Typically, we think of digestifs — those complex, often-bitter herbal liqueurs sipped after a meal as a digestive aid — as a cold-weather indulgence. After all, it’s during the long, frigid winter months that we tend to overindulge on the food front, taking an extra portion of hearty stew or digging into a warm apple crumble, both to heat ourselves up as well as to bring some gastronomic comfort during this SAD-inducing season.
After dinners like these, when our stomachs are just a little too full, it’s nice to sip a snifter of apple brandy, nurse a small glass of port, or even down one of those adorably tiny bottles of Underberg, Germany’s favorite digestif. These potent liqueurs settle our stomachs and, once again, warm us up a little bit — two birds, one stone.
But while delicious, many traditional digestifs are just too darn heavy to drink during the summertime. Often dark, complex formulas of bitter roots, fruit peels, and vegetables such as artichokes and rhubarb, the none-too-subtle flavor profiles of spirits such as fernet, chartreuse, and Cynar are too weighty and warming to drink on a hot night.
Limoncello, an Italian liqueur created to make use of the Amalfi Coast’s superior lemons, is made by infusing lemon peels into a neutral, high-proof spirit, producing a bright, citrusy quaff.
Because the spirit is sweetened, it’s lovely served chilled all on its own, or lightened with soda water in a tall glass over ice. Tart and refreshing, it’s the perfect antidote to too many ribs and, as a bonus, it’s an easy way to get your friends to stick around for another hour or so.
The best commercially made limoncello is from Italy, where small Sicilian producers adhere to traditional recipes to produce lightly sweet, balanced spirits. Unfortunately, the majority of limoncellos that are exported to the U.S. lack in quality, tending towards the extremely bitter or the intolerably sugary.