Calamancello is one of the many citrus-flavored, limoncello-inspired dessert drinks on offer at Manhattan Beach's four-year-old seasonal Italian restaurant Love & Salt. Taking the Italian tradition of infusing lemons in booze, then sweetening the elixir to yield an after-dinner dram, barman Noel Baum has launched a citrus, or citronella, program inspired by California's bountiful, exotic produce. He's riffing off the classic lemon libation with fruit like kumquat, buddha's hand and calamansi.
To make limoncello, producers mix lemon peels directly with a base spirit and let the mixture macerate, which gives the limoncello its recognizable cloudy yellow color. But Baum says that through this process, the alcohol also pulls out the bitterness in the lemon's pith, so he follows a slightly different method. To make his "calamancello," Baum suspends whole calamansi fruit––the small green citrus native to tropical Asian regions, prized for its floral lime flavor––in a jar above 120-proof Everclear, ensuring that the fruit doesn't touch the booze. Baum explains that although some people make limoncello with vodka, he prefers Everclear since the liquor evaporates faster than lower-proof spirits due to its high alcohol content.
As the Everclear evaporates, its condensation forms on the calamansi's skin, extracting its flavorful oils, without drawing out its color, or the bitterness from its pith. This process yields a drink with a much cleaner citrus flavor, and Baum's recipe will let you nail this process at home. Note that the total output depends on the drink's evaporation and whether or not you add extra simple syrup. Here, Baum used a two-gallon glass canning jar with a clasp and lid.
Recipe adapted from Noel Baum, Love & Salt, Manhattan Beach CA
Yield: Approximately 3 liters
Prep Time: 5 minutes, plus 1 month resting time
Cook Time: N/A
Total Time: 5 minutes, plus 1 month resting time
2 liters Everclear
1½ pounds whole calamansi fruit, unpeeled
1. Pour the Everclear into a two-gallon glass jar. Arrange calamansi fruit in the center of a piece of cheesecloth, gathering the corners of cheesecloth to make a pouch with the fruit.
2. Leave a small piece of the cheesecloth hanging over the lip of the jar, so that when you close the lid, the fruit hangs a few inches over the spirit without actually touching it. Let the jar sit until all the fruit has lost its color and the Everclear has changed to a yellow-gold color, around one month. Remove and discard fruit. Mix Everclear with simple syrup to taste. Chill overnight and serve.