Ben, Author at LimoncelloQuest

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Can Limoncello Go Bad?

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One question that I frequently get from readers via email is "does limoncello ever go bad?"

Quite accidentally, I am now able to give a pretty solid answer to that question. Within the past year I moved to a new house and I happened to belatedly unpack a box recently, finding a partial bottle of one of my old batches.

Remnants of Batch #4

As you can see in the photos, it is from batch #4, a batch that I reviewed on the site so I know it's about five and a half years old. It hasn't been well cared for either, it was sitting in my basement at both houses. So I said "what the heck," I'll take this opportunity to see if this stuff holds up.

Batch 4 Remnants cont.

The verdict? It holds up very well! My main problem with this batch was a roughness in the flavor and all that time resting really subdued the alcohol. The limoncello was still flavorful and it is now pretty smooth as well. My final opinion used to be that you can rest limoncello as long as you like. 

However, I've visited with some folks who keep a much more detailed history of their limoncello-making than I do (I know...strange but true) and there is a downside to resting limoncello TOO long. While it's still ok to drink, as in "not repulsive," it does become insipid after about 2 years on the shelf. It loses a lot of the lemon-y flavor it once had. That just leaves you with simple syrup and high-octane liquor. 

Whether the limoncello is opened or unopened (mine above was opened) doesn't really matter. It also doesn't matter whether the limoncello is commercial or homemade because alcohol is an excellent preservative. Keeping it in the freezer the whole time, while a waste of freezer space, probably does slow the decline of the flavor as colder temperatures tend to do in most cases. 

So if you leave a bottle on the shelf too long, do what I do and give it a taste. If it's still good, awesome! If it has lost it's vigor, use it in a cocktail. But whatever you do, don't let it go to waste!

My Tour of Fabrizia Limoncello

Limoncello Reviews

Bottles of Fabrizia Limoncello

I was invited to tour the production facility of Fabrizia Limoncello recently, and I’d like to share the story in addition to the review. Reviewing Fabrizia actually prompted me to post an update to my commercial limoncello review page because there are a small number of very good commercial brands out there if you know where to look. As it turns out, the facility is only about a 30 minute drive from my house. I had no idea that commercial limoncello was produced in my area. I learned a lot, had a lot of fun and took a few pics for all you fellow limoncello lovers.

The owner of Fabrizia, Phil, and his operations manager Mike gave me a tour of the facility. That’s Phil in his office:
Fabrizia-Phil

The facility itself was not huge, though this was limoncello production on a scale that I’ve definitely never seen before. The large barrels of alcohol at one end of the room added emphasis to that point. As you can see below, they are all grounded by wires so they don’t…you know…explode. It looks like a great backdrop for an episode of 24.

Grain alcohol in bulk

It’s a little strange to be that close to that much flammable material, but you get used to it quick. Especially when you see all the other neat stuff going on there. I took a look at their infusion process (more steeping peels than I’ve ever seen in one place) and their bottling process, complete with a bottling machine imported from Italy.

Vat of steeping lemon peels

Serious equipment at Fabrizia

Bottles of Fabrizia Limoncello

Phil started Fabrizia with no prior experience in the industry so he earned his entrepreneurial stripes the hard way. He has a real passion for creating the best product he can at a fair price and I think it shows in the limoncello. I learned a lot during this tour but I’ll boil it down to the lessons I think most readers can use, and this first one is money.

Quite by accident, Phil and Mike discovered that the real key to minimizing or eliminating the film that forms on top of the limoncello is to allow the simple syrup to completely cool before mixing it with the infused alcohol. Any heat in the simple syrup somehow separates some of the oils from the infusion and forms the film. How’s that for a useful tip!

As you can see from the pic below, Phil shares my interest in rigorous experimentation. He keeps samples from each of his batches for the long term. He said he disagrees with my recent post claiming that limoncello doesn’t go bad over time. He says that it retains peak flavor for about 8 months after production and then begins a slow decline. My one-off observation really doesn’t compare to his wall of evidence so I have to concede that point. I think “going bad” is the wrong description on my part though. Drinking old limoncello is still better than most things that can happen to you, but you can see from the color of the liqueur that it is losing something over time and a tasting on the spot confirmed it.

Fabrizia-batches

Another tasting we conducted at Fabrizia was of their new Blood Orange liqueur. I’ve made batches with various flavors and blood orange has long been my favorite non-lemon variety. I haven’t made a batch like that in a long time so I don’t have a reference point, but Fabrizia’s blood orange is a very tasty liqueur.

A huge thanks to Phil and Mike at Fabrizia for their hospitality!

Is the Infusion Finished?

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This is a common question I get over email so I wanted to write a post that covers the issue. I'll add it to my email series as well. It's an important question because it can save you a lot of time in the process depending on how strong the liquor is that you're using. 

Lemon zest in alcohol

Stronger (higher proof) liquors will do a faster, more efficient job of pulling the lemon oils out of the zest. Therefore you can shorten the infusion times if you develop an eye for when your zest has fully given up the ghost.

This is easier to see if you have zest at several stages of infusion, but I wanted to give you a benchmark for what zest looks like when it is finished. Below is an image of the finished zest in the alcohol. It's a bit harder to see that it is as pale as it is when it's in the infused liquor because the yellow color is now in the liquor itself. ‚Äč

Here's what it looks like out of the infusion. As you can see, it's very pale in color, almost a sickly grayish tint. The shade varies a bit, sometimes it's more whitish, but you're just looking for the distinct lack of the vibrant yellow color that the zest had to begin with.

Lemon zest

Below is the real close-up and you can tell here that the zest is pale and translucent. There's still a small amount of yellow left but this zest has given up every bit of lemon oil that it has to give.

Lemon zest after infusion

And now you know! If your zest is pale and translucent, it doesn't matter if it's been sitting there for 30 days or for 45 days. You can stick a fork in it, 'cuz it's done. 

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