Limoncello is a classic Italian liqueur that is worth a try, whether you prefer to sip it chilled or choose to sample one of these limoncello drink recipes. Whether you try it as an apéritif, a digestive or a cocktail, its sweet lemony flavor is crisp and refreshing.

Tasty Limoncello Drink Recipes

The traditional way of drinking limoncello is to serve it well chilled, neat (no ice), in a chilled cordial glass. However, that is far from the only option. Limoncello can be used in a variety of drinks, from simple tall drinks to more complex cocktails and martinis.

Limoncello Tall Drinks

Next to sipping it as a cordial, the easiest way to use limoncello is to include it in a tall drink. Fill a Collins glass with ice and add one ounce of chilled limoncello. Top off with your choice of:

  • Water
  • Unsweetened iced tea
  • Lemonade
  • Club soda or sparkling water
  • Cola
  • Cranberry juice
  • Tropical fruit punch

For a slightly fancier presentation, serve garnished with a thinly sliced lemon wheel. Fresh berries also make a good garnish with water, lemonade, or club soda.

Bacio del Limone

Italian for "lemon kiss," this fluted drink is every bit as simple as the tall drinks, but with an elegant presentation that makes it festive.

  • 4 ounces sparkling wine (chilled)
  • 1 ounce limoncello (chilled)
  • Crushed ice
  • 5-6 fresh blackberries, raspberries or currants

Place a spoonful of crushed ice in a fluted glass and top with the fresh berries. Combine the sparkling wine and limoncello in a mixing glass and stir lightly just to mix, being careful not to destroy the bubbles. Pour the mixture over the berries and ice.

Lemon Highlander

  • 1 ounce scotch
  • 1/2 ounces Drambuie
  • 1/2 oz. limoncello

Build in a rocks glass over cracked ice. Stir, and serve garnish with a twist of lemon.

Frosty Lemon Martini

  • 3 ounces citrus vodka
  • 1 ounce limoncello
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Sugar and lemon wheel for garnish

Rim a chilled cocktail glass with sugar and set aside. Combine vodka, limoncello and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker with ice, and shake briskly to chill. Strain into the prepared glass, and garnish with a lemon wheel.

Cocktail tip: Most people are used to seeing glasses rimmed in bars or restaurants. The bartender will swipe the edge of the glass with a lime or lemon, and dip the glass into salt or sugar. It’s quick and easy, but it also ends up with the edging dropping into the cocktail. Instead of dipping, roll the edge of the glass so that the edging sticks only to the outside.

The Paradiso

Part Screwdriver, part Martini, the Paradiso is cool and sophisticated.

  • 1 1/2 ounces orange vodka
  • 1/2 ounce limoncello
  • 1/2 ounce Aperol or Campari
  • 1 ounce fresh orange juice
  • Dried cranberries for garnish

Combine all ingredients except the dried cranberries in a shaker with ice, and shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with dried cranberries, either skewered on a cocktail spear or floated on the drink.

Limoncello Sunrise

Inspired by the classic Tequila Sunrise, this limoncello drink recipe is a nice change from a Bloody Mary or Mimosa for brunch. Using a liqueur instead of spirits like tequila or vodka keeps the alcohol content low.

  • 1 ounce. limoncello
  • 3 ounces fresh orange juice
  • Splash of grenadine

Fill a tall glass with ice, and add limoncello and orange juice. Stir to combine. Add a splash of grenadine but do not stir, allowing it to settle to the bottom. Serve garnished with an orange slice.

History of Limoncello

It’s impossible to say exactly who invented limoncello, but it appears to have originated in southern Italy in the early 1900s. Some stories say that it was created by the local women, who served it chilled to honored guests. Others say that the liqueur originated with the area fishermen, who sipped it in the mornings before heading out to fight the chill, or with local monks who sipped it between prayers. No matter who invented it, limoncello makes use of the big, sweet lemons grown in Sorrento, Italy and the surrounding area.

Give It a Try

If you’ve never had the pleasure of sipping limoncello before, you’ve got to give it a try. The taste of sunny Italy awaits you.