Drink Limoncello Extremely Cold For The Best Flavor Experience

Maybe you've heard about the "sweet taste" of revenge, or that it's a dish best served cold — but limoncello is a whole lot sweeter, and it's served even colder (probably). Limoncello is as much a beverage as a showcase of Italy's prized local produce: the lemons of the Amalfi Coast, Sorrento, and Capri. The dense, vivid yellow liqueur is made from lemon zest, sugar, water, and a neutral spirit, typically grappa (distilled Italian brandy, the byproduct of winemaking) or vodka. To describe limoncello as plainly "sweet" would be insultingly dictionary; the sweetness develops into a slightly sour and tangy citrus bloom. Sipping your limoncello as icy cold as possible is the optimal way to experience its trademark intense lemon flavor.

As evidenced by why red wines are served at room temperature and white wines are served chilled, serving temperature makes a difference. Temperature affects the tongue's ability to perceive taste or register certain flavors. On the molecular level, experiencing flavor is all about the taste buds, and one of the most important components of taste transduction (especially for receiving sweetness) is called TRPM5.

TRPM5 is sensitive to temperature and is hyper-activated by heat – but foods aren't always sweeter or more flavorful simply because they're warmer. Human perception of sweet taste may increase in heat, but coolness can increase the electrical activity of other taste nerves on the tongue connected to sourness, and all are necessary to experience limoncello's dimensional flavor.

Set your taste buds up for success

For proper enjoyment, the ideal serving temperature for limoncello is 40 F. To enjoy it like a local, serve your limoncello ice cold in a shot glass without ice or any mixers. This is both because limoncello doesn't need any help from other ingredients to be awesome, and because the temperature shifts pretty quickly.

In Italy, foodies often keep their limoncello bottles on ice or tucked in the freezer instead of on the countertop. A bottle of limoncello should be chilled in the fridge for at least five hours (or one hour in the freezer) before it's served. The colder temperature creates a thicker, more viscous mouthfeel in the limoncello, and its syrupy texture is a defining characteristic of the decadent, world-famous Italian liqueur.

Small glasses also help prevent it from warming too quickly. That said, even though it's served in shot glasses, it's proper to drink limoncello in two or three sips rather than slam the whole shot at once. The point of this luxurious liqueur is to savor the flavor, not to catch a buzz. In polite company, don't drink any more than two or three glasses of the digestif. In some circles, it's actually considered rude to serve limoncello as an aperitif before eating.