As a self-proclaimed connoisseur and purveyor of all things delicious, I was more than on board when Angela proposed a trip last to the Côte d’ Azur and Riviera (aka the tour de limoncello). I could talk you to all day about eating nearly a metric tonne of pasta and cheese, but I must share our story of limoncello.
We drank ALL the lee-mohn-CHAY-loh.
You see, while we were there, Europe was experiencing a treacherous heat-wave. We were compelled to stay cool by drinking limoncello. It became a matter of life or death.
At each stop on our continental trek, we sought out limoncello. We would specifically ask for the house-made liqueur, the private stock made using centuries old recipes, often passed down word of mouth from one generation to the next. We demanded the good stuff.
Yes, I realize that makes us sound a bit bougie. But we seized the opportunity to make fun of our own pretense. Let me paint the scene for you:
The barkeeps would set the bottles down (albeit unceremoniously), and thus our ritual commenced. We became still and solemn in anticipation of the pour. Then we carefully inspected and sometimes sniffed the
cork screwcap and blethered out words that made us sound knowledgeable, such as sodden or crumbly or wet dog. Next we swirled our limoncello to, you know, aerate it, and wafted its bouquet. Finally, we sipped, blabbing cultivated descriptors such as zesty, loofah, tattoo ink…
After 11 days of limoncello tastings, we had garnered quite an armory of terminology.
Our best tasting experience was in Ventimiglia, 12 kilometers outside of Menton, the City of Lemons.
There a cheeky, eavesdropping waiter named Armand joined our charade.
Me: I detect notes of squab and buttered popcorn.
Angela: Hmmm. [looking over her Chanel sunglasses] The acidity reminds me of Ninja sweat.
Cheeky Waiter named Armand: Ladies, you are preponderantly mistaken. This bottle reeks of Novacaine and pretense.
Consequently, we invited Armand to share our bottle. Armand, in return, shared his recipe for limoncello.
Turns out his family owned this osteria. Good times.
So here I am sharing the recipe that was shared with me. Of course, I do not have access to Riviera lemons, but this liqueur is delicious, nonetheless.
Be sure to choose bright and unblemished organic lemons or citrons and hold them to your nose. They should be aromatic, indicating they are fresh and full of oil.
Zest the lemons, making sure not to capture the pith.
Soak their zest in a clear alcohol such as vodka or grain. Your alcohol should be 100 proof so when you store it in your freezer, it will not freeze. Steep the zest-alcohol mixture in a cool place for thirty days (although I have heard any amount of time between 48 hours and 80 days is fine). The longer the soak, the more intense your color and flavor will be.
Strain the alcohol. Add sugar and water. Then freeze. When ready to share, pour into chilled cordial glasses. Or bottle and gift it. Your friends will be forever in your debt.
This post is a tribute. A toast, if you will. I raise my glass to limoncello for saving our lives during the European Heat Wave of 2018. Grazie and merci!
Limoncello is also delicious with a topper of Champagne.
Warning: This easy-to-drink boozy lemonade poses as a quasi-innocent elixir. Too much will leave you under the illusion you are irresistibly charming, a polyglot, and a learned sommelier (or so I’ve heard).
If you make this delicious elixir, I’d love to hear all about it! Leave a comment below and tag #nakedepicurean on Instagram so we can celebrate together!
- 10 large organic lemons
- 1 liter Everclear alcohol (151 proof) or vodka (100 proof)
- 1+ cup sugar
- 1+ cup water
1. Using a vegetable peeler, zest your lemons. Try not to capture the white pith of the lemon as it is bitter.
2. Place zest in a quart-sized airtight container, such as a jar or capped bottle. Pour the alcohol over the zest and cap the bottle. Let this steep somewhere cool such as a cabinet for 30 days. The longer it steeps, the more lemony it will be.
3. After your alcohol is infused, strain the zest from the liquid. Set aside.
4. Make a simple syrup by combining sugar and water in a medium pot over medium heat. Stir occasionally. When the syrup is clear and the edges start to simmer, remove from heat. Allow to cool.
5. Combine the simple syrup with infused alcohol. Taste. At this point you can decide how diluted you want your limoncello to be. The more simple syrup you add, the milder (less alcoholic but sweeter) your limoncello will be. Repeat step 4 as necessary.
6. Return limoncello to original jar or bottle. Freeze for at least 4 hours before serving.
Limoncello will last in your freezer a year or longer.