I love an easy cocktail that takes advantage of bottles I already have open at home, and this Bourbon Limoncello cocktail makes a fast and refreshing flavor combination for great summer sipping.
When I made my Limoncello Spritz last week, one thing I tried after I took the picture was adding a shot of bourbon to the spritz. It increased the depth and complexity of the cocktail, added vanilla and caramel notes and took the cocktail all the way to fantastic.
So this week I’m focusing on the combination of bourbon and limoncello as a base for this easy whiskey sour.
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First, What is Limoncello?
Limoncello is an Italian lemon liqueur that’s a sweetened, lemon peel-infused spirit with a lower ABV. It’s often sipped at the end of meal as a digestivo, and is usually homemade in Italy.
Like each family or restaurant has their house wines, they have their house limoncello. I didn’t take advantage of lemon season this year to make my own, but I have it on the schedule for later this year. Here’s a recipe I’ve got saved for it.
While the limoncello I used is store-bought, if you have access to homemade limoncello, it makes a far superior cocktail. I used Pallini, but if you have access to any of the limoncellos on this list from Liquor.com, you can’t go wrong.
Flavors in this Bourbon Limoncello Cocktail
In this case, I’m using both fresh lemon juice and limoncello itself to add both the sour of the citrus and the sweetness of limoncello. Lemon and bourbon always make a fabulous combination, but in this case, because I wasn’t using simple syrup in the cocktail, I needed a little punch of flavor and mouthfeel from something sweet.
I decided to use peach preserves to add both.
Because the base of this cocktail is bourbon, any preserves or jams that go with bourbon work here. Marmalade is mind-blowing, and raspberry or strawberry both make great options. I’m a huge fan of blackberry and bourbon together, so my blackberry preserves also made a magical limoncello sour.
With all the sweetness, I needed bitterness to balance the drink.
For that, I reached for two bitters – Black Lemon bitters and Orleans Bitters from Scrappy’s Bitters. Both worked well to reduce the overall sweetness without distracting from the star couple of bourbon and lemon.
I added fresh mint leaves to the shaker, but you can add any fresh herb you like here. Basil, rosemary, lavender, and sage all make excellent flavor pairings with the lemon and peach. You’ll need enough herb to add to the shaker and use for garnish for this version of a limoncello sour.
While you can make the drink without the fresh herbs, they make sipping the cocktail a delight.
How to Make a Limoncello Bourbon Cocktail
First, find the best limoncello you can source. If you make your own, use that, if not, look for a high-quality lemon liqueur with a tart, lemony flavor that’s slightly sweet. Because we’re adding in a little peach preserves, the limoncello can fall to the tart side.
Add your lemon juice and peach preserves to the bottom of a shaking tin. Use a spoon to break up and combine the preserves with the lemon juice. Add the limoncello, bourbon (or whiskey), mint leaves, and bitters to the shaking tin and add ice. Shake well and double strain into a rocks glass filled with ice.
For garnish, I used a lemon wheel with a fresh mint sprig, but use the herb you added to your shaking tin to build cohesiveness between the flavor of the drink and the aromas from the garnish.
Variation: If you prefer a limoncello old fashioned rather than a sour, omit the lemon juice and use 2 oz bourbon to ½ oz limoncello with a ½ tablespoon of preserves. Leave the bitters ratio the same, and stir instead of shake.
Fun Variations on this Bourbon Limoncello Cocktail
The fun part of cocktails is creating variations and riffs on a drink, whether a classic cocktail, or a favorite to make at home. In this cocktail, there are several elements you can play with to modify the flavor, aromas, mouthfeel and finish of the cocktail.
Let’s go through them.
As the base of the cocktail, I think bourbon works best, but there are some palates that prefer a spicier twist. For those people, swapping out the bourbon for rye whiskey may be the best option.
The limoncello can also be a flavor that’s modified in the drink. By using arancello (with orange) or mirincello (with cherries) you can change out that bright lemon flavor for another fruit. You could even swap that out for something more bitter and go the way of an Italian amaro.
I love the combination of peach and lemon together, but there are many fabulous and delicious preserves and jams that can be used here. Even more complicated jams like strawberry rhubarb or blackberry cardamom would be a great flavor addition here.
Finally, think about your herb garnish. This cocktail is best as a fresh and fragrant drink, and looking at the herbs in season can be the base you tie all the other elements around. Basil is amazing with limoncello, as is sage and rosemary. But even a very vibrant herb like lemon verbena, tarragon or lavender can yield delicious flavor combinations.
Other Cocktails You Might Enjoy
- Lavender Lemon Lush
- Lemon Old Fashioned
- Chocolate Lavender Sour
- Limoncello Spritz
- Earl Grey Kentucky Spritz
- Chocolate Old Fashioned
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Recommended Bar Tools
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You probably already have these, but you may need them, too:
Bourbon Limoncello Cocktail
- 1/2 oz lemon juice
- 3/4 oz limoncello
- 1 tablespoon peach preserves
- 5-6 herb leaves – I used mint – lavender, rosemary or sage would all work here.
- 1.5 oz bourbon or rye
- 2 dashes Scrappy's Black Lemon bitters
- 2 dashes Scrappy's Orleans bitters
- Garnish: lemon wheel, mint sprig.
- Add lemon juice and peach preserves to bottom of a cocktail shaker.
- Stir to break up the preserves.
- Add limoncello, bourbon, bitters and herb leaves.
- Add ice and shake for 10-12 seconds
- Double strain into a rocks glass over ice.
- Garnish with lemon wheel and mint sprig.