Until recently, my knowledge of cellos was limited to limoncello – the lemon variety commonly found in southern Italy. However I was introduced to a whole new world of these liqueurs when I dined at Sessanta, the new Martin Brudnizki-designed restaurant in New York’s Soho.
I had heard about chef Jordan Frosolone’s unique creations from a friend, and enquired about them immediately upon arrival – not after dinner, as custom dictates. The next thing I knew, Frosolone appeared at our table – in the midst of a bustling evening service – clearly excited to share his passion for the flavour-infused digestivos. As he began to explain the process of making the cellos, his enthusiasm was infectious.
First, grain alcohol is infused with citrus fruits or seeds such as cocoa beans and chilli flakes, coriander, rosemary, fennel or farro. Then, simple syrup made with agave nectar is added. There are currently seven different varieties on the early-summer menu (and more planned to join the ever-changing list) and Frosolone presented each glass bottle in turn for tasting.
Thankfully, given it was at the start of the meal, the cellos weren’t too high in alcohol content and didn’t have the sugary, viscous texture that I typically associate with limoncello. My favourites included the nutty, rich farro flavour, the fennel’s liquorice tang, the sweet yet spicy play between the chocolate and Calabrian chilli, and lastly the zesty classic limoncello – tart, light and refreshing, it paired beautifully with biscotti.