“Can I offer you a shot of Limoncello?” This is a question you will be frequently asked by your waiter at the end of a meal in any restaurant in Italy, especially in summer and in the south. Sipping this deliciously fragrant beverage after a cup of espresso is for many the ideal conclusion of a local meal. But why is limoncello so special? Learn more about one of Italy’s most refreshing beverages in this guide.
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Who Invented Limoncello?
The origin of the iconic “Limoncello” liqueur is debated between Sorrento, Amalfi and Capri.
From historical sources, we learn that limoncello was invented in Capri at the beginning of 1900 by Signora Maria Antonia Farace, who used the lemons from her garden to make a delicious tipple. After World War II, her grandson opened a restaurant where the house specialty was the lemon liqueur made from his grandmother’s recipe. The grandson’s son, Massimo Canale, registered the brand in 1988, and limoncello was thus officially consecrated as the typical liqueur of the area.
According to a different version of the tradition, it was some monks of a small convent in Amalfi who produced the lemon liqueur for the first time and used to sip it between prayers.
On the other hand, the people from Sorrento guarantee that their town is definitely the birthplace of Limoncello and that in early 1900 all the noble families of the Sorrento peninsula had always a bottle at home to be offered to visitors and friends.
What’s certain is that this simple and tasty beverage has become popular all over the world. In the 1980s, it was in extremely high demand to be industrially produced and marketed, but domestic production is still preferred by authentic limoncello lovers.
How is Limoncello made?
Making limoncello in Italy is far more complicated than you’d think. To start with, you need I.G.P. Lemon of Sorrento (Protected Geographical Indication) that is a “femminello” lemon, produced only in the Sorrento peninsula and on the Capri island. Its particularly thick and scented rind releases all of its essential oils in alcohol. Then, you need the exact balance of sugar and hot water to make a syrup. Add this to the mix and allow it to rest for around one month. Degree of ripeness of the lemons, infusion time, temperature and balance of ingredients are of extreme importance, to such an extent that almost every family in the Sorrento-Amalfi area, but also in other Italian regions, keeps its traditional recipe.
If you want to learn all the secrets on how to produce limoncello, consider join our Limoncello Farm & Cooking Class Day Trip. This trip is a unique opportunity to taste Limoncello, enjoy a cooking class with an Italian Nonna (Grandma) and discover what is behind this celebrated beverage, all in one day. Contact our travel planning advisors to coordinate your delicious excursion.
How to use Limoncello
In Italy, this invigorating liqueur is usually served at the end of lunch and dinner, especially in summer and on top of fish meals, because it cleanses the palate and stimulates digestion. Very importantly, keep the bottle in the freezer and serve the Limoncello cold, even better if served in a frozen glass. The liquid will not freeze, since it has alcohol in it. This will also ensure long-term storage.
If you wish to welcome unexpected guests in a friendly way, take the limoncello bottle out of the refrigerator and serve it pure or add cold tonic water to get a refreshing taste. Its alcoholic content ranges from 30% to 50%, but thanks to its sweetness, even moderate drinkers can enjoy it.
After dinner, you can have an original long drink if you add some limoncello to a glass of Prosecco or Champagne, and you can pour some lemon liqueur on your favorite ice cream as a tempting dessert. Try it also over strawberries or fruit salad, where lemon scent will come out at its best.
Variants of Limoncello
Other Italian regions produce their own variants of limoncello with their local lemons.
In Liguria they produce limoncino exclusively from Ligurian lemons from the Riviera or the Cinque Terre. In Calabria, they use lemons from the Calabrian coast, especially the renowned Limone di Rocca Imperiale, which was appointed the status of IGP in 2011.
In all regions, the artisans of limoncello have created new recipes: limoncello chocolate, crema di limoncello (a creamy variant made by adding milk and/or cream), biscuits, cakes (for example the famous Caprese in a white chocolate version with Limoncello), all versions where the star is still the lemon, this masterpiece gift from nature.
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