Limoncello Doesn't Last Forever. Here's How Long You Can Keep It.

How Long Can You Keep Limoncello Before It Goes Bad?


I've gotten a lot of questions from readers over the years and by far, the single largest category has to do with the math of creating a batch of limoncello with the proper proportions of ingredients. However, another big question--perhaps #2 although a distant second--concerns how long you can keep a bottle of limoncello around. I'll start with the short answer. 

Can Limoncello Go Bad or Expire?

You should generally try to consume limoncello within 2 years of creating or opening it. Limoncello only contains 4 ingredients, 2 of which are preservatives. So, it will never “go bad” like milk would but it does lose its lemon scent and flavor over time.

The Longer Answer

Quite accidentally, I am able to give a pretty solid answer to this question from experience. A while back I moved to a new house and I happened to belatedly unpack a box, finding a partial bottle of one of my old batches.

Remnants of Batch #4

As you can see in the photos, it is from batch #4, a batch that I reviewed on the site so I know it's about five and a half years old at the time of tasting. It hasn't been well cared for either, it was sitting in my basement at both houses. So I said "what the heck," I'll take this opportunity to see if this stuff holds up.

Batch 4 Remnants cont.

The verdict? This particular example held up very well! My main problem with this batch was a roughness in the flavor and all that time resting really subdued the alcohol. The limoncello was still flavorful and it is now pretty smooth as well. So, my final opinion used to be that you can rest limoncello as long as you like. 

However, I've visited with some folks who keep a much more detailed history of their limoncello-making than I do (I know...strange but true) and there is a downside to resting limoncello TOO long. While it's still ok to drink, as in "not repulsive," it does become insipid after about 2 years on the shelf. It loses a lot of the lemon-y flavor it once had. That just leaves you with simple syrup and high-octane liquor. 

Whether the limoncello is opened or unopened (mine above was opened) doesn't really matter. It also doesn't matter whether the limoncello is commercial or homemade because alcohol is an excellent preservative. Keeping it in the freezer the whole time, while a waste of freezer space, probably does slow the decline of the flavor as colder temperatures tend to do in most cases. 

So if you leave a bottle on the shelf too long, do what I do and give it a taste. If it's still good, awesome! If it has lost it's vigor, use it in a cocktail. But whatever you do, don't let it go to waste!

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(54) comments

David W. Bates November 23, 2013

I LOVE THIS SITE!!! Love how you record results and strive for excellence and consistency. I’m hoping to have a ‘cello competition amongst my friends. I’ve had good luck with other citrus as well. Also, if you’re ever in New Orleans, check out the homemade ‘cellos at Domenica, a John Besh restaurant in the Roosevelt hotel.

Ben January 1, 2014

I’ve never yet made it to New Orleans but when I do, I’ll give that a try. Seems like a great climate for limoncello.

Bryn May 20, 2014

Thank you for this informative site!! Exactly what I have been needing in my quest for delicious limoncello…….!!

I am assuming (and maybe missed somehow) that one batch uses a liter of alcohol? I didn’t see a measurement and hope to try your technique this weekend.

Thank you again!!

Renee June 21, 2014

I purchased a bottle of Lemoncello while vacationing in Sorrento, Italy (2011) with every intention of drinking it but time got away and guess what, it is still in my cabinet, unopened. Wondering if it is good. Yours is 5 years old so I guess my should be good as it is unopened. We’ll see.

Mitchell June 28, 2014

I’m making lemoncello at home. I’ve left the vodka sitting in the lemon peels for a little over 4 weeks to flavour the vodka. The last patch I did went fine. However this batch it’s gone a tinge of yellows brown. Not sure what it is? Any help email your help to me at
It’d be really appreciated thanks 🙂

Ben July 7, 2014

Hey there, sometimes that happens but I’ve never noticed that it affected the flavor much so I’d proceed with the batch.

Noel August 12, 2014

Hi from Australia. I’m making a batch with home made grappa and up to the syrup stage. I noticed in the basic recipe that you mention put it in the freezer but you don’t mention it in the long version. What does freezing do for the limoncello? I’ll let you know how the batch turns out.

Ben August 17, 2014

That’s an oversight on my part, but the freezing is just preparation for consumption. It doesn’t do anything other than make it taste good. 🙂

Maya September 21, 2014

. Nice. After reviewing your rcpiee I see that I should have removed the peels before adding the simple syrup. The rcpiee I was following exactly did not instruct to do so. I had grain alcohol on the peels for 45 days and then in the peels and simple syrup for another 26 days. Could this be the reason, or is it just how grain alcohol is? Should I just add more simple syrup or will it mellow? So many questions . Wanted to give them as gifts, but they must be great. Any input welcome. TinaP.S. The finish/aftertaste was devine.

Frank September 26, 2014

I love the web site. I am having trouble with the “Limoncello Alcohol Percentage Calculator”.
It worked for me earlier this year. I’ve used 4 different computers with various OS and security settings. When I hit enter I get a “select strength” message with no other icons or text below…..

Ken B September 27, 2014

I for some reason wasn not thinking however I
14 lemons (organic)
2 (750 ml) bottles everclear
Simple Syrup:
4 cups sugar
5 cups water (filtered tap water or distilled water)
combined all ingredients into one batch
I put both 24qt pots into a freezer till i get optinions

whats going to happen? Sugggestions?I was going to go to a Beer & WIne Supply retail destibutor to see about getting large bottles

Bob October 23, 2014

Been using your alcohol content calculator for 2 yrs to help me with my liqueurs. Today, I found the website had been redesigned, and the calculator no longer functions.
Too bad.
Found another online calculator which does work.


Ben October 30, 2014

I’m fixing it now, will be done in 24 hours or so. Sorry about that.

Kelly November 11, 2014

Hi. Three weeks ago, I completed a batch of limoncello and now have what looks like maybe mold growing inside. I followed all of the preparation instructions…peeled the skin of clean organic lemons, mascerated the peels in Tito’s Vodka 40% alcohol by volume for about 8 weeks, then added the simple sugar three weeks ago. I planned to transfer it to smaller gift bottles, but it has this weird cloudy substance floating in the limoncello near the top and extending in “trails” through the middle. Any information on what this substance could be would be greatly appreciated! Thank you!

Annie November 18, 2014

thank you so much for your great info
what happens if I mix my ingredients in a large (food grade) hard plastic container???

Ben November 19, 2014

That’s “il collarino” and it’s harmless but gross-looking. If you search this site or click the image at the top right you can learn more about it. You can filter a lot of it out.

Ben November 19, 2014

Nothing that I know of. I avoid mixing plastic and liquor whenever possible as a precaution though.

Amy June 20, 2016

Hi there, I just found a vodka bottle in the basement with lemon rinds in it from 4-5 years ago. I meant to make a batch of limoncello, then I moved and… is it still fine to strain and finish? it looks fine, no cultures or anything growing in it (no sugar had been added yet).

Ben June 23, 2016

Yes, might be weak in terms of lemon flavor, but shouldn’t otherwise be any problem.

kkh July 17, 2016

Wow, there really must be a site for everything now. A site just for Limoncello? I’ve never even TASTED the stuff!

George August 8, 2016

I zested lemon peel and soaked in 95 percent grain alcohol for two weeks. After straining the peek from the mixture, I added the simple syrup and placed the limoncello into the freezer. Will it mellow out at freezing temperatures or do I have to take it out and have it sit at room temperature for a minor so before placing in the freezer again?

Mike April 14, 2017

Hi, i made a batch of Limoncello about a week ago and put it in the freezer. I had one glass the next day (it was lovely) but was concerned it looked sort of icy and muddled (for want of a better word) when I put it in the glass – then I realised it was semi-frozen but after a few few minutes in the glass it was clear again. But today I went to get some for friends that were over and found it has frozen solid – is this normal? I thought the vodka stopped it from freezing solid?
Does this mean the sugar wasn’t dissolved enough or did not I use a strong enough vodka? (I used 40% Smirnoff as i could not buy anything stronger here in Sydney for a reasonable price).
I’ve moved it to the bottom of the fridge now so it stays cold but not frozen, hope that’s the right thing to do…. any advice much appreciated!

Mike April 16, 2017

I keep posting here to ask if my limoncello should be freezing solid or not but the comment never seems to get published – very frustrating!

So, for the third time…. I made limoncello with 40% Smirnoff which was the strongest vodka I could find here in Sydney (Australia) without paying $70 or more for 80%. i used 10 lemons with all pith scraped off and 1.5 cups of sugar. It tastes excellent but if I put it in the freezer it actually freezes solid so I can only keep it in the bottom of the fridge and drink it over ice to get it really cold.

So should my limoncello be freezing? I thought the vodka would stop that but perhaps the addition of the sugar means it does freeze. Or was my vodka not strong enough?

Mary May 4, 2017

Love this site! Question on how long it’s good for immediately answered. Btw, I put lavender in my simple syrup. Excellent! Age vodka with rinds for 120 days. Yum!

Karen June 10, 2017

We have a bottle of limoncello my dad made while he was still alive. It’s not his best batch, but I still hate to throw it out. It smells and tastes like cough syrup, which makes it hard for us to drink it. He would serve it to us as a limoncello shot. Is there something I can do with it to make it more useable?

Ben August 17, 2017

I would mix it into a cocktail as opposed to drinking it straight and toast to your father. Sorry for your loss.

Lisa December 10, 2017

Mike – In my experience, I have tried to “pour” the lemoncello while still frozen and had the same issue. I believe what happens is the the alcohol is the liquid part and, once you pour it out, you are left with a low alcohol/high simple syrup mixture that will [now] freeze. What I do is store my limoncello in very small bottles [in the freezer]. I take out a bottle and thaw it just until I can shake the entire contents. This mixes the sugar/alcohol. That way you are not thawing and refreezing your tasty treat 🙂

Justine cassell April 25, 2018

i only just added the sugar (actually I added a simple syrup I had made with the lemon juice from the peels that I had frozen) a month ago, and now the limoncello (which was my best one ever 😩) tastes a tiny bit moldy or mildewy. I strained it to see if that would help, and the usual deposits were slightly jellied. What’s wrong????

Rocchetto December 8, 2018

Hi Ben,

Awesome site! Have you had any experience with creamy versions? I was wondering how long dairy would store using a lower ABV (~20%). Per their website, Baileys (17% ABV) can sit on the shelf for 2 years regardless of whether it was opened or stored in the fridge. I have a hard time believing that it is only the alcohol preserving the liqueur…

Also, I have issues with fat separation. Nothing a little shake to the bottle won’t handle, but it doesn’t make for the greatest presentation over time. As homogenizers are crazy expensive and not an option, have you ever tried experimenting with just emulsifiers?


Ben December 9, 2018

I have never delved too far into Crema di Limoncello, mostly because I’m mildly lactose intolerant. But I’d love to post a great recipe if you get one!

Betty Soto April 21, 2019

No problem just strain chill and enjoy.

Patricia July 6, 2019

I have kept my limoncello in the hot garage for years. I just tasted it. I think it is okay, but how can I be sure if it is safe to drink?

Ben November 24, 2019

I’ve tasted a lot of old limoncello and never had a problem, but that’s no guarantee…

Heather J Watt December 14, 2019

Thanks! I’m going to try mine out and use for gifts if it’s still ok!

Kevin April 22, 2020

What causes cloudiness and floating matter in cello.

Angela April 22, 2020

I have had a bottle of crema lemoncella from 2010

Kathy May 13, 2020

Can you use more lemon rind then the recipe asked for by volume of the vodka will it be OK or too much might ruin it? I may have used too much Ryan not measuring it looks though it absorbed all the alcohol I use the Everclear 120 proof

Ben May 16, 2020

You can definitely experiment with adding more lemon zest. The only reason not to add more is time and cost. It just give you more lemon flavor.

Rob May 27, 2020

I just found a bottle of homemade in the top of the pantry. Must have been at least 8 years ago. Stuck it up there because it was bitter. Now it is very mellow. Just put it in the freezer.

Mary Labbe June 1, 2020

I started steeping my vodka and Lemon peels in January but haven’t until now had the chance to filter, make the simple syrup, etc. so it’s been steeping for almost 6 months. Is it still good to mix and bottle?

Christie July 12, 2020

Can I add more alcohol later after I’ve already begun steeping the peels in some alcohol?

Jim Hunt July 15, 2020

Hey Mary,

Sorry if this is late. It should be just fine, the alcohol pulls all of the essential oils from the zest and the left overs don’t really do much to the overall flavor. That’s why they tell you to be careful when zesting not to include the pith because it can pull a very bitter flavor.

Essentially you have a nice lemon flavored vodka sitting in your cabinet right now.



Ben November 29, 2020

You can, but I wouldn’t. I’d fix it on the next batch.

Shelly December 28, 2020

I purchased a bottle of limoncello made from limes in France. (Liquor de citron vert.) We opened it, drank a tiny bit and forgot about it. It’s roughly 2 years old. It has black dots floating at the top but is otherwise clear. Can we drink it? It still has a lovely aroma. Can we filter it?

Ben December 29, 2020

Just skim off the black dots and enjoy, it’s probably still lovely.

Helen Nichols January 18, 2021

I have made cream limoncello and need to
Know how long will it keep on the fridge. As the recipe contains milk. I am concerned when I need to consume it ? Thanks. Helen

David March 21, 2021

I’ve made some lemonchello using Everclear 120 proof, only white granulated suger (not organic). After bottling I nice a darkish brown shade toward the neck of the bottle. Before bottling I strain thru double cheese cloth. What is causing this brownish color?

Lorna June 10, 2021

I live in New Zealand and went on holiday to Nelson in 2006, from where I purchased a bottle of the locally produced Limoncello. Over a couple of months I drank about 3/4 of the delightful stuff, straight from the freezer. Then for some reason I stopped drinking it. It’s now 2021 and I’ve just pulled the Limoncello from the bottom of my freezer and tried it. Absolute Heaven! Over the last 15 years it hasn’t deteriorated one drop and I’m enjoying the last 1/4 bottle, one drink an evening, until it’s gone. As I have a huge lemon tree in my back yard with masses of lemons gracing the branches, I’m going to give making it myself a go. If successful, I’ll turn my hand to making Limecello from my lime tree, and who knows, maybe a batch Lemlimcello from both fruits together!

Karen August 31, 2021

I made my lemoncello but accidentally put in my simple syrup at the same time as my vodka. I let it sit a few months and then took out the rinds but wonder if it is safe to drink? Is the taste test the only method to use?
Thank you

Carole Camino December 14, 2021

I purchased a bottle of Limoncello in Sorento in 2007, kept it refrigerated , unopened all these years. I finally opened it to celebrate a BIrthday with friends. It was wonderful, and as fresh as when I drank I it in Italy!

rita January 3, 2022

I have limoncello made with everclear about 6 years ago that has lost most of its’ flavor and am wondering if I can use the old limoncello to make a new batch.

Bette Sindzinski March 26, 2022

I forgot a batch of quartered meyers lemons marinating in vodka,,, in my pantry for 5 months. Is it still OK to eat the lemons wedges and drink the vodka? Just making sure the whole lemon slices do not go bad. Thank you

Ben April 12, 2022

I’ve never used whole lemon slices because it makes the flavor very sour. So you’re in virgin territory there.

Ben April 12, 2022

I’d start fresh

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