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With coronavirus making travel a tricky and even potentially dangerous prospect this year, we’re embracing the summer staycation. All week (and all summer) long, we’ll bring you transportive flavors and travel-inspired ideas from around the world, so you can take your tastebuds on a trip and give your mind a mini vacation while you’re still at home. Here, you can drink in Italy every night from the comfort of your own patio with this recipe for homemade limoncello.

Imagine yourself on a midsummer night’s eve, sipping a chilled, bright limoncello offered to you by the proprietor of a charming trattoria, so intimate it feels like home. Now imagine you are actually the proprietor in question and this is your home. You may not be able to enjoy a full-on Roman holiday this season, but you can still enjoy elements of a Roman holiday in your own space. (Vespa sold separately.) Limoncello, or its orange equivalent, arancello, are simple to make and even simpler to enjoy.

Limoncello is consumed as a digestive,” explains Franco Bongiovanni, Bar Manager of the Sofitel Roma Villa Borghese, whose restaurant and terrace, Settimo, might be exactly the place one dreams of as the setting for an authentic, post-dinner limoncello. As a liqueur, limoncello has a strong citrus profile with a touch of sugar, bringing together strength, brightness, and roundness for the perfect digestive experience.

After dinner—which is neither a short, light, nor early affair for Italians—“it is normal to have a limoncello, commonly served chilled in a shot glass,” Bongiovanni says. “It’s often taken after a big meal to both aid digestion and enjoy leisurely,” ideally while continuing to socialize with family and friends well into the evening. 

Understanding the pedigree of limoncello enhances the argument that its very authenticity is built into its DIY nature. “Historically, limoncello was made in the home with recipes that were passed down from several generations,” explains Bongiovanni. “Traditional limoncello is produced in the south of Italy along the western coast, usually made from Sorrento lemons. As it was considered a local delicacy, it was never commercialized for external markets.” Ergo, the most authentic way for you to enjoy limoncello stateside, is to make it for yourself.

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Refreshing and versatile, you can try Bongiovanni’s limoncello recipe for classic after-dinner sipping, or even in citrus-forward cocktails. Keep it in the freezer for maximum refreshment, and even, in Bongiovanni’s words, “as an excuse to open the freezer and cool off” on hot summer nights, Italian or otherwise.

Homemade Limoncello (or Arancello) by Franco Bongiovanni

  • 500 ml 95% proof grain alcohol (about 2 cups)
  • 2 ½ cups water
  • 2 ⅛ cups white sugar
  • 10 lemons or navel oranges
  • Clove (optional)
  • 1 cinnamon stick (optional)
  • 1-2 cardamom pods (optional)
  1. With a peeler, lightly peel the skin from the lemons or oranges.
  2. Combine the alcohol with the skins in a glass container. Cover with plastic wrap or use an airtight lid. Let the container sit in a cool place for at least 4 weeks.
  3. After 4 weeks, remove the skins from the alcohol with a strainer and discard. Strain two more times to remove smaller bits of fruit. Set aside.
  4. In a saucepan, combine the sugar and water and heat until dissolved. Set aside and let cool.
  5. Combine the infused alcohol with the cooled simple syrup.
  6. Add any optional ingredients before corking.
  7. Serve chilled and enjoy!

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Header image courtesy of piazzagabriella / Getty Images.

Pamela Vachon is a freelance writer based in Astoria, NY whose work has also appeared on CNET, Cheese Professor, Alcohol Professor, and Diced. She is also a certified sommelier, voiceover artist, and an avid lover of all things pickled or fermented.
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