Making limoncello is a family tradition for Liz Williams, founder of the Southern Food and Beverage Museum and host of the Tip of the Tongue podcast. During our interview, she said, “I am sitting at my kitchen counter looking at a container of lemon peels soaking in grappa.” Liz learned this recipe, as well as many others, from her Sicilian grandmother. They are featured in her new cookbook coming out this month, “Nonna’s Creole Italian Table,” a collection of Sicilian New Orleans family recipes. While growing up in New Orleans, Liz’s table differed from that of other New Orleans friends. “We grew our own vegetables like cardoons, arugula, radicchio, fennel. We ate capers regularly…I didn’t know everybody didn’t eat them!” Another Sicilian tradition that many New Orleans embrace now is the Saint Joseph’s altar, one of which remains on display at the museum. All of these traditions are celebrated in her cookbook. Her grandmother would be proud. 


10 lemons

1 bottle neutral flavored vodka or grappa

3 cups filtered water

2 ½ cups sugar

Bottles with caps for storing

1. Wash and dry lemons to remove any dirt or residue. Peel zest as thin as possible to avoid the bitter pith. Lemons can be saved for another use.

2. Place the peels into a clean half gallon glass jar. Pour the spirits into the jar and replace the lid. Store at room temperature out of direct sunlight for 7 days or up to 30 days.  

3. Heat water in a pot until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat. When the syrup reaches room temperature pour into the jar of vodka. Let steep together for 24 hours.  

4. Strain the mixture and discard the peels. If the mixture is cloudy, pour through a coffee filter sitting in a sieve.

5. Fill bottles with the limoncello and cap. Allow limoncello to age out of the light at least 2 weeks, then store in the freezer. Serve very cold in shot glasses.

  1. Liz often replaces half of the lemons with other citrus like kumquats. It’s the same recipe but offers a slightly different flavor.
  2. You can use different spirits, like bourbon or rum in place of grappa.
  3. Liz often uses limoncello in cocktails in place of orange liqueurs like Cointreau.