When Life Gives You Limoncello

Episode 116: When Life Gives You Limoncello

This week we discuss limoncello: what it is, where it comes from, and how to make it. Also on deck are Podcast Awards, a new book from Exotic Wine Travel, #SparklingWineWeek, limoncello bottles you wouldn’t take home to mom, and a lot of fun.

All of this happened with Steph stuffed in a closet while sipping a limoncello buffet from a step stool. Val’s trying out her new microphone while slurping a PLB (Pallini limoncello, lemon, & bitters) cocktail. We hope you have just as much fun listening as we did recording. Cheers ~



In Our Glasses:

Val: “I have the Pallini Limoncello in front of me in the form of the PLB cocktail. PLB stands for Pallini, lemon & bitters. Essentially it’s muddled lemon slices, ice, 1 ¼ oz of the limoncello, Angostura Bitters, and tonic water. Ahh – grown up lemonade. Straw and all!”

Steph: “I’ve got 4 different limoncellos in my freezer … and so I have a sample of each in front of me. Two are homemade gifts given to me from wine friends. One is the recipe from our guest Robin Salls, founder of Girls Gone Grape, (episode 106) that our other guest, Susan Golicic (episode 55), made and shared with me.

Glass 1 – Robin Salls’s Limoncello recipe called Limoncello di Bari

We will post the recipe exclusively for our Patreons!

Glass 2 – Denise McFann’s homemade Limoncello

Glass 3 – Caravella Limoncello Originale – Italy

Glass 4 – Letterpress Limoncello – Seattle ,WA.”

Main Discussion & Factoid Palooza:

The famous Italian after-dinner drink, limoncello, falls into the category of liqueurs, which are often sweet. Liqueurs are made by taking a distilled spirit like vodka, brandy (Grand Mariner’s base is Cognac), whisky (in the case of Drambuie), etc., and then flavoring them with anything from fruit to herbs – even wood (like pine – apparently it’s a thing). In the case of the limoncello liqueur the flavoring is lemon zest and the base is usually a vodka or other highly rectified or neutral spirit.


Where and when it was invented is unfortunately unknown. Campania, specifically Sorrento, Capri & Amalfi, and Liguria claim its origin. Sometime back around 1900 is when limoncello consumption started. The first trademark bearing the name  Limoncello di Capri” wasn’t registered until 1988, and that was by Massimo Canale (Marshall, 2013).

(More on Lee Marshall’s story about Limoncello: https://www.internazionale.it/opinione/lee-marshall/2013/10/17/linvenzione-della-tradizione)

Did you know … there are even IGP (Protected Geographic Indication or Indicazione Geografica Protetta) lemons and limoncello in Italy?! Some lemons have their own Limone di Sorrento also called ovale di Sorrento – consorzio that was established in 2002. Consorzi are regulating bodies that determine the standards for everything from how and where the lemons are grown, to how they are fertilized and even how the look. For example, these lemons have to weigh at least 85 grams (about 3 ounces).

Photo source: http://www.qualigeo.eu/prodotto-qualigeo/limone-di-sorrento-igp/

There are also consorzi for other IGP protected lemons: Limone di Siracusa (also known as Femminello Siracusano), Limone Costa d’Amalfi, and Limone di Rocca Imperiale. Consorzi for IGP limoncelli include: Limoncello di Capri (which also uses Limone di Sorrento lemons) and Limoncello or Liquore di Limone di Sorrento production standards (under the Limone di Sorrento page).

When Italy gives you lemons …

… you make limoncello!

The limoncello standard

An excerpt from the Scheda Tecnica Indicazione Geografica “Liquore di Limone di Sorrento” states that it must be at least 30% abv and at least 200 grams/liter of sugar (not to exceed 350 grams/liter). Every liter of liqueur must also contain at least 250 grams of whole fruit. For this IGP product, unlike some of the products we were drinking on the show during this recording, this liqueur cannot have added colors, flavors, emulsifiers or other additives outside of ascorbic acid to serve in an antioxidant capacity.

The finished liqueur will be opalescent to clear, and smell characteristically of lemons, tasting sweet, and maintaining the aromas and flavor characteristics of the lemons themselves.

Making your own

Thick skinned lemons are the key to making limoncello. The ingredients are simple, like most delicious Italian fare. All you need to make limoncello is lemon, water, sugar and a clear alcohol like vodka or Everclear.

Here is a link to Giada’s limoncello recipe from the Food Network.

Remember, this isn’t something you make and drink the same day. Limoncello takes time. Time for the lemon to combine with the spirit/vodka and create an entirely new product.

When to drink it

Limoncello is traditionally enjoyed as an aperitivo or digestivo, before or after meals, and is served chilled. Instead of the bitter amaros that are served as digestivi, limoncello is tangy and refreshing. It can also be served as a dessert and even drizzled over gelato or fresh fruit. If coffee is served after dinner, the limoncello comes at the very end, after the coffee.

Using it in cocktails

Often you will see it mixed with vodka, Prosecco or other bubblies. Sometimes you’ll see it with tonic or soda water.

Here is a recipe link for a Lemon Drop Martini made with vodka, limoncello, triple sec, fresh squeezed lemon and sugar – courtesy of FarmWifeDrinks.com

A kiss of limoncello on the patio

Mix it with prosecco in a large pitcher (1:4 ratio of limoncello:prosecco), add some raspberries and done. It’s a great brunch or summer patio sipper. It’s been sometimes called un bacio di limoncello which means “a kiss of limoncello.” It tastes as sexy as it sounds.


The taste of the limoncello depends on the kind/variety of lemons used, the amount and concentration of simple syrup, additional sweeteners or alternatives such as honey, and any other “secret ingredients” added (i.e. our friend Chris Adams puts white pepper in his recipe!).

For instance, the Pallini Limoncello is made with the Sfusato Amalfitano (also known as Limone Costa d’Amalfi IGP) lemons from the Amalfi coast. These are gigundous (it’s a word). These lemons also have their own website: http://amalfilemon.it/limone-sfusato-amalfitano.htm

Storing it

Store it in the freezer and it will be ready to serve classico either neat or with ice. Good ice.

Gifting it

Limoncello, whether homemade, carried back from Italy, or purchased at the liquor store, makes a lovely gift. Bottle shapes, colors, and flavors vary, so having different bottles of limoncello in one’s home keeps your senses excited. Tie a ribbon around the bottle and bring it as a hostess gift.




Podcast Awards: Voting begins July 1st for the People’s Choice Podcast awards, and Wine Two Five is under the Arts category. You can register on the Podcast Awards (www.podcastawards.com) site to nominate your favorite registered shows between July 1 and July 31. Be sure to check out all of the categories, nominate your favorite show (you only get one vote per category), and maybe find some new shows to check out!

Sipping Santa Barbara: Matthew Horkey & Charine Tan from Exotic Wine Travels have a new book, Sipping Santa Barbara! We’ll have some links for you if you want to check it out. It is an ebook, but when you purchase the book you will get three files: a PDF; an Epub – many e- readers can read it; and a MOBI file for Kindle readers.


Sparkling wine week: The 2nd Annual – SparklingWineWeek – is July 1-7th! It is a global celebration of all sparkling wine and was conceived by Rob Barnett and is produced by VinVillage. VinVillage Radio “Where Wine Lovers Connect” is broadcast every Tuesday and is celebrating 8 years! You can search Apple Podcasts and also find Wine and Dine on VinVillage Radio.

#SparklingWineDay is Saturday July 1st, so be sure to use the hashtag.


Val: Congratulation to Cathie Schafer who is the new Chapter Director of Atlanta of Girls Gone Grape! You may remember her, AKA Sidehustle Wino, from Episode 95.

If you’re in the Atlanta area and want to get involved in the chapter, please contact Cathie on Facebook, Twitter, and just about everywhere as Side Hustle Wino.

Steph: “I just listened to The Moth podcast for the first time! It doesn’t have anything to do with wine, but it is great entertainment. And with a collection of 20 years worth of stories, you can search their archives and actually find a handful of episodes that do talk about wine or storytellers that are in the wine business. That’s pretty cool. Like Anthony Giglio – the wine and spirits educator, writer, and speaker.”

“The Moth is all about human connection and shared stories. They are true stories told live, and is celebrating 20 years! Congratulations!

“And since you are already a podcast listener, this might be a new one to add to your que. But I also wanted to mention it because…. Val, would you and John like to come up to the FoCo to sit in the audience at the live recording of The Moth? It is November 5th at 7:30pm at the Lincoln Center.”

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