Limoncello does not need to be refrigerated because its high alcohol and sugar content safely preserves it even when it is stored at room temperature. However, limoncello is usually served well-chilled and tastes much better if it is stored in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving it. If made with alcohol that is 100 proof or higher, it may also be stored in the freezer.
High levels of sugar and alcohol allow limoncello to keep at room temperature without the need for refrigeration. To make the concoction, the zest (yellow parts of the peels) of several lemons are infused in vodka for two to six weeks. The vodka takes on the flavor and color of the lemon zest. After the infusing time, the lemon peels are strained out and a simple syrup made with sugar and water is added to the alcohol. The limoncello is then usually aged for at least a month before serving.
When to Refrigerate Limoncello
Keep limoncello in the refrigerator if you plan on serving it soon. You want the liqueur to be thoroughly chilled when you drink it. But if you have extra bottles of limoncello or will be giving them as gifts rather than drinking them right away, it is perfectly fine to store them at room temperature. Just remember to let your gift recipients know to refrigerate their limoncello before serving it.
Can I Freeze Limoncello?
If your limoncello was made with 100 proof or higher alcohol, then you can store it in the freezer. When made with a product that is 150 proof or higher, the limoncello will remain liquid even in the freezer. If 100 proof alcohol was used, the limoncello will freeze to a slushy consistency but still be quite good. Limoncello that was made with 80 proof alcohol should be stored in the refrigerator instead of the freezer.
Should I Add Ice to Limoncello?
Although limoncello is best served chilled, do not add ice to it. The bright, lemony flavor of the liqueur gets diluted as the ice melts and isn't nearly as tasty. If you have a room temperature bottle of limoncello that you need to chill quickly, put it in the freezer for 20 minutes. This is fine even if it was made with 80 proof alcohol so long as you remember to take it out of the freezer after the 20 minutes.
Leda Meredith is the author of two books, including "The Locavore's Handbook: The Busy Person's Guide to Eating Local on a Budget." Specializing in wild edible plants, she is also an instructor at the New York Botanical Garden and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.