Dennis Bartelmo

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Dennis Bartelmo, born into a humble, middle class Italian-Irish family, is the youngest of eleven children. Immersed into the world of Italian cooking at a young age by his father, Vincent, he grew passionate about flavor. By observing his father, he was able to learn the proper way to combine ingredients to create palate-pleasing foods and drinks. Now, using the technique taught to him by his father, he wants to share the exquisite Bartelmo family limoncello with the world. Not only does this process allow the limoncello to reach its full potential in color and flavor, but it also allows the drink to work as an excellent palate cleanser.

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What is Limoncello?

Glad you asked. (And after you try some, you're going to be glad too.). A lemon-based liqueur and an increasingly popular cocktail ingredient, Limoncello offers a strong lemon flavor but minus the sour bitterness often found in lemon juice. It's usually enjoyed as a flavorful after-dinner aperitif, frequently cited in aiding digestion.
Where's it come from? Good question. There's actually a bit of a mystery about the precise origin of Limoncello. It mostly hails from Southern Italy, particularly the Sorrentine Peninsula, the Amalfi Coast and the Gulf of Naples. You can likewise find Limoncello produced in Sicily and Sardinia, as well as on smaller islands like Capri, Ischia and Procida. Outside of Italy, it also originates from other Mediterranean locales such as the Menton region of the French Riviera and the island of Gozo in Malta. But its true origins? Nobody knows.
Ooh, a mystery! I like that. Tell me more.
What good mystery doesn't involve 17th-Century nuns from an Italian convent? The residents of that Salerno nunnery included Limoncello in a recipe for the popular pastry sfogliatella. But wait! There's also a centuries-old tradition of Neapolitan fishermen drinking Limoncello to fight off the winter shivers, and legends of soldiers in the region using it for effective liquid courage.
Meanwhile, an innkeeper in Capri named Vincenza Canale is known to have served it regularly to guests in the late 1800s as an after-dinner digestive. Canale maintained that it came from an "old family recipe" -- but exactly how old remains up for debate.

How's Limoncello made?

Limoncello is likely hundreds of years old, but manufacturing it remains quite specific, so its creation hasn't changed much over the centuries. Despite that, compared to other alcoholic beverages (such as wine, or beer) it remains a fairly simple process.
So, using this unusually sweet outer peel but not the bitter white pith underneath, producers steep the zest in grain alcohol for up to three months. Once the fruit's oil gets released, it producing a yellow liquid that's then mixed with a carefully sweetened syrup. By varying the temperatures of these two liquids, manufacturers can create a diversity of results, affecting both thickness and clarity. (For example, opaque Limoncellos result from instant emulsification of the oils and syrup, the so-called "Ouzo Effect".)
However, because of its recent surge in popularity outside of Italy (where it remains the nation's second-most favored liqueur), manufacturers in the United States, such as those in the agricultural regions of California, have begun to produce their own domestic Limoncello. Manufacturers outside of Italy sometimes use Meyer lemons, a Chinese-originated cross between lemons and mandarin origins. Though they're not quite a match for Sorrento lemons, they've recently gained popularity after California fusion chefs rediscovered them and Martha Stewart began featuring them in her recipes.

Serving Limoncello

As a liqueur, one of Limoncello's main uses arises as a killer cocktail ingredient, a secret weapon to brighten up the likes of vodka and champagne -- though it's also a fantastic accent drizzled on desserts like gelato or ice cream.
When paired with dessert as an aperitif, it's always sipped and savored rather than gulped, as the experience of Limoncello remains nearly as important as the liqueur itself. It already offers a slightly phosphorescent glow to give it an exotic appeal; and, when served abroad, you'll find local touches added in to further enhance the presentation. In Naples, for example, where the region has become celebrated for its famed ceramic works, the drink usually appears in delightful little cups that make for a nice keepsake of the visit that you can use when you later serve Limoncello at home. Just remember to store the liqueur bottle in the freezer after opening, so that it's ready to go as a chilled digestive as the need arises.
Limoncello remains generally lighter than other aperitifs, meaning you'll find a tangy taste that's well-balanced between acidity and sweetness, rather than a bitter or tart taste on the tongue. That makes it a refreshing alternative to the likes of Sambuca's powerful anise; it's also something to look forward to when partnering it with desserts, such as fluffy pastries, which are often sweet enough as crafted and don't need overwhelming syrupy assistance.

Need a good Limoncello cocktail recipe? Here ya go!

Many liqueurs have lower alcohol content than spirits, but Limoncello is often not one of them, so be careful. For example, Bartelmo Limoncello represents the highest alcohol content of any Limoncello produced in the United States. Regardless of the brand, however, Limoncello remains a highly presentable drink capable of some great visual flair.
[service icon="fire" title="LEMONADE LIMONCELLO"]It's Limoncello, so why not go with lemons, right? This one's good served chilled straight up, but it can also be paired with creams or other mixers to create great rainbow effects. And don't forget to dress it in an umbrella!
All you'll need are water, lemon juice, sugar, vodka and, of course, Bartelmo Limoncello. [/service][service icon="check" title="Ingredients:"]
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups lemon juice
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 4 ounces vodka (citric-flavored vodkas do great here)
  • 4 ounces Bartelmo Limoncello
[/service][service icon="dashboard" title=""]Simply heat the water and sugar in a sauce pan until the sugar dissolves, then chill into syrup. Add the lemon juice, vodka and Limoncello, then ice and stir. Add some fresh lemon slices to the pitcher or serve with a lemon twist for extra spark![/service]

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