Sarah Nasello


Summer is on the horizon, and it's not too soon to start making plans for how best to enjoy it. I'm already envisioning warm summer evenings on the deck or by the lake with good friends, some light food and a cocktail in hand.

One of my favorite summer drinks is a classic from Italy's Amalfi Coast, called limoncello. This wonderfully bracing, sweet liqueur is found everywhere along the southern Italian coast, where lemon trees are in abundance and life is lived at a leisurely pace. I've often compared limoncello to sunshine in a bottle, and just thinking about it makes me happy.

The Italians consider limoncello to be a digestivo, an aid to good digestion, and it is traditionally served after a meal. My husband, Tony, and I visited the Amalfi Coast in the late '90s, when we were working as hotel officers aboard the M/V Clipper Adventurer. Every now and then we would escape ashore for a quick meal together, and icy little shots of limoncello were presented to us when we were finished, every time, no matter the restaurant. The Italians simply take it for granted that you're going to need it, and after all that pasta, bread and cheese, who were we to argue?

I've learned that you don't actually have to be Italian to live like one, but you do need to have a steady supply of limoncello on hand. So, be smart and make your own now to have it ready by summer.

Limoncello is surprisingly easy to make, and this recipe will yield a batch big enough to last the summer. Be smart again and give it as a hostess gift, use it to enhance lemonade or martinis, drizzle it over cake or ice cream, and be sure to save the juice from the zested lemons to freeze for later use.

Homemade Limoncello


15 medium lemons

2 750-milliliter bottles of 100-proof vodka or pure grain alcohol

2 cups water

2 cups sugar


Microplane grater or vegetable peeler

1 one-gallon glass (Mason) jar

Coffee filters or cheesecloth


Bottles for storing finished liqueur


Soak the lemons in warm water for 10 minutes to clean, then wipe dry with a towel. Use the grater or vegetable peeler to remove the zest from the lemons, being careful to avoid the bitter white pith. Set the zested lemons aside for use in another recipe.

Place the zest in the Mason jar and add one bottle of vodka. Seal tightly, label with today's date and the words "First Stage." Store in a cupboard and allow the mixture to steep for 10-40 days. The longer it steeps, the better it will taste.

After ten to forty days, strain the mixture through a coffee filter or double layer of cheesecloth into a large bowl, gently pressing the zest to extract all the flavored liquid. (You will need to strain several times to remove all the zest.) Add the second bottle of vodka.

Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved and the liquid is clear. Remove from heat.

Once cooled, add the syrup to the vodka mixture. Use a funnel to pour the liqueur back into the Mason jar. Have another, smaller jar on hand in case of overflow. Label the jar with today's date or the date it will be ready to serve, and the words "Second Stage." Return to the cupboard for 10-40 days.

When the limoncello is ready, store it in the freezer so it's always chilled before serving. Enjoy!

Fargo-based writer Sarah Nasello loves to connect with others through stories about food, family and North Dakota. She and her husband own Sarello's Restaurant in Moorhead, Minn., and blog together at