Limoncello Revamped

No longer just for sipping neat at a cafe on the Tiber, this versatile ingredient can add the perfect punch of sour and sweetness to your seasonal cocktails.

Don’t let your limoncello languish in the freezer. Sweet and tart, it’s a natural cocktail enhancer, adding a hit of citrus brightness to your winter cocktails. Talented mixologists from around the country shared their best limoncello-laden cocktails.

Nostrana Restaurant, Portland, Oregon

Nostrana’s former bar manager, Douglas Derrick, makes limoncello by hanging lemons above alcohol, rather than steeping them in it. The New York Times Magazine gave a rundown of his technique in their Case Study, Presto Chango Limoncello piece. Nostrano serves the house-made limoncello straight up and in cocktails such as this one, which Derrick says is “strong but girly,” hence the name. He suggests serving it as an aperitif.

Rosie the Riveter

1 ounce limoncello
½ ounce Peychaud’s bitters
¾ ounce honey syrup (1 cup honey dissolved into ⅓ cup water)
3 ounces Brut Prosecco

Pour cold limoncello into a chilled flute. Add Peychaud’s and honey syrup.  Top with cold prosecco.

Dead Rabbit, New York City

Joanne Spiegel, bartender and Taproom manager at Dead Rabbit in lower Manhattan, created this drink as the perfect transition between seasons. “The limoncello adds brightness; the lemon and ginger feel perfect for spring,” she says, “but the clove keeps you rooted in winter. It’s perfectly versatile.”

A Little Sunshine

1 ounce limoncello
1 ½ ounces Knappogue Castle 12-year whiskey
½ ounce clove syrup (recipe below)
½ ounce lemon juice
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
2 ounces ginger beer
Mint sprig, for garnish
Candied ginger, for garnish

Add the limoncello, whiskey, clove syrup, lemon juice and bitters to a shaker filled with ice. Shake and strain into an ice-filled glass. Top with ginger beer, and garnish with slices of candied ginger and a sprig of mint.

Clove Syrup

1 tablespoon whole cloves
1 cup cane sugar

Bring 1 cup of hot water, sugar and cloves to a boil, and stir until sugar has dissolved. Strain. Allow to cool.

Industry City LimoncelloIndustry City Distillery, Brooklyn, New York

This vodka distillery makes Technical Reserve, which, they like to point out, is “the highest maximum proof spirit in the world.” What to do with it? Make limoncello, of course! Reserve a seat in their tasting room, open Fridays and Saturdays from 4–11pm, where they pour limoncello straight, or turn it into this warm, comforting, dead-simple drink.

Chilly Bee

1 ounce limoncello
⅔ ounce lemon juice
⅓ ginger juice
1 lemon wheel, for garnish

Add all ingredients to a mug. Top with hot water and garnish with a lemon wheel.

Ribalta, New York City

Mixologist Tania Garofalo serves this delicate, cocoa-and-lemon cocktail at the casual pizza parlor Ribalta, and named it after the Roberto Benigni movie for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1999. (She admires the main character’s “wonderful sense of humor.”)

Life Is Beautiful

1½ ounces caçhaca
¾ ounce limoncello
¾ ounce Demerara syrup (1 cup Demerara sugar dissolved into 1 cup water)
1 egg white
1 dash Angostura bitters
Lime zest, for garnish

Add the cachaça, limoncello, Demerara syrup and egg white to a shaker and shake vigorously and without ice.  Add ice and shake again, until foam forms. Pour in a coupe glass, and add a dash of bitters. Top with lime zest.

Bar Mia, San Francisco

“When I think about the winter season, I think about a snowy day with the family by the fireplace,” says Bar Mia head bartender Adam Mardigras, who had that scene in mind when creating this limoncello cocktail. “It’s a mojito, a hot toddy, and a ‘beautiful’ all in one.”

Hottie Meets Toddy

½ ounce Grand Marnier
1 ounce limoncello
1½ ounces Applejack brandy
¾ ounce lime juice
½ ounce warm apple cider
2 mint sprigs, for garnish
Lemon wheel, for garnish
6 whole cloves, for garnish

Add 1 cup of hot water to snifter and swirl to distribute heat. Discard water. Add all ingredients except for garnish to the snifter and stir. Add 1 cup hot water. Garnish with mint and lemon wheel, pierced with cloves.

Help Save The Bees | Rethinking LimoncelloCUT, Los Angeles

CUT chef and partner Lee Hefter conceived this cocktail in order to bring awareness to Colony Collapse Disorder.  “Bees pollinate over 50 percent of the crops in the US,” he says. “These are the crops we use to make wine, and to cook the food we serve our guests daily.”

Help Save the Bees

1 ounce lavender-thyme honey syrup (recipe below)
1½ ounces citrus vodka
½ ounce limoncello
¾ ounce lemon juice
Dash lemon bitters
3 ounces club soda

Stir together the honey syrup, vodka, limoncello, lemon juice, and bitters. Strain and serve over ice into a Collins-style glass.  Top with soda.

Thyme-Lavender Syrup

¼ cup honey
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon dried lavender
2 sprigs thyme, bruised
Bring 1 cup water and all ingredients to a simmer. Steep for 10 minutes and strain.

Rivea, Las Vegas

Rivea, a new bar atop Delano Las Vegas, is a collaboration between Alain Ducasse and Proprietors LLC (aka David Kaplan, Alex Day and Devon Tarby, also of Death & Co). So you know the cocktail game is going to be on point.


1½ ounce dry vermouth
1 ounce limoncello
½ ounce grappa
¾ ounce lemon juice
¼ ounce simple syrup

Pour all ingredients into a shaker filled with ice. Shake and strain into collins glass over ice. Garnish with thyme sprig.

SoBou, New Orleans

In the Commander’s Palace restaurant family, SoBou is like the spirited little sister—one who takes her cocktails very seriously. The new “bar chef” Laura Bellucci invented this chocolatey, lemony cocktail.

Black as the Night, Sweet as Sin

¾ ounce limoncello
¾ ounce coffee liqueur ¾ ounce lemon-peel oleo saccharum (recipe below)
Dash fresh lemon juice
1 shot iced espresso
2 drops The Bitter Truth Spiced Chocolate Bitters
Lemon peel, for garnish
Chocolate-covered espresso beans, for garnish

Add all ingredients to a shaker. Shake and strain into a martini glass, garnish with lemon peel and espresso beans.

Lemon-Peel Oleo Saccharum

1 lemon, peeled
½ cup sugar

Place the peel in a gallon-size sealable plastic bag. Add sugar and massage the bag to break down the peels for 1–2 minutes, until the sugar looks moistened. Place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours and up to overnight. The sugar will dissolve into a syrup.

Published on December 30, 2015
Topics: Cocktail Recipes, Limoncello, Liqueur

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