A-Z Spirits and Liqueurs: L is for Limoncello

Dreaming of sunshine and long hot summer evenings which seem so long ago, this week’s post seems appropriate as I hear stories of friends winding up their summer travels in Europe – yes, Tipple Tipple’s Laura this means you! – particularly along the stunning Amalfi Coast in Southern Italy.

What is it? Bright yellow in colour, Limoncello is a an intensely lemony Italian liqueur made from the zest and peel of big, ripe, juicy Mediterranean, usually Sorrento lemons. Produced mainly in Southern Italy around the Gulf of Naples, Amalfi Coast and islands of Capri and Ischia, this popular liqueur is very strong, very sweet, and very satisfying. Limoncello is made using a combination of ground lemon rinds washed in water, grain alcohol, and sugar and is distilled for at least 80 days.

How can I enjoy it? Limoncello is traditionally served as a ‘digestivo’ after a meal, or with dessert, in a small ceramic beaker or a chilled cordial glass.  This zesty, potent liqueur (usually around 31-31% abv) is delicious when paired with Italian desserts, such as Tiramisu, a pear tarte, or almost any chocolate concoction. Limoncello may also be served drizzled over ice cream or in cocktails – usually with vodka and tangy cranberry of lime flavours. Keep in the freezer to store! Try this easy-peasy (lemon-squeezy!) recipe from The Nibble:

The Amalfi

Ingredients Per Cocktail

  • 1-1/2 ounces citrus vodka
  • 1/2 ounce limoncello
  • 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 2 sprigs lemon thyme or regular
    thyme

Preparation

  1. Put vodka, limoncello, fresh lime juice and the leaves from one sprig of thyme into a shaker with ice. Shake vigorously.
  2. Strain and pour into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a sprig of thyme.

I want it! Where can I get it? Available at most good drinks stockists, it’s pretty easy to find. For an easy online purchase, The Drink Shop has a 70cl bottle of Luxardo Limoncello (27% abv) for £18.05.  Various del charges may apply. If you’re lucky enough to make a trip to Italy, pick up the real deal while you’re there. I can personally vouch for the Capri Limoncello – stunning (that includes the view!).

Gorgeous lemon shot from Dan Harrelson‘s photostream on flickr.

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Bacchus to Basics; Yummy fruit beers

Want somethng different to your normal tipple?

Try these fantastic Bacchus fruit beers from Belgian producer van Honsebrouck brewery based in Ingelmunster, Belgium. Available in Framboise (Raspberry) or Kriek (Cherry) flavour, these beers are a base of Gueuze-lambic, infused with their respective fruits.

Bacchus Framboise is lusciously dark red, clear, full bodied, sweet with the heady raspberry fruit bang. Bacchus Kriek has an intense morello cherry (Kriek) aroma and taste. Infused with the cherries for at least six months, not only do you get a tangy, sweet cherry flavour, but also a subtle taste of almonds – cherry bakewell perhaps?!

For interesting food matches, try Framboise with strawberry or raspberry cheescake or a starter of poultry, or salad with a raspberry vinagrette. Pair Kriek with bakewell tart for pudding or a main of duck with cherry or plum sauce.

Packaged in elegant half bottle sized (375ml), Champagne style bottle and wrapped in paper, its a treat to unveil at the dinner table. The Drink Shop sells both by the bottle, the Framboise at £3.29 and the Kriek at £2.88.

Cheers! (or should that be Beers!)

A-Z Spirits and Liqueurs: G is for Grappa

Now, it would have been easy for me to say G is for Gin, but we already have a little obsession with gin and frequently post about different flavoured gins that pop up around the place, so I’ve gone for something different!

What is it? Grappa is a Northern Italian grape-based brandy, traditionally made from pomace – the stalks and seeds which are a by-product of the normal winemaking process.  Its firey, at 40-60% abv, but has been developed to become tastier than the original product, which was made around 15th century to warm up the farmers and peasants who were out in the cool Italian winters.

How can I enjoy it? Serve as a slightly chilled shot after a meal, sipping slowly from a tulip shaped glass, or in a ‘caffe corretto’, ‘corrected coffee’, by adding to a shot of esspresso for true Italian sophistication. Like many spirits, it can also be used in a number of cocktails, but I think this one is unique, and best served on its own.

I want it! Where can I get it? Like wine, there are a number of different producers making Grappa, even as far as Australia. For a little bit of Italy at your next dinner party, serve Nardini Bianco Grappa – Italy’s best selling premium Grappa, which is well balanced with notes of jasmine tea and honey. At 50%, its fiesty, but take your time and sip slow – it is also thought to aid digestion. You can pick up a 70cl for £34.99 from online retailer The Drink Shop.  For pretty Grappa serving glasses, you can’t go past this bargain on Amazon. At £14.99 for six 90ml glasses, they are not just for Grappa, but could also be used for other fruit brandies and maybe even Limoncello…..L is for…. !

Actually factual: Although Grappa can only be labelled so if sourced and produced in Italy, the French equivalent is Marc – such as Champagne can only be labelled Champagne if it is from that region.  Much Grappa production is packaged in fancy bottles to enitce buyers (namely tourists) but producers insist it is not to mask the frightfully potent blend which it contains! I’m game if you are… !

Pretty Grappa bottles picture taken from Paul and Jill’s photostream on flickr.

A-Z Spirits and Liqueurs: B is for Brandy

Impress your dinner party chums with expert knowledge of a classic after dinner tipple!

What is it? A spirit made from distilled fruit, generally around 35-60abv.  Different methods of distillation and maturation provide different characteristics.  

Grape brandy is made from distilled wines where grapes are the base – Cognac & Armagnac are perhaps the most well known of and are reflective of their origins;  the grapes are from the Cognac region in France or the Gascony region respectively. These are generally branded so you may have heard of: Courvoursier or Hennessey or recognise the signature frosted green bottle of Champagne Cognac, Remy Martin.

Fruit brandies are made from fruit other than grapes; apples, peaches, apricots, plums, cherries and more. You may have heard of: Applejack (American) and Calvados (French Normandy) from apples or Eau de Vie (French) for a colourless fruit brandy.

How old?! Labelling terms on grape brandies dispelled… Yes, a label can be ultra confusing but in short, the longer a brandy has been aged, the more complex, and generally more expensive, it becomes!

AC has been aged a minimum of 2 years.

 VS (Very Special) has been aged 3 years or longer.

 VSOP (Very Special Old Pale)has been aged for at least 5 years.

 XO (Extra Old) has aged for 6 or more years.

 Vintage brandy has been stamped with the date it was first stored.

 Hors D’age brandy has been aged in the barrel for at least 10 years. This is the most elite (and expensive) brandy

How to enjoy it: Typically enjoyed as an after dinner drink, best served at room temperature in a brandy snifter. Check out these lovely classic Brandy glasses  from John Lewis. If you prefer to ooze sophistication with a cocktail in hand (like me !), try a Sidecar . This recipe from In The Spirit is fantastically easy and quick;

2 measures Brandy, 1 measure Cointreau, 0.5 measure lemon juice. Shake with ice and serve in a chilled Martini glass.

I want it! Where can I get it? The Drink Shop  have a fantastic online range of both grape and fruit brandies starting from around £15.00 for 70cl bottles.

Actually factual:  The name brandy means ‘burnt wine’ from Dutch ‘brandewijn’ or ‘brandywine’ (Wikipedia)

Images taken from The Culinary Geek’s  and jekert gwapo’s photostreams.