Lemon, orange, or grapefruit-
What’s your pleasure?

I first discovered lemoncello several years ago during a trip to Italy with my mom.  In little Italian restaurants throughout Tuscany long lazy dinners were topped off with a small glass of the bright yellow beverage.  We never ordered it; rather it showed up like clockwork at the close of every meal.  I’m not a fan of hard alcohol- give me a good glass of red wine any day- but the biting sharpness of lemoncello was the perfect way to end an already satisfying meal. Thinking I could easily buy it back in the States, I eschewed the boot-shaped bottles of lemoncellos sold in the duty-free shops of the airports we passed through on our way back home.  Sadly the only lemoncello I could find in Norfolk was so sweet and thick that it reminded me of cough syrup.  In restaurants, requests for lemoncello were met with blank stares from bartenders.  For a brief time I was able to order a glass at Norfolk’s now defunct Amalfi’s Restaurant but with the closure of their doors I was out of luck. Until I found a way to make my own.

Making this liquor is actually quite simple.  Initially I started with a base of vodka but found it lacked the bite I expected from a true lemoncello.  A friend recommended I try grain alcohol as a base and sure enough it worked.  Ironically, it is not possible to buy grain alcohol in the Commonwealth of Virginia run liquor stores- the only place one can buy hard alcohol in Virginia- but I discovered that the Class Six liquor stores on military bases always carried a ready supply of the potent liquid.   Eureka!  Homemade lemoncello quickly become a favorite drink to serve to guests at the closure of our dinners.

Not knowing whether or not we would be able to find grain alcohol in Albania (we discovered it is sold here under the name “Alkoohool”) we included a case of the fiery liquid in our consumables shipment. The abundance of fresh citrus fruit has inspired me to branch out to also make orange-cello and grapefruit-cello.  I think both are even better than the lemon version.  Last fall the fruit filled pomegranate tree growing in our garden gave me the idea of trying a pomegranate version.  Neither Glenn nor I were impressed with the ensuing results which we actually dumped down the drain.  Since I do love the taste of pomegranate I’m not giving up though and will be trying it again this fall.

1 liter grain alcohol
8-10 firm thick skinned citrus fruit
1 1/2 cups sugar
1)  Carefully remove the peel of the fruit making sure to only remove the colored part and none of the
      white pith  (the pith will impart a bitter taste into your cello).
2)   Place the fruit skins in a non-reactive ceramic or glass bowl and cover with the grain alcohol.
3)   Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and place a shelf or out of the way counter for two weeks.
4)   When ready to proceed, make a simple syrup by placing the sugar in a saucepan with 3 cups of
       water.  Bring to a boil over high heat and cook for 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let cool
5)   Remove the fruit peels from the alcohol mixture and drain into a non-reactive bowl.
6)   Add the cooled sugar syrup and stir to combine.
7)   Transfer the cello into glass bottles and store in the refrigerator or freezer until ready to drink.
       I always keep mine in the freezer since we like to drink the cellos when they are extra cold.
This is so easy; the hardest part is waiting for the batch to be ready to drink.

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