Bottles and glasses of Cellos / Photo by Tom Arena
Skip Tognetti, owner and founder of Seattle-based Letterpress Distilling, making arancello (an orange version of the liqueur) was a way to express his Italian heritage while pushing beyond limoncello.
“Blood orange is almost ubiquitous in Sicily and part of Calabria,” he explains. “I thought it would be fun as a seasonal thing”—the fruit typically peaks from December through February. The spiced orange liqueur found fans, so he’s ramped up production. It’s now available year-round.
Next on his alterna-cello wish list: a grapefruit-cello. While a limited-edition “pompelmocello” (pompelmo is Italian for “grapefruit”) captured the floral qualities of ruby red and golden grapefruits, Tognetti admits his holy grail will incorporate the grapefruit-like pomelo, “just because I thought it would be fun to have a product called pomelocello.”
Tognetti’s not alone. Producers and bartenders are experimenting with other citrus varieties, yielding orange and lime-based ’cellos; honing in on variations like yuzu or Meyer lemon; or infusing spices or verdant herbs (see: gingercello, basilcello) for whole new twists on the classic.
Four To Pour
1. The Classic
Lucano Anniversario Limoncello (Italy, $23). Sorrento lemon peels give this Italian liqueur a buttercup yellow hue and a flavor somewhere between candied lemon peel and lemon lollipop, braced up with a hint of white pepper tingle.
Letterpress Arancello Rosso (USA $39). From Seattle’s Letterpress Distilling, this orange-cello has a burned gold hue and honeyed aroma. Vanilla, citrus peel and spice mingle, yielding a lush profile that suggests an orange glaze for cake.
CelloVia Coconut Lime (USA, $20 for 375 ml). While this Chicago producer makes a wide range of alt- ’cellos, this one stands out for bold lemongrass and lime flavors that would be right at home sweetening rum drinks.
Marble Gingercello (USA, $39). A contemporary ’cello from Denver’s Marble Distilling, look for a sprightly fresh ginger root fragrance and moderately sweet palate with plenty of ginger heat, finishing with lemon peel brightness.
Make Your Own At Home (And Make It Quick)
This vermouth-based variation offers a less-boozy take on limoncello. It’s also faster than a traditional limoncello recipe, which can require resting for up to a month. Natasha David recommends serving it with a generous pour of dry sparkling wine over ice, garnished with an olive on a pick.
How To Make Vermouth Limoncello
From Drink Lightly, by Natasha David (Clarkson Potter, 2022)
In a large sealable container, combine the dry vermouth, white vermouth and lemon peels. Cover and let sit in the fridge for 72 hours. Strain through a chinois. Discard the peels. In a blender, combine the infused vermouths with the sugar and blend until the sugar is dissolved, 2 to 3 minutes.
This article originally appeared in the August/September 2022 issue of Wine Enthusiast magazine. Click here to subscribe today!