Whoever came up with the phrase “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” was decidedly not from the Amalfi Coast. For one thing, no self-respecting Amalfitano would consider an abundance of lemons to be a bad thing, as the old cliché implies. And even if you found one who happened to be sour to citrus, lemonade wouldn’t be the beverage in which he found a silver lining.
For that they turn to a drink as positively Amalfitano as Ravello and Positano.
Life didn’t give the Amalfi Coast lemons so much as it surrounded the coast in fresh yellow fruit the size of melons, each one bursting with a citrus juice so refreshing—and so well suited for a place both scorchingly hot and effortlessly cool—it seems a gift from the gods. Far from dumping in a little sugar and calling it lemonade, the locals have paid their good fortune forward, brewing up limoncello. A tart, refreshing and infinitely satisfying after-dinner liquer, limoncello not only provides the perfect end to a hot Amalfi day, but evokes an air of coastal coolness no matter where it’s served.
Did You Know…?
Danny DeVito made headlines a few years back when he showed up a little tipsy on an episode of The View after staying out all night drinking with George Clooney. While he confessed on-air that he and Clooney had a late night, he neglected to mention what they drank.
“I did drink seven limoncellos that night!” DeVito later confessed. “We stayed up most of the night sipping this wonderful elixir.”
All things in moderation, Danny. (After all, “slow down to see the world” applies as much to consumption as it does to travel!)
Not much is known about the exact origins of limoncello, but one thing is certain: it begins with its namesake ingredient. At least twice the size of typical lemons, the sfusato amalfitano, as the region’s lemons are known, are zested or peeled and the resulting product is steeped in grain alcohol. Once the alcohol has released the peel’s oils, simple syrup is added to the mixture.
Traditionally served chilled as a digestivo after dinner, it’s customary to serve limoncello in a small ceramic glass, which is often also chilled. (Like lemons, ceramics are big business in Amalfi, as the region is well known for its hand-crafted ceramics.)
While there’s no place better than an Amalfi Coast patio to take your post-dinner splash (our favourite is at Le Sirenuse), the best part about limoncello is that a sip or two can make any locale feel positively Positano.