If you've ever been to Southern Italy you know that a good dinner must end with limoncello. This liqueur is made from freakishly large and sweet lemons that grow abundantly in the Sorrentine Peninsula and on the Amalfi coast. Tourists flock to seaside towns like Positano and Amalfi to purchase authentic limoncello at small factory shops and to drink the sweet/tart elixir at quaint cafes.
In Miami, authentic homemade limoncello is a little harder to find, but it can be done. Via Verdi Cucina Rustica in the MiMo district makes its own limoncello and orancello, made from fresh, local oranges. The liqueurs are wonderful to sip as a traditional after dinner drink, but they're also great in cocktails. Mix one part limoncello with two parts vodka and you have a potent lemon martini and orancello topped with prosecco makes a sophisticated evening version of a mimosa.
Via Verdi's Cristiano Vezzoli says that limoncello is surprisingly easy to make at home, and no special equipment is needed. He tells New Times that the liqueur is so easy to make that, "I think that everyone in Italy has prepared limoncello at least once in their lives."
Vezzoli's limoncello is different from the brands available at your local liquor store. It's juicier and truer to a real lemon, where the store bought versions of the liquor can taste more sugary and candy-like. Think of the difference between a lemon and a lemon drop and you'll get the idea. The restaurant partner and beverage director has shared his easy to follow limoncello recipe for you to make at home. You just need a large glass jar and some patience since it takes about a month to enjoy your finished product.
Limoncello (Courtesy of Via Verdi)
- 10/15 lemons (substitute oranges for orancello)
- 1 liter of clear grain alcohol (75- 151 proof) You can find this in any liquor store
- 700 Grams of sugar (a little over 3 1/2 cups)
- 1 liter of water
- Wash the fruit under water and dry them.
- Pour the alcohol into a large glass jar.
- Peel the lemons or oranges carefully, making sure to peel only the yellow or orange part. If you peel the white part between the skin and the pulp, your limoncello will come out bitter and you don't want that.
- Place the peels in the jar with alcohol for 15 days. Don't forget to shake the jar every day to make sure the peels are rotated and covered with the alcohol.
- After 15 days, remove the peels from the alcohol, but don't discard them.
- Boil the peel with the water and sugar over a low flame for 15 minutes. You are creating a sweet orange or lemon syrup.
- Add the syrup to the alcohol and let it rest for another 15 days.
- After the 15 days, filter the product and pour it into small, sealable bottles.
- Store the limoncello in the freezer and serve ice cold.
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Vezzoli, a partner at Via Verdi who also runs the beverage operations, says that the restaurant's next step is to experiment with other flavors and liquors. "We will start production of other Via Verdi liqueurs like basil and hazelnut." You can experience Via Verdi's limoncello andorancello at the restaurant for $5 per glass.