Limoncello: Sorrento’s Liquid Gold

In Italy there are many alcoholic drinks that are favorites as a digestive.  To name a few are Grappa, Moscato, Vino Santo and Prosecco for example. Limoncello has become one of the world’s favorites in recent years.  Although it was well know in Italy, the world has gotten to know the deep yellow after-dinner drink of Limoncello recently. Prior to that it was produced in small productions and mainly drunk in Italy.

Although many areas of Italy produce Limoncello today, it originated in Sorrento. The oval” Sorrentino – the denomination of geographic Indication (IGP) was granted in November of 2000 and can be found on the bottles from the Sorrento region. This IGP of the Sorrento lemons opened up a whole new commercial opportunity for the area. The lemons grown in this area originally were exported, but today about 40% are sold for fresh consumption and 60% are used to make Limoncello. The Sorrento lemons are medium-large, with a thick, rough, light-yellow skin, an intense aroma and are rich in essential oils. They have a pleasant flavor with a low number of seeds. The key for Limoncello is the oil in the skin and the color of the skin, as it is just the rind that flavors and gives the rich yellow color to the liquor. The maceration of the peel with alcohol and sugar slowly develops the aroma and color.

The unique fresh taste and the aroma of Limoncello is an excellent digestive served cold. Especially after a meal with strong flavors, Limoncello refreshes the palate. The bottles are stored in the freezer and I also put the glasses in the freezer for about 10 minutes or so before serving.

Many Italians make Limoncello themselves. Along the Almalfi coast there is hardly a house that doesn’t have lemons growing in their garden.

Limoncello is used to flavor gelati and cakes, poured over fruit and can be used to with shrimp or other fish dishes.

I make Limoncello once a year and store it in our wine cellar – keeping one bottle in the freezer ready for a digestive. I have prepared bottles as gifts to give friends who come to visit or for Christmas gifts. Very small bottles can be made as favors for a wedding or parties. One recipe goes a long way. It is a different idea that makes people really happy.


Recipe Summary

Prep time:  30 minutes
Cook time: N/A
Yield: 1 1/2 quarts

9 large lemons
4/5th bottle Vodka
3 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar

Wash the lemons and using a vegetable peeler remove the skins making sure that you do not remove the white part of the lemon.

In a large jar, place the skins and the vodka and seal tightly. Place the bottle in a cool location for 3 weeks or more.

Remove the lemon skins, strain the liquid and add the sugar and water.  Allow the mixture to stand outside the refrigerator for about 2 days or until the sugar is dissolved. Pour the Limoncello into bottles and store in the refrigerator or freezer.

When serving the Limoncello, put the glasses in the freezer for about 10 minutes and pour the Limoncello into the ice cold glass.  It is served as an after dinner drink.

For those who would like to read the history and legends of Limoncello, view the following web site.

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