Using Limoncello

by Dennis Mayer | March 14th, 2013 | Ask the Bartender

lemon drinkI like the flavor of lemon, so I bought limoncello.  However, anytime I have tried to use it in a cocktail I end up with a drink that is too sweet and has a viscous consistency.  Do you have any suggestions for using limoncello in a cocktail with better results than mine?

Limoncello is a great and an underrated liqueur, but it’s also a bit misunderstood. Its flavor is derived as much (if not more) from the zest of lemons than from the tart lemon juice. And since lemon zest is a more delicate flavor, the limoncello does come across as fairly sweet.

One of the best ways to combat this is to balance the sugary flavor with something tart. In the case of limoncello, there’s a natural solution — lemon juice. Squeeze a bit of lemon into whatever cocktail recipe you tried earlier, and you might find that the recipe isn’t nearly as cloying.

As far as fixing the consistency? Add more ice and shake for longer. You’ll thin out the mix just a bit. Yes, technically, you’re watering the cocktail down, but if the drink was that thick to begin with, it needed a bit of water.

Generally, I use limoncello as a substitution for any cocktail that calls for Cointreau, curacao, or triple sec. You’ll get a lemon-flavored version of the drink, and since those recipes are made with similarly sweet cordials, you likely won’t find the results to be overly sweet.

Another option? Make a modified version of a lemon drop. Mix 2 oz. of citrus vodka with 1 oz. of limoncello, 1 tbsp. of lemon juice (about 1/2 of a small lemon, or 1/4 of a large one), and 1/2 tbsp. of simple syrup (or sugar). Shake thoroughly (especially since you’re worried about the consistency), strain into a cocktail glass or over rocks in a tumbler, and serve.

If you want something a bit more radical, mix your limoncello with Campari, or another bitter liqueur. Maybe a lemon Americano, with an ounce each of Campari and limoncello, in a highball glass or tumbler, topped with soda water?

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