lemon) seed!

  21. I hesitate to say this, but I’ve never had limoncello! I am truly lacking and will rectify this situation soon. I think Florida summer after dinner time will be a very different experience this year!

  22. I love this nod to Italian living as I’m currently dreaming of an Italian holiday in July. I’m very impressed that you have grown your own lemons, made and bottled your limoncello and made fantastic labels. You should set up a limoncello stand!

      1. A friend of Vince’s gave us a bottle she had made when we lived in CA. It was delicious, very sweet. To think we lived in the lemon capital of CA, once LA grew fewer of them. Woodlake is in a tiny enclave surrounded by foothills, which gives it the micro-climate perfect for growing oranges and lemons. The rest of the county is too cold.

  23. I’m not much of a drinker, but I do love anything lemony, including a refreshing cocktail with limoncello. I had no idea it was so easy to make! Off to get some lemons and vodka. Thanks for the recipe!

  24. Nice work, so refreshing too. I’m impressed that you have your own lemon tree. That is so fun! In Wisconsin, we rarely have fresh enough lemons to buy and slice for lemon water. Cheers to you and your lucky friends who will get a bottle from you too!

    1. I imagine you have some produce that grows where you live that wouldn’t survive around here. It is nice to walk out in our back yard and pick lemons and oranges (and soon, hopefully, limes). Hmmm… maybe orangecello and limecello is in my future 🙂

      1. Hops & in certain areas grapes grow well here in the summer months – thus the numerous breweries and wineries.
        I’d love to have some citrus. That’ll be fun for you to try making different flavors. 🙂

  25. Oh my this looks great Janis and just perfect for summer. I’ve not tasted Limencello before but you make it sound delicious and worth a try!

  26. I thought about filling the vodka bottle up with limoncello but I liked the little bottles better… easier to store in the freezer and give away as gifts. I just hope all the people we’ve given bottles to are smart enough to return them when empty so I can fill them up again next time. 🙂

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