If you’re Italian, you might have memories of family members pulling an ice-cold bottle of limoncello from the freezer after a big meal.
Or perhaps you’ve experienced the homemade stuff in your favorite red sauce restaurant. Either way, limoncello is one of our favorite liqueurs, especially as the weather gets warmer and light, fresh ingredients make their way to our tables.
While there are plenty of great limoncello brands on the market, it’s a super-easy spirit to make in your own kitchen. Just ask the team at the Austin, Texas, restaurant Il Brutto, an authentic Italian spot helmed by chef Erind Halilaj that features dishes like homemade pizzas, pastas, and breads. The bar menu boasts a solid list of Italian-inspired cocktails and drinks, including the Limoncello 75, which is mixed with its house-made version of the lemon liqueur. Il Brutto offers a complimentary glass of limoncello to guests after each meal, which is one reason why the team decided to make it themselves.
“We taste-tested several commercial brands,” says general manager Charity Sadoy. “While some were better than others, there simply wasn’t much supply to offer it complimentary to all of our guests, which we felt was an important gesture of hospitality and tradition.”
Making limoncello became a favorite task for many members of the Il Brutto staff, so it inspired the restaurant’s newly launched Limoncello Club. “Staff would gather around the bar, and three to six of us would peel lemons together while conversing,” Sadoy says. “It was always a pleasant time of day, and we thought it would be something special that we could share with our guests.”
Every Monday evening from 5 to 7 p.m., guests are invited to grab a seat at the bar and help the staff peel lemons while enjoying 50 percent off their drink of choice. There, you’ll learn some of the secrets behind the recipe and take home a custom-made pin and recipe card. After two months, the staff will call you to retrieve your bottle of limoncello that you can enjoy in your own home.
Even if you’re not visiting Austin anytime soon, you can still make Il Brutto’s delicious limoncello. Check out their easy recipe for the crowd-pleasing cordial below.
Il Brutto’s Limoncello
- 1 liter Overproof Vodka
- 20 Lemons
- 1 liter Simple Syrup
- Peel the lemons, avoiding the pith as much as possible. Less white on the peels is better to avoid bitterness.
- Place the lemon peels in a glass jar. Add the vodka. (Juice the naked lemons and make lemonade! Il Brutto uses the lemon juice in cocktails and in the kitchen on salads.)
- Let the jar sit for a minimum of four weeks in an area that stays cool and dark. (Il Brutto steeps its jars for eight weeks minimum.)
- Strain off the lemon peels.
- In a separate container, mix the simple syrup and infused vodka.
- Store in the freezer and serve in chilled glasses.