Limoncello is a staple — literally, like bread — in Italy, and every tourist who visits seems to come back with an artisanal bottle or two.
HelloCello is a new company based not in Firenze but here in the U.S., in Sonoma’s wine country, actually, where they make, technically, flavored brandies.
We tried both the lemon and orange versions of the company’s intriguing liqueurs.
HelloCello Limoncello di Sonoma is, of course, a lemon liqueur. Just pouring it into a glass you see the difference: It’s got a creamy opacity to it, almost milk-like, with little bits of pulp visible, a stark contrast to the Gatorade-like transparency of most limoncello. The taste offers traditional limoncello character, with a fairly smooth profile. Pure lemon on the nose, it reveals a very tart character on the tongue — more Meyer lemon, lime even, along with standard lemons — with a long and lasting finish. This is pleasant but turns slightly bitter over time, an effect which makes you, of course, reach for another glass. 62 proof. A- / $24
HelloCello BelloCello di Sonoma is orange-based, but it also features Damiana, reputed to be an aphrodisiac and popular south of the border. (The company says it is the first U.S. spirit to include Damiana in it.) The color is not as inviting as the limoncello, a bit like a funky guava juice. The taste isn’t as appetizing, either — a little grapefruity, sour, and not terribly orange. I like to use the Mexican Damiana Liqueur in cocktails, but I know that a little goes a long way. I would probably use BelloCello in a similar fashion — not for drinking straight like limoncello, but for mixing (in minute quantities) in an exotic cocktail. 62 proof. B- / $27