One of the most usual questions of our guests in a cooking holiday in Italy is about the local food culture. A very interesting example is when and how Italians enjoy a very popular liquer, the limoncello.
After a lavish meal Italians usually have an espresso and then an after dinner/lunch drink or digestive, colloquially said ammazzacaffè or coffee killer, because it “kills” the flavour of the coffee and aids the digestion. For this reason in restaurant menus in Italy you will find them under the name “digestive”, but in trattorie and cafés you will always hear the more common and convivial word ammazzacaffè.
One of the most typical “coffee killers” is limoncello, a fresh lemon liqueur. Italy is the world’s largest producer of lemons, harvesting them most of the year; this is probably why Italians have found this pleasing way to use the abundant fruit.
Limoncello was first produced in Southern Italy, overall in the area of the Gulf of Naples, in fact one of the most famous limoncello is the one which is made with lemons from the Sorrentine peninsula. In particular the Amalfi coast is one of the most important centres of the limoncello production. Now it is quite spread throughout Italy (even if in the Northern regions it is more common to drink grappa as after meal drink, probably dued to the weather implication, limoncello is quite refreshing and it is perfect for warmer areas such as the South, the centre and the islands while in the North is usually colder) and now it has become the second most popular drink after Campari.
The actual history of limoncello is not clear: some say it has spread at the turn of the 19th century, when the wealthy Sorrentine families started to serve it as a special treat to their guests; some say that the monks invented it, others say that the inventors were fishermen, who drank a shot of limoncello it as a way to fight the cold of the nights fishing in the sea. What it is sure is that limoncello has only been commercially produced in the last century.
It is a very fresh liqueur, usually kept and served ice cold, and it is ideal after a summer meal in which you had enjoyed fish dishes! Its distinctive yellow colour derives from the infusion of lemon zests in pure alcohol.
Actually there is not a unique recipe for limoncello but they are all unique, since every family makes it following their preference and the family tradition (usually the recipe passed on through generations, Italians love cooking “as Granma did”).
It is quite common to find another version of limoncello, the “Cream of Limoncello”, a delectable cream liqueur. The difference with the regular version is that the cream is thicker, sweeter and paler but what both have in common is the fresh and delicious taste.
All over Italy there are many local shops that show in their window innumerable attractively-shaped bottles of limoncello, and in many of them you will be offered a tasting of what you surely will want to bring back home and share it with your family and friends. So even when you come back home from Italy and it is raining, you can always enjoy a beam of Italian sunlight after your meal: limoncello.
So, if you like to learn more about the Italian food culture and taste the authentic Italian limoncello, why not join us on a cooking holiday in Amalfi?