After Campari, Limoncello is the second most popular liqueur in Italy. Because of its high sugar and citrus content, it is frequently served after dinner as a digestivo. Unlike Campari, the formula is not secret—in fact, it is so easy to make that it has become a DIY favorite. All you really need are lemon zests, simple syrup, and a neutral spirit such as vodka or grain alcohol.
Fabrizia Limoncello isn’t made in anyone’s basement, but the company has a strong family pedigree. Although he grew up in an assimilated Italian American family, Phil Mastroianni’s fascination with the old country began at age 20, when he accompanied his great-aunt on a trip to their ancestral home of Platania in Calabria. The food, wine and culture of the countryside were a revelation to him. On another visit four years later, his cousin placed a homemade bottle of Limoncello on the table, and he was inspired to create his own.
Along with his brother Nick, who oversees production, the company was created on nights and weekends. From the beginning, the venture was a labor of love. “Growing up in an Italian household, food was always a big part of our lives and we wanted to share that in a unique way,” says Phil. “We import all of our lemons directly from Sicily and they are the only thing that provides our Limoncello with its flavor and color.”
Fabrizia Limoncello ($17, 27% alcohol) offers a profusion of fragrant lemon zest aromas on the nose. It is fresh, clean and bracing in the mouth; while the sugar content is high (20 grams per two-ounce serving), all that sweetness is necessary to balance the tartness of the lemons. The company also makes Crema di Limoncello, which is enhanced with cream from Wisconsin, as well as Crema di Pistachio and a Blood Orange Liqueur. If you’re planning a picnic, they can supply a variety of canned lemonade and cocktails.
In addition, the Mastroiannis use their limoncello to produce a wonderful range of baked goods. The exceptional biscotti were fragrant and chewy, studded with crunchy almonds; my wife, the original cookie monster, proclaimed them to be the best biscotti she ever had. The three-ounce limoncello cookies were also exceptional. Either of these treats could become part of your everyday diet, provided calories aren’t a factor (190 per biscotti, 410 for each large cookie).
Mark Spivak specializes in wine, spirits, food, restaurants and culinary travel. He is the author of several books on distilled spirits and the cocktail culture, as well as three novels. His first novel, Friend of the Devil, has been re-released on Amazon in print, e-book and audio book formats. Has America’s greatest chef cut a deal with Satan for fame and fortune?