Published on April 9th, 2012 | by Greg0
Citrus Liqueurs: Oranges And Lemons
Ah, Italy. Home to some of the finest wines, and near the top of the list for culinary inventions. Where would we be without pizza or pasta, marinara or alfredo or pesto. Sure, they can’t take all of the credit for these innovations, but they can almost certainly do so for our three types of liqueur today. Tart, zesty, tangy, we have been sipping these lovely alcoholic beverages over the past few weeks, and now that Spring is in full bloom and summer approaches, it’s time to get your glasses ready for these digestifs.
We’ll start with Ventura Limoncello and Orangecello, handcrafted in California. The packaging was modern and classy, and both have won major awards at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition (Gold for Limoncello and Double Gold for the Orangecello in 2011). They claim to make the highest-rated American limoncello, combining a three-generation legacy with a West Coast style. And though we haven’t seen it widely on this coast, as their distribution if focused on the other coast, we hope to soon- both were impressive indeed. Best serve chilled, we also combined each with a few mixers to attempt some cocktails, like the Devil’s Breath, which uses vodka and a fair hit of bitters to make a powerfully strong drink. Interestingly, we learned that the origins of these liqueurs are not clear- even the date of limoncello’s creation is quoted as “more than a hundred years ago”. Frankly, if you’re in Arizona, California, Alaska, or Oregon, you should definitely seek either or both of these out, depending on your preference. The orange was actually preferred straight, but is a bit harder to pair or mix. Either way, expect to spend around $15 for 375 mL.
Il Tramonto’s Limoncello offered an interesting contrast. More “old-world” and traditionally packaged, their lemons are picked from the Amalfi coast of Italy. This one wasn’t as intense, a little more mild and less sweet/tart, with a bit of a Meyer lemon feel. Dryer and lighter, our tasters liked but didn’t love this one. But it did pair better with champagne, and didn’t overwhelm any fresh fruit that was added. We made a version of the LimonBella, a nice brunch drink or post-dinner light cocktail, and the Il Tramonto worked great. Available for around $16 for 750 mL.
Finally, back to oranges. The “cellos” may not have their family history down, but Bauchant Liqueur does. Cognac makers from 1838, this is a triple-distilled grape brandy with both sweet and bitter oranges added. 80 proof, it’s sippable, and reviewers all praised the delicate aromatics. Further, the flavors work well in baking and cooking, adding a lovely color and caramel orange note to sauces or pancakes or chocolate pastries. Sure, it’s similar to Grand Marnier or Cointreau, both of which are the same proof, but we found it superior for many uses. The flavors were cleaner and crisper, and the Bauchant was definitely better than the others went served straight- though in coffee or margaritas, most preferred others. It’s cheaper by a fair margin; expect to spend close to $25 for 750 mL.