Opening a bottle of limoncello has a transporting effect. Like stepping into a sun-drenched citrus grove, the clouds part and the golden liquid serves as a temporary reminder that sunshine can indeed survive indoors.
Many like to take credit for creating limoncello. The intensely-flavored liqueur is produced with equal passion in multiple areas of Italy: in Sorrento, along the Amalfi coast and on the island of Capri. Limoncello is a staple apéritif after many a dinner in Italy, and most restaurants hawk their own brand. Family recipes also differ greatly: Some lean sweet while others embrace the drink’s tangy, acidic potential.
When making your own limoncello, the balance of flavors is entirely up to your palate—and the recipe couldn’t be simpler: Peel. Soak. Sweeten. Chill.
Once you taste the deeply cold results of your efforts, you’ll be making limoncello with your eyes closed. Soon you’ll want to play with other flavors. Why not riff on another warm-weather staple? The creamsicle might have begun as a childhood sweet on a stick, but its base flavors can become a very adult beverage: Bright orangecello laced with vanilla beans. The same imagination can be applied to any citrus fruit from limes to grapefruit to kumquats. It’s time to get squeezing.
A few tips to keep in mind when preparing limoncello:
- Select thick-skinned, organic lemons that don’t have wax and pesticides on the peel.
- If you can’t find organic fruit, wash and scrub lemons with hot water before peeling.
- Use high-proof alcohol like 100-proof vodka or even Everclear—higher proof means a better infusion.
- Avoid peeling the bitter white pith of the citrus, use only the peel itself.
- Keep the in-process infusion in a cool dark place.
- Start with one cup of sweetener, then taste before adding more.
Now, how to drink it? Traditionally, straight from the freezer. Limoncello benefits from a strong, frosty chill. Drink it as an after-dinner palate cleanser, shake it into a bright Limoncello Drop or marry it with gin and fresh thyme from the garden. Limoncello never resists a dance with bubbles either, and can even be served drizzled over fruit and ice cream. Shine on, you Italian stud.