Does It Pay to Wait? Testing Giada's Recipe - LimoncelloQuest

Does It Pay to Wait? Testing Giada’s Recipe


A new post, can you believe it?! Many apologies for my sloth, friends. I have a few reviews collected but I haven’t been posting them in a timely fashion at all. I’ve been busy working on other sites, but it’s no excuse!

My latest idea was to test a few of the recipes out on the web that are very popular and see how they compare to my own. I started with a recipe on the Food Network by Giada De Laurentiis. Check it out and you’ll see all the specs that I usually post here. Since the recipe doesn’t specify, I employed my own best practices and used organic lemons and 100-proof vodka.

I’m testing a few things here. One is just what Giada’s recipe tastes like versus my own. A second is peeling versus zesting. She recommends peeling and I usually zest. A third is the infusion time, she recommends 4 days and I usually do a minimum of 30 days.

Without further ado, here are the results. The peeling was a painful process. I’m meticulous about not getting any pith and you have to be serious samurai to peel lemons quickly without getting any pith. It took me a long time. There are people who claim peeling is the ONLY way to make limoncello because it produces a product with more flavor and clarity. I’ll concede the clarity point. Zesting produces a much cloudier limoncello. If you peel you’ll get a nice clear limoncello right away. It’s also easier to filter. However, I don’t think it positively impacts the lemon flavor you get and if you let zested limoncello rest long enough, it becomes clear eventually.

The finished limoncello had a nice medium yellow color, but the aroma was weak and it was hard to detect the lemon scent. The flavor was also pretty weak, it tasted like a lemon drop but had a character more akin to simple syrup than limoncello. It was extremely smooth with no real alcohol heat. I would describe this as limoncello for those who don’t really like alcohol. It had a very sweet, easy-to-like flavor so I understand why the recipe is popular (nothing to do with Giada I’m sure…). I prefer a stronger lemon character and a stronger liquor in general. Those are certainly preferences though.

In all, this is a good recipe for someone wanting to give limoncello as a gift. You can make it quickly vs. my recipe and it produces a clear, attractive limoncello that most people who don’t usually drink limoncello may like. It’s not a batch that I would personally be proud of but it’s definitely interesting that you can make a semi-decent limoncello in 4 days.

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(15) comments

Dave September 6, 2010

If the recipe isn’t lemony enough, why not just add more lemon peels?

In fact, have you experimented with, say, 50% more lemon in your own recipe? Would that wreck it – too lemony?

I have my first-ever batch going – thirty days in – haven’t added the syrup yet, looking so much forward to the finished product! Thanks for sharing your experiences!

Ben September 6, 2010

Oh, I could try to fix it but I wanted to test it exactly as instructed in her recipe. I think a longer infusion time and/or stronger liquor would fix the lack of lemon flavor. More peels would probably do it as well.

Stephen Evans September 6, 2010

I tried her recipe and it was okay at best. I wasn’t sure what proof alcohol to use either. I used my everclear and diluted it. I also zested lemons instead of peeled because I read this site. I followed her 4 day steep and sugar ratios. I ran it through the permanent filter. There was a lot of crap all over the bottles. Not as well filtered as your recipe. You really need need the coffee filters. Also not as great of a lemon taste. It also had a “hot” alcohol taste. Not a big fan of her recipe. I also tried Alton Browns at

I think it was better than hers but your recipe is still the best. I am going to stick to your recipe. I haven’t filtered the everclear with carbon yet but the next one I will.

Bill DeFelice November 21, 2010

I found this site and thought I would take your recipe and try it. I did do things a bit differnetly though. I can’t get grain in PA so I had to go with 100 proof Stoli. I filtered it 8x through the Brita. I zested 20 lemons and used (2) 750 ml bottles of the Stoli. I let it sit for 60 days. I then filtered the zets out. I used the permanent wire mesh coffee filter first, then a paper towel, then I filtered 7 times through a regular coffee filter. I used distilled water for the simple syrup. Added equal parts simple syrup to the now filtered lemon infused vodka. Then filtered the whole thing once through the Brita. I then let that sit for another 60 days.

Holy Crap! This stuff went down like water. I have a large family of Italians and we drink Limoncello for special occasions all the time. EVERYONE has commented on how good this is, everyone who has tried it is amazed. It really is dangerous because it goes down so smoothly you don’t realize your getting hammered in the process.

Thank you. I am on my second batch and my Christmas list is already full!!

Chris December 6, 2013

Ok I’m now addicted to limoncello after I tasted it the first time on a cruise. I loved it. It came to us as a shot, It was smooth went down easy. Wasn’t real lemony though. But the alcohol was a hint in it. Which I liked best. I don’t like strong alcohol after taste or burn. I recently decided to make our first batch and in the meantime of waiting on our lemony goodness to steep. We bought a bottle of Caravella. WOW! Was I surprised. It burned my throat. My face instantly flashed a red rash which I’ve never experienced before in my life. Is this just s bad bottle or are they all like this? I wish now I would have asked Carnival what brand they used and if they mixed it with something before pouring it in a shot glass. Are they all like this? Very strong alcohol flavor and heat? We started ours with everclear I’m hoping I didn’t ruin a batch. Any suggestions will be appreciated. Thanks

Ben January 1, 2014

I’ve had some really strong shots but I’ve never had that reaction. I’ve also never had a commercial limoncello that was really strong, they are usually south of 30%. I wonder if it wasn’t some other ingredient, as commercial brands can have dyes to which you could be allergic. If yours comes out too strong you could add simple syrup, I’d suggest you use the calculator and target 24%.

Meka September 8, 2016

So I have had mine brewing for 38 days. Going for 40 days. I am going to make my syrup additive and let it sit for another day. This is my first batch ever so I am kind of scared of it. I have used a 96 proof booze. I think that is what I am scared of. I will update when complete. Cheers everyone!

Joni December 6, 2017

Does the limoncello recipe need to be refrigerated when finished?

Ben December 7, 2017

No, you just put it in the freezer before you want to drink it but that’s for taste, not preservation.

Tyler February 9, 2018

I’ve been trying to recreate the translated recipe of my great grandfather and so far it’s been going well with friends and family enjoying the results so far. However I’m wondering about the filtering process because in your recipe you state
“When filtering, you want to be patient and preserve as much of the liquid as possible but there will come a point when it looks like there’s more liquid at the bottom but no more liquid is dripping through. Do NOT try to salvage that liquid. Throw it away along with the filter (or wash the filter) because that stuff is exactly what you’re filtering in the first place.”
When I get to that point it often looks oily and I assumed that oil is what provides the flavor, so does removing it not affect the flavor?
Also I’ve heard of people using a AeroPress to filter the steeped everclear faster but I’m wondering if that would then include the stuff you’re suggesting to filter out, I’m curious because they both use a coffee filter. Also would it make any difference to use a AeroPress on the final product once the simple syrup and evercleer have been mixed and steeped.

Robert March 3, 2018

I tried your recipe last year, but with cheap 40% orujo – effectively grappa but from Galicia in Spain (where I live). So grape alcohol rather than grain. We did all the filtering as you say and were quite pleased with the resultant limoncello. Everyone loved it, but we felt that the quality and strength of the original spirit pulled the quality down.
This year we have 55% orujo (Albarino) from one of the best producers in Galicia – we were lucky enough to collect it straight from the still. Moreover, our lemon tree has produced about 200-300kgs of lemons (untreated), so we basically put as much zest as we possibly could into the spirit, maybe from 40 or 50kgs of lemons for 5L of spirit.
That was two months ago, so now we’re preparing the syrup. But why are you’re recipes always in cups, when the spirit is measured in milliliters? Anyhow it’s an easy calculation: 5L of 55% spirit will need 5L of syrup to make 27.5% limoncello. So to make the syrup we should use 5L filtered water with 3.5kgs sugar, yes?
One thing I did and will do slightly different because we have so many lemons. I macerated more zest in the cooling syrup for a day before filtering it out and blending. We also did a blending trial to try and get the balance that we preferred between lemon intensity, sweetness and alcohol. If you do this, remember that chilling the limoncello will make it less sweet, so you should blend to a little bit sweeter than your taste.
But a good recipe and an impressive level of dedication to Limoncello. Thanks

Robert March 3, 2018

Opps: your not you’re. doh.

Kim Hunkler June 2, 2018

You state: “If you’re using 151 proof grain alcohol like I do, then 750 ml is more than enough for most people”.

I’m wondering how much the 1500ml, plus the water needed to bring down the alcohol, deletes the lemon flavor.

I did use 1500ml of 151 proof, but also followed your Standard Recipe, which added 5 cups of water. I wanted a 30% alcohol, so added 8 cups.

I was able to get less than one cup of skin, using the Microplane on 35 small organic Lemons.
So more than 14 cups of liquid
(6 cups of 151 Everclear and 8 cups of Simple syrup) to my less than one cup of lemons.

With using only one 750ml Everclear, I would only need to add 4 cups of Simple Syrup for the same alcohol content. This instead would be using only 7 cups of liquid to my less than 1 cup of skin.

Wouldn’t using less liquid, resulting in the same alcohol content, result in having a more Lemony flavor??

Billturner February 24, 2019

Just started my 4th batch of Limoncello. 1 batch every year. This year, 160 lemons, have a friend with a lemon tree. Zested with micro plane, anal about only yellow, All of this zest is in a large mouth carboy with one case of everclear. With the zest it is about 2.75 gallons. Will let this set for 4 to 6 weeks in my storage room. 55 to 65 degrees, dark, mix or shake every once in a while. When the time comes to remove the zest i will rack off almost all of it (siphon) then strain the rest it will be clear or almost. If not as clear as you want let it set and do the racking process again. I will mix 2.5 to 3 gallons of simple syrup with it and it will set for another 4 to 6 weeks. During this time the alcohol, simple syrup mixture will develop a layer or “stuff” on top, other layers of “stuff” between the top and the bottom and another layer of “stuff” on the bottom. The middle layers will slowly drift to the bottom and it will be very clear. It can now be racked with a siphon and you will get rid of most of the “stuff” ( I really do not know what these particulates that form on top, in the middle in layers, and on the bottom are). There will be some limoncello left in the carboy, put it in a smaller container and let that set and it will go through the clearing up process and can be bottled. To bottle i bought a bottling bucket from the local brewing supplier, a 5 gallon bucket with a spigot near the bottom. You can just siphon the finished Limoncello into the bottling bucket and fill without the usual mess that the siphon method brings with it. I forgot to mention that when I am adding the simple syrup to the alcohol in the early stages, i taste it to determine if more syrup is needed, I would say a portion equal to the amount of alcohol (2.5 gal.) is minimum, i usually add more because it tastes too alcoholic (hot) and it seems the proper time to make that adjustment?? Good luck and enjoy the results (carefully)

Kevin K Bernhardt November 8, 2020

I want a limoncello that is lemony with a little alcohol burn. So what is the best ratio of vodka to syrup?

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