Cambrian: Opinion

Ah, the delights of a fresh limoncello cocktail

My late husband Richard would have loved it! During the October cruise, we had enjoyed the Sicilian dancers performing the tarantella on the dock in the midday heat, and the banner jugglers tossing full-sized gonfalons to one another. The culmination was when the star of the show juggled all five banners, catching one behind his back on his ankle and passing it between his legs toward the front and high up into the air again. Such grace, and so colorful!

Then it was on to Catania for a one-hour bus trip to the Greco Roman ruins in the high mountain village of Taormino, passing by Mount Vesuvius which was already shrouded in clouds. Early risers Kathy Brown and Pat Cowdery had been rewarded with a clear view of its magnificence from their stateroom on the port side of the ship. My sister and I, berthed on the opposite side of the ship, had missed it.

Now we learned why the area has historically suffered humongous earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. We were driving along on the cusp of where the African tectonic plate crashes into the European plate! Kathy and Pat later enjoyed a midnight view of Stromboli erupting as we cruised past it on the way to Salerno. Richard would have loved all of that!

People always ask about the food, so yes, the late supper in Barcelona at 9 p.m. was memorable for its duck leg confit with Asian “lacquer” (glaze); and the ship’s morning room service started us off very well with an English breakfast fortified by Erica’s strong hot coffee and my cappuccino. Our above deck buffets alternated theme cuisines: Spanish, Italian, Moroccan, Greek, French, Chinese, and a daily Sushi bar.

To provide for the recommended daily dose of gelato we were offered low-fat double Dutch chocolate, my favorite cappuccino, and many fruit flavors, including my absolute passion — passion fruit. That was featured in many of the desserts and sides, along with mango, always welcome. Did I mention the limoncello?

Fresh Limoncello

  • 8-10 lemons, washed and dried (I prefer Meyer, but common Eurekas are fine)
  • 1 750-ml bottle of vodka
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 cups water

Cut very thin long slices of peel, taking care to discard the bitter white pith. Steep in a covered 2-quart bowl with the vodka at room temperature for four days, until it turns bright yellow. Then make a simple syrup by boiling the sugar and water, cooling completely before adding to the lemon vodka infusion.

Cover again, and let set overnight before straining out the peeling. Pour into two bottles, seal, and set in the fridge overnight. Flavors will mellow the longer it sets, up to a month.

Our guide recommended storing in the freezer. Serve in a well-chilled cordial glass, over crushed ice, or in a cocktail with other spirits. A local treat in Sorrento is the Lemon Delight Cake, a round lemon sponge cake, filled with lemon crème, with a lemon glaze on top — all flavored with the liqueur.

Lemons are harvested there three times a year because each tree is in bloom, and has ripe and unripe fruit all at the same time. Our guide described ancient Romans coming to live the good life, “Masa Lubrensa — feel good”, an axiom which still prevails to this day. In her incomparable accent, “They came ere to enjoy the good hair.” The closer we got to Rome on the trip, the more pronounced that accent got, with the ‘h’ appearing and disappearing on the beginnings of words, much like the ending ‘r’ which is spoken in Boston.