Drink of the Week: Ventura Limoncello

Ventura County produces more lemons than any other county in the United States. A drive inland along Highway 150 from Santa Barbara to Santa Paula goes past thousands of acres of lemon trees, but limoncello, the lemon liqueur that's on every bar shelf in Italy, was never produced locally; the making of limoncello here has always been up to home cooks. That's changed; the Ventura Limoncello Company has taken the excellent lemons grown in Ventura County and turned them into a domestic version of the drink.

Limoncello is a sweet drink, meant to be drunk ice-cold during the heat of summer; since California's peak lemon season is in winter and it takes at least four months to make limoncello, this works out nicely.

Italians drink limoncello as cold as they can get it (store your bottle in the freezer), and they drink it neat, in small ceramic cups. Ventura Limoncello is extremely sweet and slightly syrupy; as a digestif, it works on its own, particularly served as the traditional finish to a light meal such as pizza or grilled fish.

Ventura Limoncello's best use, though, sacrilegious as it may be to Italians, is as a refreshing alcoholic lemonade. Serve the limoncello cut with an equal amount of water and stirred with ice; the water tempers the sweetness and reduces the alcohol content to 14.5%, which is about the same as a glass of wine.

Buy Ventura Limoncello at Hi-Time Wines, Liquor Warehouse, Vendome Wine & Spirits, Whole Foods and other locations listed here.

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