An artisanal limoncello with the mischievous name of One Naughty Lemon, crafted from lemons grown in Franschhoek, is becoming a national sensation and can be found in leading restaurants and supermarkets this summer.
Known until recently only to patrons of predominantly Italian eateries in Cape Town, this sweet lemon liqueur is produced in small quantities with ample Sicilian passion by Giuseppe La Gattuta who made South Africa his home in 2010. Based on his uncle, Domenico Franco’s secret recipe of this famous Italian digestive, One Naughty Lemon, is made only from natural ingredients and the skins of fresh lemons with no added colourants or preservatives.
“Zio Ciccio and I used to make limoncello together during my summer school holidays in a small village near Palermo. He taught me all his secrets of how to make a really good one, using pure alcohol to extract the lemon essence from the skins,” says Guiseppe for whom making limoncello is far more than just a business venture: “Having left my family and friends behind in Siciliy, making limoncello made me feel right at home here as if I was 14 again.”
With predominantly mass produced imported limoncello available in South Africa at the time, Giuseppe recognised the gap in the market and growth opportunity for a superior quality product as an alternative to stronger spirits.
“I knew immediately that my limoncello could work here because it’s pleasant to drink and is enjoyable especially to women who prefer something sweeter as an after dinner digestive. It also makes excellent cocktails,” he adds.
It took a lot of hard work initially to introduce his concept to South Africans for whom limoncello was largely unknown at the time. For the first three years Giuseppe would frequent Saturday markets and host tastings in restaurants and bars to get the limoncello culture to take root. Now almost five years later, he is seeing his dream come to fruition with a much greater awareness and One Naughty Lemon becoming far more accessible in restaurants, liquor outlets and even on supermarket shelves.
“In fact One Naughty Lemon is starting to push out the Italian imports not just because it is cheaper being produced locally, but mine certainly tastes better because it isn’t mass produced,” he quips.
Giuseppe started making his Limoncello in Franschhoek in 2010 after acquiring a liquor license to produce alcoholic beverages but the increase in demand necessitated a move to larger premises in Montague Gardens. The lemons for his Limoncello, however, are still grown in Franschhoek.
More about limoncello
As legend has it, limoncello originated amidst the lemon groves in the land of Ulysses’ Sirens. During the Dark Ages, monks were known to produce liqueurs from a variety of fruit including lemons in monasteries scattered the length and breadth of Italy. Some attribute its origins to the custom of peasants and fishermen drinking a little lemon liqueur in the morning to ward off the cold.
Limoncello is made by steeping lemon peel in pure alcohol for a few days to extract the essence and concentrated flavour before adding water and sugar syrup to the mixture. The result is a sweet, fairly strong digestive with an alcohol content of around 27 – 35%. Giuseppe prefers to cap his One Naughty Lemon at 33%, just enough strength to enhance the taste that conjures up a lemon orchard in Sicily.
Serve limoncello ice cold, preferably from the freezer to heighten the intensity of the unique citrus flavour.
One Naughty Lemon is found in most Italian restaurants, selected liquor outlets, Makro and Pick n Pay stores, selling at a recommended price of between R119 and R129 per bottle. Quirky, yet attractive, it is an ideal gift especially over the festive season.