Charmed by lemon liqueur

SIPS

October 22, 2003|By Sara Engram | Sara Engram,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Many fans of limoncello consider it a summertime drink - a great way to cool down on a hot day.

But I first encountered the charms of this lemon liqueur during a trip to Italy in early fall. Naturally, I was smitten.

What's not to like in a drink that combines lemon, sugar and a grown-up bite? Besides, I don't particularly enjoy ice-cold drinks; the chill tends to mask the flavor.

So I resist the notion that limoncello should be saved for summer. In fact, I'm a firm believer that lemons ripen in the winter partly to remind us that cold weather won't last forever. So why not let a sip of limoncello do the same?

Limoncello is a delightful digestif, the perfect tonic to follow a good Italian meal - or any good food, for that matter. It's also a useful ingredient to keep around for everyday uses - from cooking to spicing up a cup of afternoon tea.

Try drizzling it on ice cream, splashing it on fruit salad or brushing it on a slice of poundcake. In fact, you can use limoncello just about any way you would use lemon - which, of course, makes it a great addition to many drinks.

Here are a few ideas:

Combine 2 parts limoncello with 3 parts hot tea.For iced tea, add a shot of limoncello to a glass of ice and fill with unsweetened tea.

To make a zesty spritzer, place ice cubes in a tall glass, add a shot of limoncello and fill with club soda. Stir and garnish with a lemon slice.

If you like creamy drinks, combine one part lemon liqueur to two parts cream and mix well in a shaker. (If you're partial to cream liqueurs, Giori offers a ready-made lemon-cream liqueur, Cream Lemoncillo.)

Some people who first discover limoncello in Italy are disappointed when they taste the commercial varieties available in this country. They seem a bit sweeter, somehow lacking the intense lemony flavors that were so captivating in Italy or that you can get in a good batch of homemade limoncello.

But that's not to say the store-bought variety doesn't make a good sip. I have tried two limoncellos available in Maryland: Giori (which uses the spelling lemoncillo) and Caravella. They may not rival the world's best examples of lemon liqueur, but they're good refreshment and they can make a terrific mixed drink.

So here's a toast to the lovely lemon and its delightful liqueur.

Cillorita

Serves 1 to 2

2 ounces Giori Lemoncillo Liqueur

1/2 ounce Cointreau

1/4 ounce lime juice

Shake with ice and strain. Serve in a martini glass rimmed with salt.

- Giori Lemoncillo Liqueur

Limoncello Cosmopolitan

Makes 1 drink

3/4 ounce vodka

1/4 ounce cranberry juice

1/4 ounce Caravella Limoncello

lemon wedge for garnish

Combine all ingredients except lemon wedge and pour into a martini glass. Garnish with a lemon wedge.

- Caravella Limoncello

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