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Dec 11, 2012 03:23 PM

Grapefruit Limoncello Help!

So, I have made many liqueurs in my day, and have decided to give away different flavored liqueurs to everyone on my family. I made a standard limoncello which turned out fabulously, and is something I can be proud of. However, I made a pomlimoncello (with grapefruit rind instead of lemon and tarragon). I thought I was careful enough with both to not have any pith but apparently not because the pomlimoncello is bitter. Does anyone have any tips to removing bitterness? Starting over isn't an option and I'd prefer not to add any more simple syrup as I'm not sure how much it would help.

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  1. Salt is quite effective in offsetting bitterness; and I also think it generally highlights grapefruit quite well. You could try creating a solution of kosher salt in water, take a test sample of the 'cello, and dose it until you're either happier with the bitterness level or it gets too salty. That way you won't mess up your entire batch trying to fix this issue if it doesn't work out, and you can try something else. (No clue what that "else" is. Another thought is that you could try adding some acid (citric, probably), to mask the bitterness.)

    Not that it helps you now, but I wonder if the tarragon might also be contributing to the problem. Herbs can read as astringent, especially if they're overextracted, which many people will interpret as bitter.

    1. I agree with DSP. I would probably try some citric acid plus more sugar. Or can you embrace the bitterness and enjoy it? You might find that this is 'cello is best enjoyed as an ingredient. Try it with bourbon and some lemon. Maybe some Campari too.

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      1. As DSP and ED said, there are a few things you can play with like acidity, salt, sugar. But you are going to have to embrace the bitterness. Grapefruit peel is inherently more bitter. This is because grapefruit (a sweet orange/pomelo cross), tangelo (a grapefruit/tangerine cross) and pomelo (the grapefruits ancestor), contain nootkatone, a pleasant and refreshing bitter chemical which is the main characteristic of grapefruit, which is in present large amounts, even in just the zest. A little is great, too much can be overwhelming. You have to be very careful peeling off the zest with absolutely no white pith. You will still have some bittterness, but pleasantly so. But any white pith, the smallest amount, and you get a gang fight of bitter, most of it unpleasant.

        Did you add any grapefruit juice to the pomcello? This can boost acidity, and add more grapefruit flavors.

        Also, why did you use tarragon? As DSP says, herbs, especially dried ones, and infuse very strongly, and overextraction, which is easy to do, can cause intense bitterness and astringency. Tarragon definitely infuses out bitter and astringent if it has more than a half hour extraction. This may be another source of unwelcome bitterness. I made a cocktail bitters using tarragon and left it for a few days, very strong bitter and astringent.

        1 Reply
        1. re: JMF

          Thanks, JMF, for the educational post. I had no idea that grapefruit was a hybrid of pomelo. Very interesting, and makes perfect sense. This information might also help with making various drinks; I can usually find pomelo in my area, but white grapefruit is virtually nonexistent. (Pink and ruby red are everywhere, naturally.) I'll play with pomelo as a white grapefruit sub.