Limoncello: How To Drink Italy’s Lemon Liqueur

A beginner’s guide to Limoncello, Italy’s favourite after-dinner drink

The exact origin of Limoncello is unknown. Stories revolve around Isola Azzurra, Sicily, and the Amalfi Coast, but this traditional Italian Limoncello drink is at least 100 years old.

Interestingly, despite its history, the name ‘Limoncello’ wasn’t patented until 1988: the patent was filed by Massimo Canale in Capri.

As the name suggests, it has a lemon flavour, courtesy of the lemon zest used when making it. You’ll often find thisdrink frozen after lunch, as it’s rated as the second-most-popular liqueur in Italy.

The drink has a distinctive yellow colour and is usually around 30% proof. That’s why you sip it and savour the flavour. It’s made with Lemon Zest, water, plenty of sugar, and a neutral grain alcohol, which gives it a unique sweet, yet slightly sour taste.

What’s the Best Way To Drink Limoncello?

Regardless of whether you have a homemade Limoncello drink or a more authentic mix, it’s important to know how to drink Limoncello.

●      Frozen After A Meal

The traditional Italian Limoncello is often served after a meal. This is the most common method and it is believed to help your body digest the food you’ve eaten. However, simply pouring isn’t enough.

Limoncello is a sweet syrupy liqueur. It’s best to store the bottle in the freezer and pour it directly into a glass. Ideally, the glass will also be chilled. The perfect glass is either short-stemmed or a shot glass, this helps to keep the drink cool.

In some parts of Italy, it is served in a chilled ceramic cup. In all cases, an authentic Limoncello in Italy must be served chilled to enjoy the flavour.

●      Accompanying Dessert

As well as being served after a meal, Limoncello is often enjoyed with a dessert. This can be with dessert after a meal or with a mid-afternoon or late-evening sweet treat.

The Limoncello enhances the flavour of your chosen dessert. It doesn’t have to be a delicious piece of Italian Tiramisu, but you can also enjoy it with a wide variety of fruits, ideally in a fruit salad.

●      After Coffee

Italian Limoncello also makes a delightful end to a meal. It’s traditionally served after coffee to remove the bitter aftertaste. You’ll be left with a sweet yet zingy taste in your mouth.

●      Cocktails

Limoncello can be used as part of a cocktail to boost the flavour. There are an increasing number of cocktail recipes appearing that use this drink, attesting to its quality.

Drinking Tips

It should be noted that Limoncello is not usually served with ice. A frozen drink and chilled glass are cold enough, while ice would simply dilute the flavour. It is common to fill a glass with crushed ice to chill it, but the ice must be disposed of before the Limoncello is poured.

While finding out how to drink Limoncello, spare a moment to consider the drinking process. Although it's often served in a shot glass, people generally drink it in two or three sips.

Check the bottle before buying it. The best-tasting Italian Limoncellos come from the Amalfi coast of Italy and use the sfusato Amalfitano lemon. It’s used in many dishes and gives Limoncello its light and zingy taste.

You should always store Limoncello either in the refrigerator or the freezer. If you have spare bottles keep them away from direct light, since it will alter the flavour. An open bottle can be kept in your refrigerator or freezer for months without damaging the flavour.

It’s important to note that this is a digestive served after a meal and it’s generally common to have one or two of these drinks.

Now you know everything you need to enjoy the traditional Italian drink. All you have to do now is try it and wonder why you’ve never tried it before.