Limoncello is a distinctly Italian liqueur although some fine examples are being produced in other countries, including the UK. It breathes la dolce vita, offering its drinkers refreshment, relaxation and an aid to digestion. The spirit is typically enjoyed straight from the freezer after a meal but is also the base of many a summertime cocktail, usually poured over crushed ice.
What is limoncello?
Just where and when limoncello was born is up for debate. There are competing claims from many corners of the Italian peninsula and its surrounding islands. The people of Capri maintain the liqueur was first distilled on their island in the early 1900s. Anyone from Sorrento will tell you they were the first, in 1890, while over in Amalfi you’ll hear other stories about its provenance.
What we do know for sure is that, wherever the spirit came from, it is to this day inextricably linked to all these three regions of Italy. However, Amalfi is the current torchbearer, on account of its superior lemons. Sfusato lemons, also known as Sfusato Amalfitano, were brought to the Amalfi coast from the Middle East some centuries ago and they are perfect for making limoncello.
The most notable feature of the Sfusato is that it grows to twice the size of your average lemon, ideal for when you’re bottling thousands of litres of lemon liqueur. It is also known for its thick, aromatic and oily skin and its sensationally low acidity – so low, they are often eaten in salads.
The best limoncello to buy in the UK
Here, we’ve rounded up the best limoncellos available, ranging from revived family recipes from Amalfi to a Cornwall-based brand. Whether you like them sweet and juicy, or bitter, there’s something here for everyone. So, make some space in the freezer, grab yourself a short glass and a place in the sun.
Luxardo limoncello (27% ABV)
Try this signature bottle from one of the continent’s oldest liqueur makers. This timeless expression by Luxardo is still, for the most part, made to the same family recipe that was first sold in 1905. It is a definitive limoncello, bursting with freshness, and it makes the perfect cello gimlet. Read our full Luxardo limoncello review.
Terra Di Limoni, limoncello di Amalfi (25% ABV)
Terra di Limoni has been producing limoncello since the 1980s but the firm’s parent company has been trading in Amalfi lemons for nearly a century, and the flavour of them sings in this bottle. It is a limoncello that is as juicy as it is balanced, presenting with a lemon sherbet profile and long finish that is satisfying and refreshing. Read our full Terra Di Limoni limoncello review.
Manly Spirits Co, Zesty Limoncello (23% ABV)
Limoncello served from the surf. This Australian distillery has perfected the art of the cool and refreshing with its line of spirits. This limoncello is lovingly handcrafted to an Amalfi recipe using freshly foraged, hand-peeled lemons, infused with a grain spirit for a juicy and revitalizing tipple. Read our full Manly Spirits limoncello review.
Staibano limoncello (25% ABV)
We all love a romantic story behind our booze and Staibano delivers on this in abundance. This liqueur brand was founded by the great-grandson of one of Amalfi’s foremost limoncello distillers, and you can tell why this recipe stood the test of time. It is made using the local lemons and delicately balances bitter, sweet and sherbet notes. Read our full Staibano limoncello review.
Tosolini limoncello (28% ABV)
Creamy, zesty and incredibly moreish – this limoncello hits all the right notes and comes courtesy of one of Italy’s most influential distilleries, a company that has been getting it right and for a very long time. Read our full Tosolini limoncello review.
Dolce Cilento limoncello (25% ABV)
This multi-award-winning limoncello is about as fresh as they come. Amalfi lemons are infused within two hours of harvest to maximise flavour and combat sourness. The complex palate hints at nutmeg and vanilla alongside the usual juicy lemon flavours for a very clean and refreshing tipple. Read our full Dolce Cilento limoncello review.
Pallini limoncello (26% ABV)
An historic limoncello that has stood the test of time for reasons that become evident in the drinking. A traditional recipe is made using modern techniques to produce a supremely balanced and moreish liqueur, and the result is creamy and juicy and full of nuance. Read our full Pallini limoncello review.
Saint Ives Liquor Company limoncello (22% ABV)
This Cornish limoncello flips traditional Amalfi recipes on their head. It is a bitter, still and very refreshing version, unique as it is moreish. It’s impossible to have just one glass. Read our full Saint Ives Liquor Company limoncello review.
Katsaros limoncello (22% ABV)
The world’s oldest ouzo distillery is behind this Mediterranean delight. Juicy, delicate and floral with hints of ouzo-like anise, this one is perfectly matched with ice cream and sweet pastries. Try it with some baklava. Read our full Katsaros limoncello review.
Strega limoncello di Sorrento (30% ABV)
Strega aren’t known primarily for their limoncello but they could be. This well balanced, juicy and waxy affair is smooth, refreshing and perfect for washing down a big meal. Read our full Strega limoncello di Sorrento review.
How to serve limoncello
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This review was last updated in August 2020. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.