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.
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]