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How to produce a real original limoncello? | Lemon Brothers

How to produce a real original limoncello?

Limoncello traditionnel dans une bouteille avec un bol de citrons et des ustensiles de cuisine.



In the sunny orchards of Italy, where tradition is woven into the air as tangibly as the scent of citrus, lies the heart of the "original limoncello" - a liqueur that captures the essence of summers. Limoncello, with its vibrant yellow hue, is more than just a drink; it is a cultural emblem steeped in Italian history and know-how.

Originating from the picturesque southern regions of Italy, this lemony liqueur has been a symbol of hospitality and celebration for over a century. The country produces around 400,000 tons of lemons each year [1], so it's no surprise that one of their national drinks is citrus-based.

This article will explore the art of making original limoncello, examining the meticulous selection of ingredients, traditional brewing and aging processes, and the nuances that make each batch unique. Join us on a journey to the heart of this much-loved Italian classic, cherished by limoncello lovers around the world.


The history of Limoncello

Un homme élaguant un citronnier.

Limoncello has its origins in the early 20th century, although some stories suggest it dates back even further to the Italian monasteries of the Middle Ages. Traditionally, this liqueur was a homemade delicacy made by families as a luxurious digestive to enjoy after meals. Its recipe, often a closely guarded family secret, was passed down from generation to generation, each adding their unique touch to this zesty concoction.

Today, the birthplace of limoncello production can be found in southern Italy, notably along the beautiful Amalfi Coast, the Sorrento Peninsula and the island of Capri. These regions are famous for their lush terraced lemon orchards, where Sfusato Amalfitano and Sorrento lemons – renowned for their aromatic zest – thrive in the Mediterranean climate. These lemons aren't just fruit; they are the soul of limoncello, imparting a flavor that is impossible to replicate anywhere else.

Quite simply, limoncello's journey from a homemade local specialty to an internationally renowned liqueur is a testament to its timeless appeal. It is not just a drink but a symbol of Italian hospitality, warmth and joy of life - 'la dolce vita'. By exploring how the original limoncello was made, we pay homage to this enduring legacy that continues to captivate limoncello lovers across the world.


Selecting the right ingredients

Homme sentant un citron mûr.

When creating an original limoncello, every ingredient counts. The harmony of high quality lemons, the right alcohol, and the precise balance of sugar and water culminate in the liqueur. In this section, we will explore these three main elements.


1.   The Quintessence of Lemons

At the heart of every bottle of limoncello lies its soul: lemons. The quality of these citrus fruits is essential, with the best limoncellos typically using organic, untreated lemons. In other words, not just any lemon will do. The ideal fruit is the fragrant, sunny varieties grown on the Amalfi Coast or in Sorrento, known for their thick, aromatic skin and vibrant taste. These lemons are free of pesticides and synthetic treatments, ensuring that the natural oils, so crucial to limoncello's flavor profile, remain pure.

2.   The Spirit of Alcohol

The choice of alcohol is equally important. Traditional limoncello calls for pure, high-strength alcohol, with options ranging from rectified spirits like Everclear to high-quality vodka. The higher the alcohol content, the more effectively it extracts essential oils from the lemon peel, resulting in a more robust and nuanced flavor. Each type of alcohol brings its unique character to limoncello, with some even preferring 95% pure alcohol for its clean, unobtrusive base.

3.   Sweet Balance

Sugar and water are the final, but essential, components of limoncello. They are not simple fillers but play a critical role in balancing the intensity of lemon and alcohol. Sugar syrup, made by dissolving sugar in water, is added to lemon-infused alcohol to create a harmonious mixture. The sweetness and quantity of the syrup can be adjusted to taste, but the goal is always to obtain a liqueur that tickles the palate with its perfect balance of sweetness, acidity and strength.


The Limoncello Making Process

 Préparation du limoncello en infusant de la vodka avec du zeste de citron dans des contenants en plastique.

People have been making traditional limoncello in their kitchens for years, and you can too. From extracting lemon zest to bottling the final product, this section walks you through each essential step in making this classic Italian liqueur.


  1. Lemon peel extraction: The journey begins with lemon peel extraction. Use only the yellow outer skin, avoiding the white part, which can give a bitter taste. A peeler or zester works best, achieving thin, uniform strips that maximize flavor extraction.
  2. Infusion with alcohol: Place the lemon zest in a large glass jar and pour in the alcohol. The zests should be completely submerged. Close the jar tightly and store it in a cool, dark place. This is where the magic happens, as the alcohol slowly extracts the oils and essence from the zests, infusing the vibrant lemon flavor.
  3. Preparation of the sugar syrup: While the zests are infusing, prepare the sugar syrup. Combine sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved, then allow the mixture to cool. This syrup will sweeten and soften the acidity of the alcohol.
  4. Combination: After the infusion period, filter the lemon zest from the alcohol. Combine the infused alcohol with the sugar syrup, stirring gently to combine. The mixture will turn a cloudy but radiant yellow hue.
  5. Bottling: Pour the limoncello into clean, airtight bottles. Glass is preferred because it preserves the flavor and purity of the limoncello. Store bottles in a cool place or freezer until ready to serve.


Brewing Time and Its Impact on Taste

Steeping time is a major factor in defining the essence of your limoncello. Here, we explore how different steeping times can dramatically change the flavor profile of this beloved liquor.


Brewing Time

Flavor Profile

1 week

Light and sparkling, with a pronounced citrus aroma. Ideal for those who prefer a fresher, less intense lemon taste.

2-4 Weeks

Balanced and rich, this duration allows for deeper extraction of lemon oils, resulting in a rounder, full-bodied flavor.

More than 1 Month

Intense, with a robust lemon essence and a complex, mature character. Suitable for connoisseurs who appreciate a stronger, more aromatic limoncello.

Tips for Getting the Best Flavor

Crafting the perfect batch of limoncello is an art that balances tradition with a personal touch. Here are some tips and ideas to improve your limoncello making experience:

  • Quality of Ingredients: Always use fresh, organic lemons and high quality alcohol. The purity of these ingredients directly influences the final taste.
  • Ratio Matters: Maintain a balance between lemon zest and alcohol, and adjust the sugar syrup according to your preference. This balance is essential to achieve the perfect harmony between sweet and sour.
  • Patience Pays: Do not rush the brewing process. The longer the zest infuses, the tastier the limoncello.


Storage and Service of Limoncello

Main tenant un verre de limoncello dans un jardin ensoleillé

How you store and serve limoncello can have a significant impact on its enjoyment. By following the best practices below, you'll ensure that every sip of limoncello transports you to the sunny lemon orchards where this liqueur was born.


Storage of Limoncello

Proper storage of limoncello is crucial to preserving its exquisite taste and vibrant character. The ideal place to store your limoncello is in a cool, dark environment, away from direct sunlight and temperature fluctuations. This could be a cellar or a dark closet. For those who enjoy the cool, refreshing taste, storing limoncello in the freezer is also a great option. The high alcohol content prevents it from completely freezing, allowing it to maintain a smooth, syrupy texture.


Service you Limoncello

How to serve limoncello the right way is as important as creating it. Traditionally enjoyed as a digestive, it is best served chilled, straight from the freezer. Pour it into small, pre-chilled glasses to accentuate its rich flavors and aromas. Its versatility also makes it a fantastic cocktail ingredient, adding a zesty twist of lemon to create an exquisite limoncello cocktail . Plus, it can be elegantly poured over ice cream or fruit salads, providing a delicious lemony enhancement to desserts.


The Lemon Brothers' approach to Limoncello

 Bouteille de Limonceflo des Frères Lemon avec deux citrons frais et des icônes de prix récents.

At Lemon Brothers, we are proud to present limoncello steeped in tradition, perfected by passion and loved by connoisseurs around the world.


Made with heart and heritage

Our journey in creating this exquisite liqueur began over 15 years ago with Marco, an Italian native whose love for limoncello ran as deep as his roots in Sanremo, Italy. It was here, in a small apartment overlooking the historic old town of "La Pigna", that the Lemon Brothers' Limoncello, or "Limonceflo", was born.

It all started with a small lemon tree planted by Marco's wife, Hedi, almost 30 years ago. This tree, robust and full of fruit, has become the symbol of our limoncello. Marco, inspired by the view from his terrace and the tradition of his country, embarked on a journey to create a balanced limoncello, perfectly blending alcohol, sugar and the delicious taste of lemon. This recipe, refined over the years, was a family secret until Florian, a dynamic young Dutchman and lover of digestives, was introduced to it.

A Recipe Passed Down From Generation to Generation

Florian's fascination with the strong taste of lemon and the quality of the digestive led Marco to share his secret recipe. This gesture marked the beginning of the Lemon Brothers' journey. By faithfully following the original recipe, we strive to maintain the authenticity and quality established by Marco and Hedi.

Sustainability and Community Involvement

In our production we emphasize sustainability and community involvement. Our lemons are organically grown, hand harvested, and then carefully selected, ensuring we only use the best while supporting local growers. From peeling lemons to delicately applying labels to our bottles, each step is carried out with meticulous care in the canton of Vaud, Switzerland.

Rewarded Excellence

Our dedication to quality has not gone unnoticed. The Lemon Brothers' Limonceflo has received international acclaim, receiving numerous awards, including the prestigious Gold Medal at the Craft Spirits Awards 2021 in London and the Double Gold Medal at the Berlin International Spirits Competition 2022. These awards are a testament to our commitment to creating a limoncello that is not just a drink, but an experience.



Limoncello, much more than a simple digestive, represents Italian tradition and know-how. At Lemon Brothers, we are committed to this heritage. We meticulously blend ancient methods with modern precision, ensuring that each bottle of our limoncello captures the essence of Italy's finest lemons. It is a celebration of our family recipe, a tribute to quality and a shared experience of the timeless original taste of limoncello. As you savor each sip, remember that you are not just enjoying a liquor; you participate in a heritage that crosses generations.



What does traditional limoncello contain?

Traditional limoncello is made from high-quality organic lemons, usually Sorrento or Amalfi lemons, known for their aromatic zest. The other key ingredients are pure alcohol or high quality vodka, water and sugar. The zest is infused with alcohol, then mixed with sugar syrup.


Is limoncello fermented or distilled?

Limoncello is neither fermented nor distilled. It is made by infusing lemon peel in alcohol, usually a high-alcohol spirit like vodka or straight alcohol. This process extracts flavors and oils from the zest, which are then mixed with sugar syrup.


What are the two types of limoncello?

The two main types of limoncello are classic limoncello, which is a clear, bright yellow liqueur, and cream limoncello, which contains dairy to create a creamy, smooth texture. Cream limoncello is less traditional but has gained popularity for its rich, velvety variation.


Can bacteria grow in limoncello?

The high alcohol content of limoncello generally inhibits the growth of bacteria, making them unlikely to flourish. However, improper storage or contamination during the manufacturing process can potentially lead to the growth of bacteria. It is therefore important to follow proper hygiene and storage practices.


How do you know if limoncello is expired?

Limoncello that has gone sour may show color changes, becoming darker or cloudy. There may also be an unusual smell, different from its usual lemon aroma. If it tastes sour or unusual, it is best not to eat it. Proper storage in a cool, dark place helps maintain its quality.





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