Eager to try a typical Italian beverage that is sure to keep you feeling refreshed no matter the time of year? Look no further than limoncello for a tangy and refreshing taste that is typical of southern Italy. Limoncello is a liqueur made from lemon, vodka, sugar, and water. Though the ingredients may be simple, the incredible flavors of the finished product will surely please your taste buds. Want to learn more about the origins of this traditional drink and how it is made? Read on to find out the magic behind limoncello!
If you’ve visited Italy, you probably have eaten lemon in the form of custards, chocolate, tarts, sorbet, gelato, even just as a garnish or flavoring for seafood dishes. All of the above are excellent ways to experience delectable Italian lemons. However, possibly the most famous of all is lemon served in the form of a sugary, bittersweet liquor, known as limoncello.
When Do Italians Drink Limoncello
Limoncello is the perfect companion after meals or on a sunny afternoon. Only prerequisite: You gotta love lemons!
Typically, limoncello is served following a meal at a traditional restaurant or within the walls (or on the patio) of the Italian home. Lemon is known to aid in digestion, which is why this delicious beverage it is often served after lunch or dinner as a tasty treat. Sometimes, it is also paired with small cookies or tarts. The correct way to serve limoncello is chilled, in a small glass. In fact, most bottles are stored in the freezer so that when the liquid is served, it goes down more smoothly.
Although limoncello is usually served in a shot glass or what some refer to as a “shooter”, the sweet drink is to be sipped, not taken as a shot. However, this is not a hard feat to accomplish because once you taste this delicious drink, you will want to take your time to enjoy every last drop.
The Origins of Limoncello
In Northern Italy, limoncello may be also referred to as limoncino. There is much debate about where exactly the liquor originated, but it is certain that the beverage has been around for at least 100 years. Traditionally, it is produced with the zest of a certain type of lemon, known now as Sorrento lemons, or limone di Sorrento, which come from the beautiful region of Campania located in southern Italy.
Sicily, Sorrento, and the Island of Capri are notorious for their fertile soil and lemon production. Since healthy soil and a prosperous harvest come hand in hand, it is thought that these beautiful southern locations produce the very best lemons in all of Italy.
The Role of Lemons in Italian Culture
Lemons are literally everywhere in Italian culture, not only in a glass of limoncello, and they get more prolific as you head further south
Lemons are revered in the Italian culture, as they are very sustainable. In addition to aiding in digestion after a large Italian meal, lemons also have many health benefits. Some of these advantages include being a great source of vitamin C and antioxidants, which are vital to a healthy immune system. But that’s not all- lemons also provide folate, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, calcium, and high amounts of the compound limonin, which is said to have cancer-fighting properties.
Have we convinced you to have a glass of limoncello yet? Needless to say, the next time you are enjoying a delicious meal and the server brings limoncello to your table, bottoms up! Just kidding, make sure to sip it slowly and enjoy knowing all the health benefits that you will be receiving from the delectable and bittersweet lemon nectar.
Limoncello’s & Its Myriad Varieties
While shopping for the perfect bottle of limoncello in your local Italian grocery store or market, you may be surprised to encounter several other variations of this delicious beverage. Though these alternative drinks are typically made through the same process as limoncello, they are created with other locally grown fruits in Italy. For example, melons can be used to make meloncello, pistachios for pistachiocello, arancello from oranges, fragoncello from strawberries, and even crema di limoncello, which is a less-alcoholic version with milk added.
How the Pros Make Limoncello
First, to start the fermentation process, lemon zest is added to either vodka or grappa, a grape-based alcoholic beverage of Italian origin. After letting the mixture sit in a cold, dark room for a given number of days, simple syrup is added. Then, it is time to wait again until it mixture is ready to be served! The variations in strength and flavor between different types of limoncello most typically lie in the concentration of sugar and water, or the ratio of the two. Typically, the alcohol content of limoncello lies between 25% and 30%.
Your Very Own Limoncello Recipe
Making your own limoncello is easier than you think, though it does take a little time. If you’ve got Italian origins just think that your doing what generations of your ancestors did in the home country
Here’s a full recipe to make your own traditional Italian limoncello at home. If you’re not in Italy, you will have to use lemons from your lemon tree, local grocery store or farmer’s market, but you can at least follow the traditional process which is quite simple. Remember, the sweeter the lemons the better. After the long but rewarding process, you’ll be able to enjoy your tasty and refreshing drink knowing that you made it yourself like a pro. Plus, you’ll be able to share a wonderful, not to mention delicious, part of Italy with your family and friends. You can even throw a dinner party and serve it at the end of the meal like the Italians do. Take a look at the recipe below to get started on your very own batch of homemade limoncello:
15 organic, thick-skinned lemons
50 fluid ounces of 100-proof vodka
4 cups sugar
5 cups water
Thoroughly wash the lemons.
Zest the lemons, being careful to only use the very outer, yellow part of the rind (the white part underneath the rind will spoil your limoncello).
Put the vodka in a large glass jar or vat.
As the lemon is zested, continually add it to the jar of vodka.
After you’ve added all the zest, cover the jar and let it sit in a cool, dark room for at least 10 days, maximum of 40 days. The longer you wait, the better the taste will be! During the “fermentation” process, the vodka will take on the yellow color from the zest.
Make your simple syrup by combining 4 cups of sugar to 5 cups of water in a large saucepan, bring to a gentle boil, and let it continue to boil for 5 to 7 minutes. Then remove from heat and let it cool before you add it to your “fermented” limoncello mixture.
Once added to the mixture, the jar should be re-covered and allow it to sit for another 10 to 40 days (I know, I know- it’s a process!).
Finally, using cheesecloth or coffee filters, strain the mixture to remove all the lemon zest and discard of it. You may then put the mixture into glass bottles or jars and then store it in the freezer until it is ready to be served! It will not freeze, because of the alcohol, but this will allow it to be served at the perfect temperature when you are ready!
A Final Thought on Your Passion for Limoncello
Limoncello is truly one of life’s simple pleasures, so sit back and enjoy one on the house, or one you made yourself!
Though the process may be lengthy, tasting your very own limoncello for the first time will surely be worth all your hard work! However, don’t worry if you don’t have the time to complete this process because there are many other easy ways to try this delectable beverage! For one, you can simply order a glass at your favorite Italian restaurant after a meal, or pick up a bottle or two on your next trip to Italy to try it for yourself. Enjoy!
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