Hello ‘Cello

When life gives you lemons … it’s time to stock up on vodka and tonic.

Unless you are the Pallini family of Italy, in which case it’s time to make premium Pallini Limoncello.

Here’s a video I made during my recent visit as a guest of the Pallinis in Italy.

The family story is quite interesting, starting in central Italy with Nicola Pallini, an enterprising young merchant of the 19th century who built a business out of exporting the local chestnuts and importing coal from Germany. Later the family moved to Rome and branched into distilling, going on to create Sambuca Romana, which made a splash in the United States in the ‘60s under the direction of Virgilio Pallini, who also is a former broadcast journalist. (I had my first glass of Sambuca Romana on this trip. Zesty and a great way to end a meal although you do have to be fairly into licorice, as I am.)

The lemon peel used to make Pallini limoncello comes from the Amalfi coast, which is famous for its large and mild-tasting Sfusato lemons. Farming here is no picnic; the steep slopes that make the coast so picturesque are a challenge, with long, narrow terraces strung together by steep stone steps.

The lemons are carried up those steps by hand, or rather by (strong) shoulders. We saw one 62-year-old who not only can still handle the load, he works a second shift at another grove. Not surprisingly his nickname was “The Beast.”

The lemons are peeled at the source with the peel sent to the Pallini distillery.

About a decade ago, the family relaunched their limoncello, revamping an old family recipe to create a product that was more drinkable than the traditional home-made versions which tend to be high-proof and very tart. “We wanted this product to be more for the international taste,” explains Micaela Pallini, who is Virgilio’s daughter and joined the company in 2000.

Pallini Limoncello is now distributed in over 35 countries and is the leading brand in the premium segment of the market. “Everything we try to communicate from the packaging to the liquid is that we are trying to be premium in everything we do, and authentic because there is a family behind the business,” says Pallini.

Pallini Limoncello clocks in at 26 percent alcohol by volume, or 52 proof. It’s good on the rocks, served up straight up very cold, or, in a lazy woman’s cocktail, mixed with sparkling wine.


Related posts: Amazing Amalfi,

Terraced lemon groves in Amalfi /Photo Michelle Locke