Lemme’ at that limoncello

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Sexy, sour and sweet, limoncello is the perfect thing to reach for this summer. 

When I think of my happy place, I imagine summer golden hours — those long afternoons that stretch into warm late nights are the perfect backdrop for leisurely meals with friends and family, talking about anything and nothing. For these meetings of the mind and heart, it’s nice to have a special touch to cap off the evening. Limoncello, an Italian liqueur that’s made by soaking lemon peels in a base spirit, provides that little lift I’m looking for. 

Over the last 10 years, Americans have been steadily becoming more interested in aperitifs and digestifs. Most craft cocktail bars offer at least a small selection of amaris and in Pittsburgh’s Italian population, the tradition of homemade liqueurs is still alive. Limoncello is starting to catch onto amari’s coattails and ride its way into the hearts of bar-goers everywhere. With its beautiful golden tones and refreshing, sweet taste, it’s appealing to the eye, and makes a nice addition to any meal. 

“There’s something uniquely social about drinking limoncello. It’s festive and classy. It takes me out of my geography and instantly transports me into a happier, more carefree place. Maybe it’s the bright citrus flavors and the associations with that. It’s uplifting,” says Kingfly Spirits distiller, Blake Ragghianti.

Local flavors:

Bella Bambini Cello distillery
This family-owned distillery was opened by a grandfather and granddaughter in 2017 as a continuation of their homemaking tradition. Jim and Brittany Breen peel every batch of fruit by hand and distill it in grain alcohol for 30 days. Stick with classic limoncello or expand your horizons with pineapple, orange, or coffee cellos. Pick up a bottle at their distillery in Coraopolis or head to Pennsylvania Libations in the Strip District. bbcello.com

Kingfly Spirits
Blake Ragghianti, distiller at Kingfly Spirits wanted to make a refined version of the limoncello he grew up drinking. Kingfly’s limoncello includes perfumey, floral notes from rose petals and herbs he imports from California, while still using Sorrento lemons as the spirit’s starting point. The mouthfeel is lusciously smooth with a lingering sweetness. Head to Kingfly Spirits in the Strip District to buy a bottle or taste some in-house. kingflyspirits.com

Wigle Whiskey Limoncello
Wigle used its unaged wheat whiskey as a base for their light, refreshing and very citrus-forward limoncello. A soft gold in color, the sweetness of this liqueur is softened by slightly green and herbal notes, making it an ideal start or end to a meal. Pick up a bottle at their distillery or order online. wiglewhiskey.com

Limoncello Collins

Recipe by Colin Anderson, spirits program director at Kingfly Spirits.

  • 1 oz. limoncello

  • 1/2 oz. lemon juice

  • 1 dash simple syrup

  • Seltzer water 

Shake limoncello, lemon juice, and simple syrup with ice. Strain. Pour into a collins glass over ice. Top with seltzer and garnish with a spring of thyme and a lemon wedge. 

“This is a really light and refreshing summer drink. We use our mineralized housemade seltzer to give it a little extra flavor,” says Anderson.


Story by Celine Roberts  //  Photography by Brittni Bell Warshaw