Crema di Limoncello

Homemade limoncello! 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.

  • Prep time: 7 days
  • Cook time: 1 hour
  • 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 Infuse Everclear with lemon zest for one week: 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 Make limoncello base: 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 limoncello base with zest infused Everclear, strain and bottle: 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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  • Stephanie Rumori

    Just made this and it came out DIVINE!!! Thank you!!


  • Linda

    Made this with a group of friends. Each of us made a half portion. Bought a couple bags of lemons from Costco, they were huge and easy to zest. Everyone had their own mason jar filled with half the Everclear . It was fun to zest together. Everybody we’ve served it to raves about this limoncello . Will become a bi annual tradition for summer and holidays!


  • Ana

    Always the best!


  • Roberta

    It is wonderful. Making second batch and will keep for Summer Hot Days.

  • Jean

    Does the sharpness of the everclear improve as it ages?

    • Garrett McCord

      Hi Jean, the sugar and cream will certainly ameliorate the burn over time. However, if you don’t drink often you may notice it regardless. You can use vodka instead if that’s preferable, just be sure not to use anything too cheap or else you’ll encounter the same issue.

  • ashley

    Can you use lemon flavored vodka instead of doing the lemon zest to save time?

    • Emma Christensen

      Hi, Ashley! Emma here, managing editor. Technically, you could probably substitute lemon-flavored vodka, but the flavor wouldn’t be nearly as good as making it ourself with fresh lemon zest. I definitely recommend making it yourself!

  • Michael

    I thought this was an excellent recipe. Curious to know if this recipe was every tried with Honey? I do know that if I substitute honey for the sugar, I would have to cut the amount due to its sweetness


    • Emma Christensen

      Hi, Michael! Emma here, managing editor. What a great idea to try swapping the sugar for honey! I bet it would be fabulous and see no reason why you couldn’t make the swap. Please let us know how it turns out!

    • Garrett McCord

      I’ve seen this with raspberries and with coffee beans. You have a lot of options!

  • Frank

    I keep mine in the fridge. How long will it last in the fridge. My freezer is too packed to store it there.

    • Emma Christensen

      Hi, Frank! Emma, managing editor for Simply Recipes, here! I think it should keep well in the fridge for at least a few weeks — potentially longer. The alcohol should keep everything fairly well preserved for quite a while! You’ll tell it’s starting to go off if it starts to taste a little like sour milk.

  • Dan

    I’ve made this many times. Each time I have, I have always put it in the freezer right after I make it. My question is, can it be stored on a shelf without freezing until ready to use?

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Dan, very good question! Given that it is made with milk, my suggestion would be to keep it in the freezer. But I don’t really know. Seems safer to freeze it.

  • Len

    can you substitute vanilla extract instead of vanilla bean and if so how much?

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Len, my guess is that yes, you can substitute vanilla extract. I would use about 1 teaspoon.

  • Chris

    I know this is an old thread, but is this a recipe that can be doubled or does it need to be made in batches?? Thanks in advance!

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Chris, Dennis Kercher, the person who taught us how to make this limoncello, used to make large batches of it, so I assume it’s easy enough to scale up.

  • Avril Bull

    Hi I was wondering whether it’s safe to keep re-freezing and thawing this drink?

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Avril, that’s what we do and we haven’t had a problem.

  • 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 Bauer

      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.

  • Jim Pat

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

  • 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.

    • Rob

      It happens sometimes, usually if it’s not quite room temperature. Shaking it up good typically takes care of this. I’ve had a couple batches that this seemed to happen.

  • 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

    • Mike

      I’ve left the lemon zest sit for months with no problems.

  • Patsy

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

    • Edna

      There are recipes for making limoncello with a water and sugar mixture instead of milk and sugar. Actually, that is the traditional Italian limoncello.

  • juliemarg

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

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • Nicholas Sloanhoffer

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

  • 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.

  • Linda

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

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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

  • Jeff

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

  • 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!

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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