The Mayor of Rocky Hill returns with Lemon/Lime-cello

Organic lemons and limes, ready for a good skinning.

Organic lemons and limes, ready for a good skinning.

Possibly emboldened by the success of our last batch of limoncello this past spring, or more so by the evaporation of our last bottle, the Mayor of Rocky Hill and I set out to top that triumph with an extra dose of creativity. Having tweaked our formula of lemons, sugar, water and alcohol to sheer perfection, the Mayor suggested we do a lime-cello version using the skin of some organic limes instead of lemons in our fall production.

Research from a myriad of online references showed no successful creation of what seemed like a logical, and yet simple, extension of the famed Italian limoncello. And it wasn’t until after we got started on peeling day that we might have discovered (almost too late) what the monkey in the wrench was.

Removing lemon peels without the bitter white pith is one thing, but trying to replicate that same, simple task with limes was a bit more of a challenge. That white pith is the difference between a good limoncello and a sour, almost rancid one.

The Mayor of Rocky Hill shows off the latest batch.

The Mayor of Rocky Hill shows off the latest batch.

Lemons are obviously bigger and often more plush, while limes are not only smaller but oftentimes much firmer. Detaching the piths from those green little suckers was the pits.

Although, we put forth a decent effort, in the end we decided it best not to risk an entire batch of citrus and alcohol by getting to the point of no return and instead settled on a compromise using half lemon and half lime. Thus is born lemon/lime-cello or at least we hope so. Stay tuned as the Phase Two addition of the hooch’s simple syrup takes place at month’s end. The color is developing nicely and it won’t be long before we know if we’ve encountered a Eureka moment or a yucky one.

The Amalfi

With neighbors like Pompei, Sorrento and Positano, you know the Amalfi Coast is in good company. This southern Italian getaway brings the best of Italy together: breath-taking scenery, oceanic daydreaming, fresh cuisine and tourist-pampered indulgences. That was the inspiration behind this next drink, The Amalfi; I wanted to bring together some of the best that the boot has to offer, from the Venetian popularized Prosecco, to an old guard Amaro, to some of the continent’s best produce.

Italian sunshine in a glass!

Italian sunshine in a glass!

Amaro is a classic herbal spirit (often used as a digestivo) that can be both fruity and bitter. The Amaro Bolognese produced by Montenegro is my personal choice because it tends to show off more dried fruit flavors while escaping the nasty side of other Italian bitters like a Fernet Branca. One sip (if you can get past the smell) of Fernet Branca and you’ll swear off such liqueurs forever. Actually you’ll just swear a lot and wonder who dipped your tongue into iodine. Luckily, Montenegro is nothing like that.

Combine three parts Prosecco, one part of the Amalfi Coast’s famed limoncello (in this case I used the batch I enjoyed making this spring with the mayor of Rocky Hill) and a splash or two of Montenegro Amaro – depending on your herbal aptitude. Shake well and gently pour over several blood orange slices and ice.

The Prosecco will cause a little bubbly action so take it slow. The combination of limoncello and oranges create a nice sunshine like glow in the glass while simultaneously producing a popping citrus-like prowess.

All over but the drinking

Louisa's Limoncello

Finally it’s complete. And man is it good!

My good friend Lou, swung by this week so that we could finish up our month long project of making limoncello. The second part of the project involved a little stirring of the high proof alcohol that for the past four weeks had played host to a lemon tree full of zest. The aroma was strong but fresh and clean.

After making and cooling a simple syrup of water and sugar, we added it to the lemon zest/alcohol mix and set it aside for one more night. The next day I bottled about three liters worth of limoncello using some of the old labels and bottles from the last go-around as well as a few new ones. The color is just as amazing and tempting as the pic above. And the taste? Let’s just say, the Neapolitans have nothing on us.

Onward Lemon Soldiers

Onward Lemon Soldiers

Besides sharing and enjoying the final product with friends, the only task left to do is give the limoncello a label name. My last batch was named in tribute to my grandparents. This year we have narrowed down the label name to the following and would appreciate your input:

(1) Distillato Clandestino (Moonshine)
(2) Chiaro di Luna (Moonshine)
(3) Contrabbando di Italiano (Italian Contraband)
(4) Boot Hooch (cheap liquor from that country shaped like a boot)

Limoncello with the Mayor of Rocky Hill

Zen and the Art of ZestingThis past Tuesday, I got together with an old colleague for my third attempt at limoncello. What I discovered between round one and round two made a world of difference in the final product. First, don’t use any pure grain alcohol (PGA) or Golden Grain when concocting this homemade hooch. Instead, opt for a 100 proof vodka (Smirnoff blue label works well) and be thankful you paid a little more. Likewise, spring for some organic lemons. You’ll have no nuance of a chemical component in the final product since the lemons (and thus skins) aren’t treated with mouth-numbing carcinogens.

Lou & Lemons

My second experience in making limoncello also taught me to use big, fat lemons. Handling and zesting the little guys can get tricky and it’s hard enough just to keep the white pith from the lemon zest. My friend, Lou “the Mayor of Rocky Hills” demonstrates the perfectly zested lemon. Here is just another instance in which that Fine Italian Hand comes in… well… handy.

There are a hundred recipes on line for limoncello and most are fairly similar. Using only four ingredients (vodka, lemons, sugar and water) means these little tips will be the difference between good limoncello and furniture cleaner.

After the zesting is complete, the vodka is poured over top then sealed and stored for anywhere from two to four weeks. Ours is resting in this airtight plastic gallon drum, where we will revisit it in March for step two which involves the addition of some simple syrup and a little more Italian patience.