If Italy had an equivalent to Swedish Punsch, Japanese Umeshu or British Sloe Gin, Limoncello would surely be the answer. Many Italian families have closely-guarded recipes and the creation and consumption of homemade varieties of this liqueur is an annual event.
Limoncello is a lemon flavoured liqueur, which is made by simply infusing lemon zest in un-aged alcohol, typically vodka (although some folks use Grappa), with added sugar. It’s exceptionally easy to make, which is probably why so many create it at home.
Limoncello goes by many names (and spellings), including: Lemoncino, Lemoncelloe and Limoncetto. These are all, essentially, the same product, although the term “Limoncino” is more common in Northern Italy and “Limoncello” is preferred in the South.
For those of you who don’t want to make it at home, there are plenty of commercial brands available, made in various countries, including Adnam’s in the UK.
Adnam’s Limoncello was originally released in 2011 and, due to its popularity, Adnam’s made another batch with an improved production method in 2012. It starts life as a batch of three-grain vodka (wheat, barley, oats), which is kept at 90% ABV whilst the lemon zest is infused; the higher strength spirit makes the extraction of the lemons’ aroma, flavour and colour fuller, quicker and easier. This maceration is left for three weeks, at which point the zest is removed and some sugar and water is added, bringing the ABV down to its bottling strength of 28% ABV.
Nose: Very fresh, with lots of strong, zesty lemon. Natural tasting, almost like a home-made variety.
Taste: Soft and very smooth; silky, with a touch of honey and lovely, fresh, zesty lemon citrus. Lemon-y tang at the end. All-in-all, a product that tastes authentic and far from artificial, just like some of the best home-made versions that I have had. Excellent.
The liqueur becomes much thicker when chilled; this is how they often drink it in Italy. The flavours are more complex and an initial sweet floral aspect is followed by lush, zesty lemon and a touch of more bitter lemon at the end. Simply top-notch!
3) Over Ice
[50ml Limoncello, One Large Chunk of Ice]
I thought this was another lovely way to drink the liqueur. Interestingly, the sweetness seems to come through a little more. It is also very visually appealing, as the little torrents of melting ice create viscous ripples in the Limoncello. Most importantly, it tastes good.
4) Cream Cocktail
[20ml Gin, 20ml Limoncello, 15ml Cream – SHAKE]
A smooth and creamy lemon cocktail somewhat reminiscent of lemon cheesecake, tart au citron or lemon syllabub. Quite rich and very much a dessert cocktail to drink after dinner.
[25ml Gin, 25ml Limoncello, 100ml Soda Water]
This was a very crisp and refreshing cooler. For extra tartness, add a little (10ml or so) fresh lemon juice. Very light and easy to drink, this could easily be served by the jug or pitcher. There’s a sweet, creamy lift at the end, which pleasantly rounds off this delicious drink. One of the few ways to make Limoncello even more refreshing.
[40ml Citrus Vodka*, 10ml Limoncello, 20ml Lemon Juice, 10ml Sugar Syrup – SHAKE]
A refreshing and zinging drink, luscious and lovely. A hint of jammy citrus, touch of creaminess, spiciness care of the vodka and a sweet, lemon curd, lift at the end. Really very good indeed, highly recommended.
7) Adnam’s Flyer
[30ml Adnam’s First Rate Gin, 10ml Limoncello, 5ml Creme de Violette – SHAKE]
A tasty little liqueur-like cocktail. The dry gin flavour was followed by the neat sweetness of the Limoncello and the floral creaminess of the Violette. Lovely as an after-dinner cocktail.
8) Tryst in Trieste
[20ml Orange Liqueur**, 20ml Scotch, 15ml Limoncello – SHAKE, then add 10ml Soda Water]
Soft, citrus-heavy nose. To taste, this was a most interesting combination: it had a sherbet-like mouthfeel throughout, with the smoky woodiness from the Scotch fading in after a few moments. The orange notes bridge the strong lemon and whisky flavours nicely. It ended with a lovely, neat, citrusy finish, making for a refreshing and light whisky cocktail.
9) Suffolk Sour
[30ml Vodka, 15ml Limoncello, 15ml Cherry Brandy, 15ml Lemon Juice – BUILD]
A tart and crisp drink, with the initial tart citrus followed by the richer flavours of the cherry. A sweet vanilla from the Limoncello then comes into play. The balance works, but the sour outweighs the sweet. Very tasty.
10) Limoncello & Whisky
[Recommended by Adnams Head Distiller John McCarthy. 2 parts Scotch, 1 part Limoncello, Ice – STIR]
This was another lovely, light dessert cocktail. It had a refreshing, zesty freshness, with the sweet, cream citrus of lemon curd complementing the drier, woody notes of the whisky. This creamy sweetness – just like that of a lemon tart, reappears on the finish. Very pleasant, indeed.
I’ve been drinking Limoncello for a quite a few years and must have made my own at least ten years ago, but I’ve never really drunk it much in cocktails. Today’s tasting makes me think that I’ve missing out.
My favourite drinks were the Limonata and the Collins, as well as sipping the liqueur chilled on its own.
Adnams Limoncello is available for around £20 for 50cl from Adnams.
* I used Stolichnaya Citros.
** I used Grand Gala.