My niece traveled around Europe this summer and all I got was…a thoughtful gift of limoncello.
Most of this Italian lemon liqueur is produced in Southern Italy, but my gift was produced at the Cavalin Distillery, in the heart of the Veneto region. The Sorrento lemon is often used, but the varieties vary by region.
The ingredients are pretty simple – lemon rinds, alcohol, water and sugar. It tends to be bright yellow, bordering on fluorescent. No lemon juice is used, so it’s fairly sweet. I came across a recipe to make it at home from Giada De Laurentiis, but the process she recommends won’t extract a lot of flavor from the rinds. Most vodkas on the market are around 80 proof and you really need to start with alcohol in the 90s to extract all the oils. Yes, I realize vodka is easier to come by than moonshine, but your choice of base alcohol will impact the final flavor of your product.
I recently met Lisa Averbuch, founder of Loft Organic Liqueurs. She liked limoncello so much, she started a whole line of liqueurs made in the same way. She produces fun flavors like Spicy Ginger Cello, Lavender Cello and Lemongrass Cello. She purchases her alcohol at a very high proof and through the addition of various flavoring ingredients, gets all of her liqueurs down to 25% abv.
Her products, just like limoncello, can be used as an aperitif, as a digestive or as a fun mixer in cocktails.