March 21, 2023

A primer on limoncello: where to drink it and how to create your own…

Limoncello growing popularity outside of southern Italy…

There is no escape from lemons at Sorrento, on the island of Capri, or along the Amalfi Coast in southern Italy. They are suspended from trees in almost every garden. Just as they have for ages, terraced lemon orchards climb high up coastal slopes. The golden fruit is depicted on ceramics, aprons, tablecloths, and other products sold at souvenir stores. Lemon candy, lemon marmalade, and lemon cake are all available. Even tourists stroll down the street in dresses, shirts, and socks embroidered with lemons.

However, outside of southern Italy, limoncello, a liqueur made from the region’s famed lemons, is the main form in which they travel. Even though limoncello is usually thought of as an after-dinner drink, it can also be found in drinks like the limoncello spritz, which also has prosecco, soda water, and ice.

Despite its widespread use, limoncello is not derived from a traditional recipe. Local legend claims that fisherman and medieval monks sipped the lemon mixture to cheer themselves up, although there are no historical records of the liqueur until the 20th century. In truth, limoncello wasn’t trademarked until 1988, based on a recipe from a Capri family inn from the early 1900s.

Bringing limoncello to the Philippines…

The Positano shop Sapori e Profumi creates its own limoncello.

Making limoncello has undoubtedly been a family custom for at least a century because lemons are so readily available. The sole components in this drink are lemon peel, alcohol, water, and sugar. The amounts of each element vary.

The lemon itself, which is hand-picked and peeled, is the most crucial component. There are many fruit varieties to take into account as well. For instance, the “Sfusato Amalfitano” lemon is known for its tapering shape and is so delicious you can eat it like an orange on the Amalfi Coast, where lemons have been grown for at least 1,000 years. Lemons from Southern Italy feature thick, porous skins that are a bright yellow color, resembling sun spheres, with nearly no seeds. They give off a wonderful, fragrant smell and are high in vitamin C and essential oils.

Of course, tourists don’t only swarm to southern Italy to eat lemons. There’s Sorrento, a shopping haven that spans a plateau atop a spectacular cliff, and Capri, an island that rises from the sea like a menacing rock fortress (in fact, Roman Emperor Tiberius sought refuge here). The Amalfi Coast, also known as the Costiera Amalfitana, has been a World Heritage Site since 1997. It is renowned for its picturesque villages that date back to the Middle Ages and its untamed landscape, which includes terraced vineyards, olive groves, and citrus groves, in addition to craggy cliffs.

Additionally, there are family-run “factories” all around the area that make artisanal limoncello by utilizing family-owned organic lemons and time-honored traditions. The best limoncello-tasting location in the world. Local limoncello is sold in restaurants, taverns, and shops, many of which are located close by.

Profumi della Costiera in the town of Ravello makes limoncello in a factory visible from its shop

In the town of Ravello, Profumi della Costiera makes limoncello in a factory that can be seen from its shop.

Italy’s limoncello locations

Numerous limoncello producers have on-site sales of their goods. I Giardini di Cataldo is a limoncello plant in Sorrento that opened in 1999. It is located on an orange grove that has been cared for by the same family since the 1800s.

For 30 years, Profumi della Costiera has been making handcrafted limoncello in Ravello, a picturesque community of about 2,500 people at 1,200 feet above the Tyrrhenian Sea. It provides complimentary samples, a video showing how its liquid gold is made, and bottles of limoncello that are so aesthetically pleasing you’ll want to keep them as keepsakes. Ravello isn’t quite as popular as Capri, Sorrento, and Positano because it’s a little off the beaten route and too distant for most shore excursions from cruise ships anchored in Naples.

But to overlook Positano would be a mistake. Positano is one of the most picturesque communities on the Amalfi Coast, embracing two sides of a deep valley that opens onto a beach with umbrellas and sunbathers. Its little pastel-colored homes are famously reached by thousands of stairs and sit perilously on rocky cliffs next to shocking bursts of bougainvillea in fuchsia. Thankfully, tourist buses weave their way up to the higher parts of the municipality through the busy commercial areas.

Sapori e Profumi di Positano, a company that has been around since 1986, is located right in the midst of the town on the main street that leads down to the shore. The factory uses fruit from its own 300 untreated lemon trees to make limoncello, jams, and candies, including lemon drops packed with lemon juice, while the shop is located on the first level. Lemon-scented candles, soaps, and shower gels, as well as body lotions and shower gels prepared with lemon and olive oil, are all made by hand using the natural essence of lemon peel.

Valentini Positano is a husband-and-wife limoncello shop and factory in Positano

Positano’s Valentini Positano is a husband-and-wife-run limoncello store and factory.

Owner Valentino Esposito claimed to have learned how to produce limoncello from his mother as early as 1969, even though Valentini Positano only began operations five years ago. Additionally, he co-owned a limoncello factory in the nearby village of Praiano 22 years ago. Together with his wife, he sells things like homemade limoncello, marmalade, chocolate made from olive oil and filled with limoncello, and gluten-free lemon almond-paste cookies. He also works with local food producers to make food items.

Valentino Esposito provides hands-on instruction for limoncello and marmalade against a backdrop of Positano
Valentino Esposito

But what distinguishes Valentini Positano is the chance to witness the production of limoncello and lemon marmalade firsthand. Reservations are required for the “tours,” which are held either within the factory during bad weather or on an outdoor patio with beautiful views of Positano.

During the 30-minute tour while explaining how he creates his goods, Esposito expertly peels lemons without the pith (for beginners, getting peels without the pith is the trickiest part). A 90-minute lesson that teaches participants how to make liqueur from peels and jam from pulp is also available. At Valentini Positano, however, nothing is wasted. Peels are then converted into fire starters, while pith is utilized for compost.

Esposito claimed that although “you can easily just buy it,” fewer individuals today create their own limoncello than in the past.

A recipe for limoncello

Although limoncello recipes differ, the majority advise zesting about ten pesticide-free lemons while attempting to prevent the pith’s unpleasant flavor (thick-skinned lemons are easier to peel). Only the peels are added to one liter of premium grain alcohol. Sapori e Profumi di Positano recommends Everclear in order to better take in the lemon flavor and color.

After that, the mixture is covered and allowed to sit. Three days, according to Esposito, is sufficient; a week is advised by Sapori e Profumi de Positano. Some recipes specify that it should be left for a month. In any event, the peels are removed before the yellow liquid is filtered.

A simple syrup follows. It is prepared by simmering 1.5 liters of water with 3 to 6 cups of sugar for 15 minutes, then letting the mixture cool to room temperature. Esposito says that it works just as well to use cold water and stir it to dissolve the sugar.

The limoncello is made by combining simple syrup and yellow-colored alcohol.If you find that anything here seems unclear, keep in mind that limoncello, like Mamma’s spaghetti dish, is derived from family recipes. Esposito said it shouldn’t really matter that you can’t exactly duplicate the legendary lemons of southern Italy’s wonderful quality.

He stated that it is crucial for people to enjoy it.

There are undoubtedly a lot of prospects for that in southern Italy.

Bringing limoncello to the Philippines…

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