Crema di Limoncello

Homemade limoncello. A favorite Italian digestif, rich as custard and strong enough to knock you down. Everclear infused with plenty of lemon zest then swirled together with milk, sugar, and vanilla.

  • Yield: Makes a little more than 3 quarts.


  • 10 lemons
  • 1 (750-ml) bottle Everclear (a quality vodka will do if you can't find it)
  • 8 cups (1.9 liters) whole milk
  • 5 cups sugar (1 kilogram or 2.2 pounds)
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, seeds and pod
  • cheesecloth
  • bottles


1 Zest the lemons using a lemon zester or the fine groove side of a grater. (Save the zested lemons and use them for some of our great lemon recipes!) Place the zest and the Everclear in a container and allow to infuse in a dark, cool place for a week. After a week has passed strain the liquid through the cheesecloth into a very large glass, stainless steel, or ceramic bowl.

2 In a large stockpot or sauce pan, warm the milk, sugar, and vanilla bean seeds and pod over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, until dissolved. Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature (this will take a few hours). Discard the vanilla bean (wash it and save it for another use) and strain the mixture through the cheesecloth.

3 Combine the Everclear infusion with the sweet milk and stir together. Pass through a colander lined with cheesecloth to catch any solids. Funnel into bottles and store in the freezer. Be sure to leave room in the bottles for the mixture to expand if it freezes to avoid an explosion. Use within six months. Serve small amounts in chilled glasses.

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  • Lisa

    This looks great, we’re fans of Limoncello. We’re also vegans. And I detest when I read comments about people asking about recipe substitutions… ahem, but I must ask. Think this would work with almond milk? Or maybe coconut milk?

    I have no idea, Lisa. I suggest you try it out and if it does or not we hope you report back. ~Garrett

  • Ali

    Perfect! I had wanted to try making homemade limoncello this summer. This looks wonderful!

  • holunderlilly

    This sounds wonderful! I would love to try this out! But (probably due to my not-perfect English skills) I don’t quite understand the vanilla bean part – do I have to add the whole thing or do I have to scrape out the vanilla seeds first and then add both the seeds and the bean? Thanks for this recipe!

    Scrape out the seeds and then use the seeds and the empty pod. ~Garrett

  • mia

    Hi, I heard that you can use heavy cream instead of milk–what are your thoughts? If using heavy cream, would sugar still be added?

    I imagine that if the thought of drinking heavy cream straight sounds appealing to you then by all means try it, but I think it would be way too heavy for most people. Give it a shot though and see how it works. ~Garrett

  • Jessica J

    Oh my! I’m always looking for new adult beverage recipes to try. This sounds perfect for summer. Yum!

  • Fifthpocket

    I’ve been making this for years and it’s the PERFECT summer dessert/digestif. The night that my husband and I got engaged, our waiter at the Publican in Chicago brought two tiny glasses to our table and I had to make some to recreate that perfect taste.

  • Stephanie

    I have a milk allergy. Do you have a recommendation for an alternative milk to use? Perhaps almond milk? Coconut?

    I imagine any of these might work and cannot see why not, but haven’t tried it myself so you’ll have to give it a go yourself, Stephanie. ~Garrett

  • Alecia

    This is probably a strange question but what kind of bottles would you recommend funneling this into?

    I just grabbed some from Cost Plus. ~Garrett

  • Ella

    My mom and aunt have both made a version of this without milk, and it is quite tasty! My aunt once used meyer lemons, which was less tart. Think I might go home and have some, it’s sunny and warm up here in Washington!

  • Alana D

    I’ve been looking for a refreshing drink for my birthday party next month and this might be it.

  • Jeff

    I’ve made regular Limoncello with my own Key limes, and this should be good with them as well. Key Limoncello!

  • Sanjeeta KK

    What gorgeous photos; the drink looks so refreshing!

  • Andrea

    Hi, can you please clarify regarding the use of cheesecloths. Did you use the same piece for steps 1, 2 and 3 or do you use separate ones. Thanks.

    If I have enough I use different pieces. However, if you only have a bit it certainly won’t hurt to wash it between steps and reuse it. ~Garrett

  • ellyn

    Do you defrost the same bottle each time you want a shot or do you make it in small bottles?

    Yes, I just use a large bottle and keep it in the freezer. ~Garrett

  • KimH

    That just looks downright beautiful! YUM! Cant wait to make this, but I gotta get a hold of some Everclear. I’ve heard you cant buy it in Ohio. Sigh.

    Vodka will work. ~Garrett

    • Kate

      I just found Everclear at the State Store inside Giant Eagle grocery in Columbus, so it is available in Ohio now.

  • Judy B

    Looks really good! Would it be ok to use glass mayonnaise jars (quart size) to store it? We have saved several and if they’d work, that would be great. Thanks for posting!

    Shouldn’t be a problem. ~Garrett

  • Linda

    Just as a aside, I know people who use Parmalat to make their crema di limoncello

  • Dana

    For the vegans – limoncello is often made without the dairy, and in fact I actually prefer it that way, as it lets the lemons really show their stuff. It’s like boozy liquid sunshine.

  • Nicholas Sloanhoffer

    Thanks for the Limoncello drink recipe. Serving this chilled seems like the best approach.

  • Essay

    Really cool limoncello!

  • Amanda

    Wish I saw this recipe earlier! I made some straightforward limoncello a few weeks ago and am still waiting to see… And by the way, I’ll be trying your Nocino recipe soon with black walnuts. The gathering you described sounds delightful and spontaneous! Would love to get in on some of that Sacramento Area food fun.

  • Kim

    This was my first venture into Limoncello. It was easy to make and we loved it, my husband is hooked! I put it in a two different sizes of mason jars, some to share with friends and the rest to enjoy. I used Everclear and had no problem finding it in Georgia. It is much more reasonably priced that quality vodka.

    Thank you for sharing!

  • Andrea

    I saw crema di limoncello when I was in Italy last week and regret not buying it. I did stock up on plenty of regular limoncello though which was a wise move.

  • amanda

    Excellent! I have to try this! We just made a few batches of italian sweet milk liqueur, and it was INCREDIBLE. Next time ill make it less sweet, but the flavor was amazing. Lemon and milk infused vodka; tasted like malted milk balls. I made another batch with oranges, milk and loose chai tea in vodka and it was fantastic. This is going to be my next experiment with milky citrusy booze. Thanks, Garrett!

  • juliemarg

    It’s amazing! There is now an answer for those with tummies that are slow in digesting foods. They should try it.

  • Jim C

    I have made this numerous times and thoroughly enjoy it! Mine has a tendency to form ice crystals. Normal?

    My daughter is lactose intolerant. Can I substitute an equal amount of water to make a regular limoncello for her?

    Yes, while alcohol doesn’t freeze the milk will. Just leave it out for a few minutes to thaw. As for the water I would say no. Regular lemoncello would just be straight liquor. However, almond or soy milk could work, though I have never tried it myself. ~Garrett

    • Nerd

      Regular limoncello is made using almost identical amounts if water instead of milk. You might want to up the sugar a little. It’s very tasty, but it’ll kick a little more. Make sure to let the simple syrup cool, otherwise the mix becomes cloudy.

  • Anna H.

    Last week I found myself with way more lemons than I can usually use (couldn’t help it, they were such a good deal!); the zest went toward this recipe, the juice toward lemon curd.

    Best. Week. Ever.

    I’d never had limoncello, crema di or otherwise, and am not much of a hard alcohol drinker–the only bottle I’ve ever bought was whiskey for homemade Irish cream a few Christmases ago. This recipe was definitely a winning way to break into both new experiences. My lemons were on the smaller side and there were losses from zest getting stuck in my box grater, so I threw in an extra. And I reduced the sugar by maybe 1/3 because my boyfriend was helping and made horrified noises when I went to pour the full 2-lb bag of sugar into the milk. Oh well. I think it turned out beautifully even with the reduced sugar, but next time (in about 75 years, once I’ve finished this batch) I’ll try the recipe with the full amount, just to see.

  • Teresa

    I’ve made this twice since last July and have given it as gifts. It is so refreshing and not something one normally is served. I make it 12 bottles at a time and always run out. Thank you for sharing the recipe.

  • Patsy

    Does anyone have any ideas for using this in desert recipes please ?

  • Scott

    I made this last week but found that the everclair was a little overpowering. Would allowing the zest and everclair to sit for a longer period lessen the bite from the everclair or should I just use half everclair and half vodka. Just curious to see if anyone encountered this

  • Melissa

    Made this last night and it seems a little lumpy. I followed all directions except couldn’t let it cool for several hours, but it did seem to be room temperature when I mixed it. Any advice? Maybe I just need to shake it really well before serving?

    • Eve

      sounds like you needed a tighter weave for straining. Shouldn’t have to shake it.

  • Jim Pat

    how do i keep milk and vodka from separating……i used 2% milk.

  • Joanie B

    Is it normal for the mixture to curdle when combining the vodka/lemons with the milk mixture? I was able to strain all the curds out, but wanted to make sure it wasn’t going to make anyone sick.

    • Elise

      Hi Joanie, curdling sometimes happens when you mix milk and acid. This recipe only uses the zest of lemons, not the pulp or juice, so there shouldn’t be any acid from lemons that would have caused curdling. But perhaps in your preparation, some lemon juice found its way into the mixture? If this is what happened, it will not make anyone sick.