Blog Archives - LimoncelloQuest

Category Archives for "Blog"

How to Serve Limoncello the Right Way


I’ve been creating, consuming and serving limoncello over a decade, and I’ve even visited Italy to see how the locals serve limoncello (that wasn’t the ONLY reason for my visit, but still). So I can give you a pretty definitive answer on how best to serve and drink limoncello. 

How to Serve Limoncello

Straight and ice-cold, directly into a shot glass is how you serve limoncello. Limoncello served at freezing temperatures is more viscous (syrup-y) than at room temperature. Because it warms quickly, it’s best to serve it in small portions such as a shot glass. Below are some other key tips.

That said, you probably want to appear suave and worldly to you friends, and that’s why you’re searching for this info. No judgment—I like to appear suave and worldly myself. So those guidelines above are the basics, but let’s expand a bit to kick it up a notch and really impress your pals.

Choose the Right Bottle

I’ll be the first to admit that most of my early limoncello experiments were conducted with recycled liquor bottles and swing cap bottles I bought on the cheap. In fact, there’s plenty of photographic evidence of this on the site so I wouldn’t get far denying it. That’s fine for experimentation. But when it comes time to pour for your friends, you want it to be from a proper bottle. 

If you bought your limoncello at the store, you pretty much have this whipped. Most store-bought bottles are fairly attractive and many have the frosted appearance that I prefer. But if you are making your own limoncello at home, you need to seek out some nice bottles of the same sort.

Choose the Right Glass

There are a number of sets of limoncello glasses that are purpose built for impressing your friends with your Italian heritage or just your liqueur-savviness. If you’re deep in the weeds like I am, that’s a perfectly acceptable route to choose.

For most folks, an elegant shot glass will also do the trick. I prefer taller shot glasses that are crystal clear. They look elegant and allow you to appreciate the color of the limoncello, which is one of the factors to appreciate in this liqueur. It’s a lovely yellow color.  

Pour Quickly and Often

Lastly, the pour itself. Take the bottle directly from the freezer to pour, don’t leave it out on the counter. The character of limoncello is heavily affected by its temperature and you need it to be freezing. I like to pour slowly and from a height that appears unsafe. It’s just cooler that way. 

And BOOM, you have served the perfect glass of limoncello. Cheers!


Q: Can you drink limoncello straight?

A: Yes. Drinking it straight (and straight from the freezer) is by far the most common and preferred way to consume limoncello. Limoncello is considered a digestif (after-dinner drink), thought to aid digestion. It is much sweeter and generally lower in alcohol content than hard alcohols like vodka or whiskey.

Q: Can you drink limoncello on the rocks (with ice)?  

A: You can do this—I have done it many times—but there are some caveats. I sometimes drink limoncello on the rocks to keep it ice cold for longer once it exits the freezer. However, it usually binds the ice to the glass and if you wait too long it will of course start to dilute your carefully balanced limoncello. If you must, a better solution is to use whiskey rocks which tend to have neither of those problems.  

Q: Can you serve limoncello in a beer mug?

A: No. That is absolutely forbidden for a number of reasons. I can’t even believe you asked.  

Limoncello Labels: Make Your Homemade Limoncello Look Professional


Aside from choosing a great bottle to contain your limoncello, the most common way that people customize the appearance of their homemade liqueur is by adding a DIY limoncello label. Custom labels are pretty easy to make and they set your limoncello apart visually. I’ve been creating and giving limoncello as a gift for over a decade, so I have some tips on how you can make your limoncello look like a pro made it. 

Where Can I Buy Limoncello Labels?

Limoncello labels are just regular sticker labels that happen to adorn a bottle of limoncello, so finding them online is easy. You can get blank labels on Amazon, but most people will be better served by a custom printer like Evermine that specializes in custom label printing for weddings and other events.

Limoncello labels are often re-purposed wine bottle labels, but that doesn’t fit every use case. People use a variety of bottle sizes for limoncello and often you don’t want to gift a bottle large enough to use a wine label (750ml).  So while labels are pretty straightforward there are a few considerations and pitfalls to avoid.  

We’ll address those factors below and show examples of different limoncello label options, some from Amazon and some from other sources, so you can visualize the different options available to you. If you buy through the links below the vendors love that and I even get a small commission (woohoo!) to continue my limoncello-related shenanigans. 

Image courtesy of Steph Stevens Photo

Should I Use a Blank Label?

People are more savvy with graphic design than they used to be. Not that many years ago you had to be a wizard to make a graphic look halfway decent. With the advent of Canva and other tools that make design way easier, a lot of folks prefer the DIY method. If that’s your bag, then some blank labels might be just the ticket for you. It’s definitely the cheapest path.

Getting the right size label is the main consideration if you’re going to do it yourself. Amazon now has blank labels for wine bottles and for beer bottles, which cover you just fine if you’re giving away full-size (750ml) bottles or half bottles (375ml) of limoncello, respectively. A limoncello bottle label template isn’t really a thing, you’ll have to choose from what’s available.

If you are gifting smaller flasks (100-250ml) or nip-sized bottles (less than 100ml), you’ll probably have to look around at office supply stores to find appropriately sized labels. 

Blank labels have a couple of drawbacks of course. One is that you’ll have fewer shape options in the labels, especially the ones for smaller bottles that will tend to be just square or rectangular. The bigger drawback is getting your printer to line up properly when you go to print them. It’s possible (Ed. - “highly probable”) that I’m a big dummy in this area, but every time I try this it turns into a storm of curse words—sometimes ending in something like that famous printer scene from Office Space. 

Fully Custom Limoncello Bottle Labels

Personally, I’m a sucker for splashing out on the appearance of my limoncello anyway. I like to find cool bottles and pimp them out with super custom labels and other signature touches. If you’re giving away limoncello for your wedding or another big event, I think that’s the way to go. It’s just more fun and shows that you care about your limoncello. Caring about your new spouse is nice and all, but caring about your limoncello is really what’s important in life, right?

If you’re going the full custom route, you’ll need a custom printing service like Evermine. They have labels for just about any purpose and not just the square ones either. There are circles, diamonds, scalloped edges and even hearts for the soon-to-be newlyweds. 

Lemoncello labels from Evermine

Best of all, I don’t have to think up the designs! I’m not good at making things look attractive, even with the help of tools like Canva. I just don’t have an eye for it. I know a good design when I see one, but until then it’s just a bunch of brain fog. So I’m willing to pay more for labels I didn’t have to design myself. The only downside to this is that it costs more than a DIY solution.

Going the Extra Mile

If you really want to take your limoncello to the next level (who wouldn’t?) then you can further adorn the bottle after you’ve applied your sweet custom labels. The ways you can do this are limited only by your imagination. The most common route is to tie something around the neck of the bottle. It doesn’t just have to be a tag, you can use decorative string, small branches, a set of instructions for properly enjoying limoncello, anything really. 

The customization doesn’t have to end there either. If your bottle is clear, you can print a label that is visible through the bottle so that you’re looking at a scene on the other side. You can also put something interesting inside the bottle, in the liqueur itself. Be careful with this as you don’t want anything that will adversely affect the flavor, but inert objects would work and an attractive spiral of lemon zest could be the equivalent of a worm in a bottle of tequila—although way, way less disgusting. Let your imagination run wild—and for crying out loud, send me pics to post on this site!

The History of Limoncello – A Drink of Disputed Origins But Indisputable Flavor


Picture this: an awning shields your shoulders from the summer sun and a breeze from the coast cools your skin, ruffling your loose, cotton button-down.

A server smiles and hands you a small cup; the ceramic is cool against your palms and you savor it only for a moment before bringing the cup to your lips to drink. Although the glass is the size of a shot, you take a first, small sip and bask. It’s icy, tart, and fresh, you feel invigorated with that first sip.

Limoncello: the drink that comes to mind when you daydream about visiting Italy in the summertime.

Although modern mass producers fool consumers with artificial colors and additives, limoncello lovers and liqueur aficionados alike know that true limoncello boasts just five magical ingredients: lemon zest, alcohol, water, sugar–and time. When made correctly, this drink stands alone as a refreshing and remarkable-looking digestif. 

The brilliant yellow of the best limoncello comes from the fruit rind itself, and its opacity is thanks to the ouzo effect – when certain kinds of oils like lemon essential oil or the oils found in absinthe react when exposed to water, rendering it cloudy and adding to its unique appeal.

In the 21st century, limoncello has crept its way around the globe, increasingly becoming a well-received digestif of choice. But how did limoncello rise to its stardom? And how long have Italians been savoring the liqueur in their homes and out on the town?

So, Like, Where Did It Come From?

The answer, it turns out, is about as opaque as the drink itself. Older–and, it’s worth noting, unverifiable–origins vary. Some say that monks along the Amalfi coast sipped limoncello to pass the hours between prayers. Others claim that fishermen imbibed in the mornings to warm up. Some versions clarify that it was sailors, not fishermen, and that they drank it to stave off scurvy.

However, there is no documented evidence outside of folklore and word of mouth of limoncello’s existence before the turn of the 20th century. And although the lack of documented instances doesn’t necessarily indicate the truth, where limoncello’s traceable history begins is somewhere along the Amalfi coast.

A Tale of Three Towns

Even this root, however, has its own conflicting claims. Three particular towns call themselves the birthplace of limoncello–Amalfi, Capri, and Sorrento. Confusingly, these areas are all in the region referred to as the Amalfi coast. Although only forty miles separates the three areas from one another–and they all technically fall under the Amalfi umbrella–don’t let their proximity fool you into thinking they are willing to share a communal parentage of the illustrious drink. Amalfi, Capri, and Sorrento each have distinct stories laying out limoncello’s origins.

Sfusato Lemons (Say that three times fast...)

The roots of Amalfi’s claims lie in their lemon orchards, where the sfusato lemon is grown. Sfusato translates to “spindle,” and they are called this because of their spindle-like shape and tapered ends. Sfusato lemons are one of two varieties that make what is commonly agreed upon as the highest quality limoncello.

Many Amalfi residents purport that the liqueur is as old as their lemon-cultivating tradition itself, which can be traced almost a thousand years back. The lemons in the region used to be sour and small, much like the ones that come to the average American’s mind today and garnish our iced teas and waters.

But when horticulturists cross-polinated those lemons with a local orange in the 11th century, the lemons were lent a pleasant flavor and became edible on their own. Even today, sfusato lemons are enjoyed sliced into salads or segmented at breakfast like an orange. This ancient heritage of sfusato lemons, locals argue, is at the heart of limoncello’s history.

Perhaps these ancient origins are where the older, anecdotal stories of medieval fisherman, monks, and sailors originate – apertifs and digestifs were, after all, abundant in the middle ages, and it doesn’t seem far-fetched that over those thousand years, someone thought that mixing the lemons with alcohol and sugar would be a wonderful way to preserve the health benefits and flavor of sfusato lemons to be enjoyed year-round.

Sorrento Lemons

Amalfi isn’t the only place, however, that uses their lemons as evidence of limoncello’s origins; sfusato lemons are one of two varieties that make a true limoncello. The other is the Sorrento lemon. Sorrento lemons are wrapped up in a meticulous harvesting tradition and are picked off the tree by hand to avoid any impurities that could come from touching the ground.

And as a true limoncello requires no preservatives or artificial coloring, limoncello also must be made with organic lemons, making the special care given to Sorrento lemons that much more particular. What sets the Sorrento lemon apart is its particularly fragrant rind, bursting with essential oils, and its incomparable flavor. Like the sfusato lemon, it can be eaten by itself and is in a class beyond the traditional lemons of the U.S.

The first recorded description of the Sorrento lemon dates all the way back to 1656, when a botanist named G.B. Ferrari described the rind as "rough, pleasantly scented with a sweet taste" and the flavor of the flesh as "pleasantly sour." The sweetness of the rind is what gives limoncello its distinct flavor.

Sorrento’s oral history of limoncello’s origins is far more recent than Amalfi’s medieval claims: as early as 1900, the wealthy of Sorrento were alleged to offer their guests a glass of limoncello as an apertif. These tales of the Sorrento elite arose almost simultaneously to the best documented of the three divergent histories of limoncello: the story of Capri.

Capri Stakes a Claim

Off the coast, just west of Amalfi and Sorento, lies the isle of Capri. Capri’s stake in limoncello’s origins may be the most recent, but it is also the only one with commonly available and verifiable documentation. At the beginning of the 20th century, a woman by the name of Maria Antonia Farace kept a small inn on the island, where she maintained an orchard of oranges and lemons and developed the liqueur, which she would share with her inn guests.

In the years following World War II, her son began selling it at his neighboring restaurant, using Farace’s recipe. Nestled in Capri, it remained a local delight until 1988, when Farace’s grandson Massimo Canale trademarked her limoncello recipe, marking the first time limoncello was prepared for true mass production in any way, shape, or form.

While all three stories tell a vivid tale of limoncello’s roots, only the story of Maria Antonia Farace has been corroborated and accepted by The Italian Association of Wine and Liqueur Producers, which lends it a measure of credibility in international circuits–although the folklore and oral traditions of Italian locals have made their way into virtually every article outlining limoncello’s background.

Regardless of the true seedling that gave rise to limoncello, Canale’s decision to trademark his nonna’s recipe started a snowballing sensation that continues to expand even today. What started as local and regional sales of Canale’s limoncello quickly became a nationwide phenomenon, until limoncello became almost on par with pizza in the minds of tourists exploring Italy through cuisine–and not just in the three competing towns of the Amalfi region. Limoncello further got a boost on U.S. foodie radars when it was included in a charming scene in Under the Tuscan Sun, a 2003 film starring Diane Lane about an American who moves to Italy.

Italy Gives Limoncello the Seal of Approval

Over the years, quite a bit has changed about limoncello. When it first became the apertif of choice in the Amalfi region, it was served at room temperature, but over the past few decades, its preferred serving style has been given a radical makeover: these days, it is a smash hit as a chilled drink to relieve you of the bulk of summer’s oppressive heat.

Not all changes, however, have been as pleasant as a chilled cup of the liqueur. Limoncello has become so popular that it has run into a few hiccups of its own as mass production ensues. Many companies brand themselves as lemon liqueurs or limoncello, yet fill it with artificial colors, additives to extend the shelf life, emulsifiers to mimic the iconic opacity, or harmful and cloying artificial flavors to replace the delicate flavors of sfusato and Sorrento lemons.

Although the name "limoncello" itself is not protected and can be used even by companies far exceeding the traditional four-ingredient recipe, in 2008, European Parliament enacted regulations that offer limoncello made within specific regions of Italy a location-based stamp of approval called a "Protected Geographical Indication," or PGI for short.

This Parliamentary seal of approval can be found on the limoncello bottles themselves–like with Villa Massa, a PGI-certified brand–so  look for it if you want to taste traditional limoncello. An added benefit of these guidelines is that artificial colors, emulsifiers, flavorings, and preservatives (with the exception of ascorbic acid) are prohibited.

Making Limoncello Outside of Italy

However, in this international age, one can’t discredit other places worldwide that are following the traditions of quality limoncello. California, one of the largest purveyors of lemons in the world, has seen a marked uptick in limoncello makers. Search for ones whose quality you can count on–their websites are typically more transparent and boast the lack of artificial additives, whereas companies whose sites are suspiciously silent on the topic generally have dumped chemicals in and sullied the joy of a delectable limoncello liqueur.

Limoncello has made its way across the globe as a contender on the alcohol scene–but not all contemporary foodies are putting limoncello on the same pedestal. In Melbourne, Australia in particular, there are two Italian restaurants with wildly different spins on Italian-Australian cuisine just down the street from one another–and limoncello is only served in the less contemporary, more traditionally family-style restaurant. However, hop on over to New Zealand, and you’ll find traditional-style limoncello made and sold according to family traditions rooted in Australia, like the award-winning Sovrano Limoncello.

DIY Makers Take Limoncello Back to Its Roots

Limoncello’s history hasn’t quite ended there, however. Like everything in this era dominated by crafty millennials and ambitious Gen-Zers, the DIY-savvy have swooped in to return limoncello to its roots: a homemade, simple liqueur to enjoy either by yourself or with guests–only this time, this treat isn’t reserved for the wealthy.

Homemade recipes vary in degrees–like this one made with stevia and agave–but most stick to the original five ingredients: organic lemons, liquor, sugar, water, and time. Additionally, many recipes for limoncello suggest opting for Meyer lemons, as their sweetness better embodies the spirit of hard-to-find sfusato and Sorrento lemons. (Ed. - It may be due to the quality of the lemons I get, but I haven't had much luck with Meyer lemons. The limoncello always comes out insipid compared to regular lemons.) 

Although at first glance a deviation from its roots, this emergence of limoncello as a small-batch endeavor is not a new chapter in its history but a return to its roots, one that arguably has wound its way closest to the heart of this renowned liqueur’s community-focused origins–whether that was with the monks, the sailors, or in Maria Antonia Farace’s inn.

1 2 3 12