Luscious Limoncello

Traditional and surprising new twists on Italy’s favorite before- and after-dinner drink.



Limoncello, the übersippable, tart and tangy liqueur, is a superb way to start or end a meal, but what about berrycello, cherrycello or even fennelcello? Innovative mixologists are mixing and macerating all kinds of fruits and herbs to create new riffs on the Italian classic.

At the upscale rustic Italian restaurant Bibiana Osteria-Enoteca in Washington, D.C., Wine Director Michael King keeps his cocktail menu Italian-focused, regularly offering classic as well as new and improved cellos. Tempt your taste buds with vanilla citrus, mandarin orange, cherry, fennel and peach. Guests can opt for flights of three ($10) or five ($15).

Executive Chef Vincenzo Scarmiglia offers patrons of Sirio Ristorante, at the Aria Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, eclectic flavors inspired by his grandmother’s recipes. Diners can also order one ($10), three ($25) or five ($35) cello flavors, served with a dessert: Earthy trufflecello is the most popular, served with a chocolate brownie; berrycello, partnered with raspberry vacherin and crème Anglaise; cocoacello, which comes with cocoa nib cookies; tangerinecello gets a plate of polenta cookies; and classic limoncello tempts with a flaky coconut macaroon.

While cellos are typically served neat or on the rocks, they are also a welcome addition to the cocktail shaker, adding both sweet and sour elements to a tipple. At Alba Restaurant & Wine Bar, in Boulder, Colorado, bartender Russell Olsen devotes an entire section of the cocktail menu to limoncello-based drinks. Tiny’s Arnold Palmer ($8) combines the Italian classic with iced tea and lemonade. When a cello or cello cocktail recipe calls for simple syrup, owner Rick Stein recommends starting with about half of the recommended amount and adding more gradually, to taste.

DIY Limoncello

If you are ready to dive into crafting cellos at home, limoncello is the classic way to start. It’s fresh, zesty and miles above the many store-bought bottles that tend to taste like floor cleaner.


Classic Limoncello

Recipe courtesy Bill Lenz, home cocktailian in Oak Hill, Virginia

Make bottles of this liqueur to serve to guests or give as holiday gifts. Be sure to attach a recipe card (preferably with a festive ribbon). If you can’t buy grain alcohol in your state, substitute it with the highest proof vodka you can find, which will extract the most amount of lemon flavor.

7–8 lemons
1 (750-ml) bottle of Everclear, or another grain alcohol
Simple syrup (recipe below)

Using a peeler or a knife, peel the lemons, being careful not to remove the pith. Place the lemon peels into a large Mason jar, add the grain alcohol and seal the jar tightly. Store the mixture in a cool, dark place for at least a month, shaking the jar every few days to incorporate the ingredients.

After a month or so, pour the infused alcohol over a cheesecloth or a strainer. Add the prepared simple syrup into the alcohol, and stir to combine. Bottle the limoncello in glass bottles with stoppers, and store it in the freezer. Yields approximately 25 ounces.

Simple Syrup

2 cups sugar
4 cups water

Combine the sugar and water in a medium saucepan set over high heat. Let mixture boil until the sugar dissolves, stirring frequently. Let cool before using in a cocktail.


Vanilla Citrus Cello

Recipe courtesy Michael King, wine director at Bibiana Osteria-Enoteca, Washington, D.C.

In this limoncello variant, vanilla beans add a soft, round quality that offsets the tangy lemon flavor, and the addition of oranges brighten the liqueur. “Make your cellos when the fruits are in season, at the height of flavor,” suggests King. He points to mint, basil and arugula as especially flavorful cello components.

9 lemons
2 oranges
4 vanilla beans
2 (750-ml) bottles of Everclear, or 100-proof vodka
Simple syrup (recipe below)

Using a zester or a knife, peel the lemons, being careful not to remove the pith, and place the peels in a clean, leak-proof jar. Split the vanilla beans, and scrape the seeds into the jar. Add the Everclear, stir and place in a cool, dark place, shaking the mixture once a day to incorporate the ingredients and extract the most flavor.

After 40 days, pour the infused alcohol over a cheesecloth or fine strainer, add the simple syrup, and stir to combine. Pour the cello into bottles with tight stoppers, and allow the mixture to set for a week before drinking to further incorporate the flavors. Yields approximately 68 ounces.

Simple Syrup

4½ cups sugar
5 cups water

Combine the sugar and water in a medium saucepan set over high heat. Let mixture boil until the sugar dissolves, stirring frequently. Let cool before using in a cocktail.


Fennelcello

Recipe courtesy Michael King, wine director at Bibiana Osteria-Enoteca, Washington, D.C.

Three fennel components—bulbs, fronds and toasted seeds—ramp up this liqueur’s herbal overtones; star anise pods lend an exotic baking-spice aroma.

2 tablespoons fennel seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
2 star anise pods
2 fennel bulbs, cleaned and halved
½ cup fennel fronds
2 (750-ml) bottles of Everclear, or 100-proof vodka

Toast the fennel seeds, coriander seeds and star anise pods in a pan set over medium heat, and let cook until you begin to smell the spices. Next, add the seeds and pods to a clean jar along with the fennel, fennel fronds and Everclear. Stir the mixture, and place in a cool, dark place, shaking it once a day to incorporate the ingredients and extract the most flavor.

After 40 days, pour the infused alcohol over a cheesecloth or a fine strainer. Add the simple syrup and stir to combine. Pour the cello into bottles with tight stoppers, and allow the mixture to set for a week before drinking, to further incorporate the flavors. Yields approximately 68 ounces.

Simple Syrup

4½ cups sugar
5 cups water

Combine the sugar and water in a medium saucepan set over high heat. Let mixture boil until the sugar dissolves, stirring frequently. Let cool before using in a cocktail.


Lemon Spritz

Recipe courtesy Russell Olsen, bartender at Alba Restaurant & Wine Bar, Boulder, CO

Limoncello mixes especially well with sparkling wine, as the bubbles act as a conduit to deliver citrusy aromatics. The inclusion of Aperol adds a touch of bitterness. This drink is a great start to a cocktail or dinner party.

1 orange slice, plus 1 slice for garnish
½ ounce limoncello
2½ ounces Prosecco
Splash of soda water
1½ ounces Aperol

Fill a white wine glass with ice and drop in 1 orange slice. Add the limoncello, followed by the Prosecco and a splash of soda water. Top with the Aperol, and garnish with 1 orange slice.

Edit Module
Edit Module

Related Articles

Drink Well, Do Good

Pour with purpose with these do-good bottles.

Top 25 Beers of 2014

A hearty "prost!" to our favorite brews.

Top 50 Spirits of 2014

Standouts from the spirit realm.

The Enthusiast 100 of 2014

Our top picks of the year.
Edit Module
Edit Module

Subscribe

You can unsubscribe at any time. View an example of our newsletter.

Edit Module

Shop

Edit Module
>
Edit Module
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit Module

Related Web Articles