Typical Alcohol Content of Limoncello + What YOURS Should Be

What Is the Alcohol Content of Limoncello?

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Alcohol content of limoncello

With over a decade of experience making limoncello at home, I’ve spent a lot of time tinkering with the alcohol percentage (proof) of limoncello. I’ve also reviewed many of the commercial limoncello brands, so this is a pretty easy one to answer.

What Is the Alcohol Content of Limoncello?

The alcohol content of most commercially available brands of limoncello is between 24% to 32% (48-64 proof). Most brands tend to land in the high 20% range, around 27%-29% alcohol by volume.

Longer Answer...

That’s what the major brands do, but the beauty of making your own limoncello is that you can make it your own, and customizing the alcohol percentage is a big part of that. Read on to see what you can do to personalize the flavor of limoncello for your particular palette.

Avoiding Too Much Sweetness

In my experience, the single largest concern that most people have is drinking or making limoncello that is too sweet. Limoncello is sweet by nature, that’s also part of the appeal. But it often has a thicker consistency and can strike people as sickly sweet at the lower range of alcohol content.

For this reason, when people start customizing the alcohol percentage I advise folks to shoot for 30% (60 proof) as a starting point. The standard homemade limoncello recipe that I promote on this site is even higher than that (~37%) and it is a widely beloved recipe…if I do say so myself. I believe the reason for this is that most adult palettes tend to appreciate flavors rather than sweetness alone. Also, people who enjoy cocktails also tend to appreciate bitterness as a flavor component.

What Is YOUR Use Case?

Sipping an ice-cold glass of limoncello straight from the freezer—though completely awesome—is only one use case for limoncello. You can cook with it, make desserts, make cocktails, etc. For some other use cases it might make sense to use a sweeter limoncello because the sugar will survive any cooking while most of the alcohol will evaporate.

However, that ice-cold freezer shot is by far the most common case, so how can we alter it to be exactly what you want? You need to conduct an experiment that will require making some limoncello at home. Different brands of limoncello that you buy at the store will have different characteristics—sometimes remarkably so. That means you can’t just buy 2 different brands with different alcohol levels and see which one you prefer. I mean, you CAN do that, but that’s not a clean test at all.

What you’d need to do is create a batch of limoncello at home, split the infusion into 2 half batches, and then add different amounts of simple syrup to achieve different alcohol percentages in the final limoncello product.

How Do I Do That?

That’s an excellent question, I’m glad you asked! Because I get this question frequently I’ve created a couple of calculators on the site to help you determine the proportions of limoncello required to achieve a specified alcohol content. There is a simple version that is just a dilution calculator, then a more sophisticated one that helps you dial in the sweetness by altering the simple syrup. You can find them both here.

FAQs

Q: I made a batch that has way too much alcohol in it, can I dilute it after the fact?
A: Sure, just add more simple syrup of the same proportions you originally used. This will make it sweeter of course, but a sweeter and milder product is what you’re shooting for in this case.

Q: I made a batch that is way too sweet, can I fix it?
A: You can use the more sophisticated calculator on my site to attempt to further dilute it, but in my experience this rarely ends well. It’s harder to dilute the sugar after the fact without making it insipid.

Q: Does the type of alcohol you use matter?
A: It doesn’t matter to the alcohol content beyond it’s proof, but it matters to the flavor in my opinion. I prefer to use grain alcohol that has been filtered as opposed to vodka and other liquors that carry more of their own flavor.

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(4) comments

John June 22, 2019

Not sure how to use the second calculator that allows the choice of sweetness. The first calculator gives the result for how much sugar syrup to add to the alcohol, but the second calculator gives the result of how much water to add, just water, not sugar syrup. The 1-5 sweetness scale increased or reduces the amount of water to add to the alcohol but I can’t seem to figure out how much sugar is represented by the 1-5 option. Some amount of sugar must be included in this calculation because just adding water to the alcohol would not result in limoncello. Can you explain?

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Robert December 12, 2020

I’ve made lemoncello every Christmas for family and friends for about six or seven years. I use a ratio of 600ml Everclear/600grams sugar/1.2 liters of water. I scaled up to make a lot this year, using 2 x 1.75 liters of of Everclear with a mix of 20 Meyer lemons, 32 organic lemons, and 8 of the largest limes I could find. I soaked all in diltue warm soap bath, then rinsing and drying. Between 4 – 1.5 liter Ball jars, I divided the lemons and limes and peeled and filled each jar in turn with the peels and then divided the alcohol evenly between the jars and stored them for about a week. I was especially careful this year to avoid the pith. It was helpful to keep in mind that after peeling the zest of the lemons and limes that they should still have their yellow or green cast, and if the skin was thick, the stippling shoud still be visible on the pith. That takes a good sharp peeler and patience. For the syrup, I upscaled to 7.5 liters of water and 8lbs sugar. This year, in order to control the sweetness and alcolhol content better, I filtered the contents of the lemon extract/alcohol though a strainer lined with cheese clothinto a large bowl and had the pot with simple syrup next to it. I then used one of my 1.5L Ball jars for mixing. There are gradations on the bottle side. I first added 500ml of the extract and 1000ml of the syrup. The extract is about 95% alcohol (190 proof). This ratio would produce appox 63 proof product (arrox 32% alcohol). I could then sample and adjust the strength to taste just prior to bottling, which caused me to add slightly more syrup producing something close to 60 proof. My original recipe calls for mixing the syrup and the raw extract with the peels and then straining into bottles. Besides making it impossible to adjust, I doubt that the interraction between the syrup and peel prduces any benefit. This year’s prduct eemed to confirm it since it turned out to be my best effort by far. Using some limes seems to enhance the flavor. I doubled my ratio of lemons as well this year. Adding more just seems to make the the product more rich. The original recipe only called for the zest of six lemns. If the calculator I used is the one you refer to, it seemed very far off to me. Hope that helps!

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Bernard D Ussher January 28, 2021

How about adding simple syrup infused with lemon juice. We wish to reduce the sweetness – we are using your formula for a sweetness level of “3”.

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Ben January 30, 2021

Lemon juice is a very potent flavor while zest has a delicate flavor. It may not end up tasting bad, but it won’t taste like limoncello.

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