Picture the scene: you at a restaurant in Italy. After having eaten antipasto (appetizers), first and second course, you decide you’re too full to order a dessert. A waiter approaches your table. You think they’re bringing you the bill, but instead they ask: “Would you like some limoncello?” Of course, you accept…who would say no to a lemon-flavoured digestivo? Now that you’re drinking it, you realize there are many things you do not know about it: how was the idea born? What is the original recipe? Well, if you don’t know either of these things, don’t worry: I’m here to answer all your questions about this delicious beverage. In this article, we are going to see its origins, the original recipe but also some fun facts about limoncello!


If you are reading this article, it probably means that you already know what we are talking about – but in case you didn’t know, “limoncello” is an Italian liqueur made from lemon peels. After all, the name itself is an alteration of the word “limone”, which Italian for lemon!
Let’s get to…the juicy questions.


Its origins are still not completely clear, and its creation is disputed between the cities of Amalfi, Sorrento and Capri.

According to the most accredited theory, limoncello was born in Capri, by the hands of Maria Antonietta Farace, the owner of a local boarding house. She would make this lemon liqueur with the citrus fruits that grew in her own garden, and she would offer it to her guests…and they were (thrilled) about it! Apparently, Axel Munthe, one of the founders of modern psychiatry, was a regular customer and a huge fan of this beverage.
The academic and many of his intellectual friends who lived there would go to Ms Farace’s house after lunch to savor this famous digestivo (alcoholic drink served after a meal).
Her descendants later had the intuition to start a small-sized production of limoncello, using the family recipe. The name “limoncello” was actually patented in Capri in 1988, by Massimo Canale, heir of Maria Antonietta.

Let’s move to the mainland: less than 40 kilometres east of Capri there are two cities, both in the region of Campania, and both famous for their amazing lemons: Amalfi and Sorrento. They too pride themselves in being the birthplace of limoncello, and of many ancient legends and tales about the production of the lemon liqueur: some claim that it was already used around the XI century by fishermen and farmers to fight cold mornings; others believe that the recipe was created within the walls of a monastery to delight friars between prayers…!

Some even say that was Zeus, the god of thunders and the sky himself, to reveal the recipe of the delicious beverage to an inhabitant of the Terre delle Sirene (Mermaids’ land)!


The traditional recipe calls for the use of:

– 10 organic lemons, if possible, from Sorrento or Amalfi;

– 600g of sugar;

– 1 L of pure alcohol (95°);

– 1 L of water.

The preparation is very simple!

  • Peel the lemons with a potato peeler, being careful to remove only the yellow part of the zest, because the white one is bitter.
  • Now you can infuse the lemon zest in a glass jar with an airtight lid, with alcohol for 6-7 days in a cool place out of direct sunlight. Shake the jar every day to mix all the ingredients.
  • After the require infusion time is over, filter the liquid with a sieve. Add the filtered liquid to the cold syrup you have already made in a saucepan with boiling water and sugar, which has to dissolve slowly.
  • Finally, pour the liquid in a glass bottle with an airtight seal and store it in the dark for 30 days. I know, I know…the waiting is long, but it’s worth it!

Be sure to serve it cold! Many suggest putting it in the freezer at least one hour before serving it.


Nowadays limoncello is famous all around the world and it owes its success mainly to two American actors: George Clooney and Danny DeVito.

In 2006, the latter was invited to the ABC talk show The View and he was visibly drunk during the interview. To justify himself, he said: “I knew is the last seven limoncellos that was going to get me” – he said this just seconds after admitting he had been partying with George Clooney at his house the night before. This statement made the sale of the liquor skyrocketed and the actor himself started producing his own limoncello.

Many other starts later followed his steps and made their own brand of limoncello: not just Clooney, DeVito’s drinking buddy, but aso Ryan Reynolds, Jay-Z, Drake, Dan Akroyd and Francis Ford Coppola.

Here in Italy, every family has its own traditional recipe that is handed down though generation and they are all pretty good, but my advice is to travel to the Amalfi Coast to taste the authentic flavor of this delicious beverage.

One last fun fact that cannot be overlooked is that the International Wine & Spirit Competition hurt Italians’ pride when the award for the best limoncello in the world was given to a limoncello that was made in… the Netherlands.

This article ends here, but it doesn’t mean that you cannot learn more about Italian recipe that include limoncello…we have even made a video/article in which you can find two recipes to make tiramisù – one with coffee and one with limoncello!

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