Limoncello, the intensely-flavoured liqueur is a beloved aperitivo or digestivo, that is practically synonymous with Amalfi. Enjoyed before or after many a lunch and dinner and often made by mamma (or la nonna!), each family has their own coveted artisanal recipe and each restaurant inevitably peddles their own variation. Traditionally, it is served well-chilled and neat in an ice-cold cordial glass. Take note however, the homemade artisanal version of Limoncello is not to be confused with the mass-produced imitations that have made the famous citrus concoction a booming commercial business worldwide. Traditional farming methods and fruit varieties ensure that the true and authentic Limoncello stands apart from its industrial cousins.
Sfusato Amalfitano, the oversized sun-kissed citrus beauty is the shining star of this sweet yet tangy, acidic liqueur whose origins weaves a mythical tale, much like the craggily coastline. Produced with fervent passion in various parts of Italy, there is much debate about the exact origins of the boozy blend. Some claim it dates back to ancient times, correlating its birth to just after the cultivation of the lemon. Others have noted literary citations from Medieval times, when it was known as “Rosolino al Limoni” and fishermen and farmers drank it as a morning remedy to combat the cold. Some believe it was born inside a monastic convent as a treat for the friars between prayers, while others claim it was thanks to the history of the great families of the Amalfi town of Sorrento, who at the beginning of the early 1900s, offered tastes of the homemade liqueur to their illustrious guests.
Traces can also be found to the island of Capri where the now-famous nonna, Signora Maria Antonia Farace tended to lush lemon and orange groves in her garden in Anacapri. Owner of the Mariantonia guesthouse, she would serve the limonillo (Capri dialect for the liqueur) to her guests. Post WWI, her grandson opened a restaurant and bar nearby, where he continued the tradition by serving the homemade liqueur using his grandmother’s traditional recipe. Fast-forward to 1988 when Maria Antonia’s great grandson, Massimo Canale made it official with the registry of his small artisanal production and business, Limoncello di Capri S.r.l.
We may never know the exact history of Limoncello but thanks to its Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) denomination, the real deal lemon potion is now firmly protected. It must be made using the original Sorrento lemon varieties which are grown in the areas from Vico Equense to Massa Lubrense and on the island of Capri and void of any preservatives, dyes, flavours and stabilisers. And though each family recipe remains very hush-hush, the process couldn’t be simpler: peel, infuse, sweeten then chill. But everyone has their own secret. Here is ISSIMO’s own recipe by Nonna Marosa.