“Pure sunshine in a bottle.”
That’s my favorite description of Limoncello, the refreshing and iconic drink of the Italian Coast. Hubby and I fell in love with the lemon liquor during our honeymoon in Italy. After each dinner (and occasionally even lunch) our cameriere (waiter) would deliver the delightful chilled shot glass of brilliant yellow liquid. Whether sipped or shot, a glass of this elixir leaves you with a slight afterglow, as if you have been kissed by the sun.
Since we couldn’t stay in Italy forever (oh, how I wish we could have) we had to hunt down our new favorite after-dinner digestivo stateside. Ten years ago, that wasn’t so easy. Luckily, a co-worker’s Italian Mother graced us with her family recipe. Making limoncello became Hubby’s passion, nearly an obsession, as he tried to duplicate the taste he so fondly remembered from our lazy days in Italian cafes.
Don’t worry, we shared. Limoncello became a holiday tradition. Friends and relatives threatened to withhold our gifts if we didn’t give them another years supply under the tree. Yeah, it was that good.
When we moved into our home we were pleased to discover it came with a mature tangerine tree. It produced bushels of fruit. And we had no idea what to do with all of it. One year Hubby got a flash of culinary brilliance and decided to adapt our Limoncello recipe to use up our bounty of tangerines.
A new specialty drink was born. And drunk. And enjoyed.
I’m going to share our TOP SECRET recipe with you. This recipe makes quite a big batch — enough to last you a year (unless you have a wicked drinking problem) and to share. Make it. Your friends will LOVE you…
Trattoria Morgan’s Tangerine Cello**
**(to make Limoncello simply sub lemons for the tangerines)
1 kilo tangerines – 2.2 lbs (about 10)
1 liter grain alcohol*
1.25 liters water
700 grams (3 1/2 cups) sugar
- Zest tangerines. Take a zester or a fine grater and remove only the colored part of the rind. *Avoid the white pith — it is bitter and will change the flavor.* (This part is messy, but your whole house will smell like a citrus grove.)
- Pour the grain alcohol into a large glass jug or jar (must have a lid to seal). Add the zested rind. Let it sit for two weeks. (Yes, it must be glass. Large mason jars or recycled gallon sized wine bottles work well. The citric acids will corrode plastic.)
Step 2 (two weeks later)
- In a large pot, bring the water and sugar to a boil. Stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Cool.
- Layer some cheesecloth over a mesh strainer and set over a large bowl. Pour the grain/rind carefully into the strainer, filtering out all of the rind. Pour the (nice orange) alcohol back into the glass jar.
- Add in cooled sugar water.
- Let it sit another week or two. Store in glass or distribute into smaller, decorative bottles. Keep servings in the freezer — it is best ice cold.
*Many recipes call for vodka, but we prefer grain. Higher alcohol content = no chance of it freezing when you store it in the freezer. But if you can ‘t find grain (I’m told some states won’t sell it?) you can use vodka.
Take three shots and email me in the morning.
If you do any more I don’t want to hear from you (and don’t blame your hangover on me).