It is your way of distilling sunshine in a bottle, of capturing the salty, bright air of Capri and the golden light of Tuscany. It will forever be your first time in Florence, savoring the sweet lemony digestif at midnight on the Palazzo Vecchio, only half-believing that there you were in the heart of a city you had only ever read about.
Now, as you peel your lemons, you think back to that first night and how smoothly that limoncello went down, a cool, clean tonic on your throat, the perfect antidote to a year of uphill climbs and dead ends. The heaviness in you had lifted, carried away by the soft midnight breeze and kept away with the lively conversation of your late-night companions and the music floating across the piazza. It took the bitter peel of a tart fruit and a long year and turned it into something soft, gentle, enjoyable.
You do this now too--taking those seemingly unusable pieces and shaping them into something beautiful. You work your way carefully around the lemon, making sure to shave off the outer skin but leave the too-bitter white flesh untouched; it will not do to let a pith-soured rind steep in your brew. This elixir must be made up of light and fresh starts.
As the weeks pass and your mason jar, full of lemon peels and spirits, darkens to a rich golden hue, you consider the time it takes to make something worthwhile, to let it cure until it is ready to be finished off with sugar and water. Remove the peels too soon, and you are left with a weak drink, more sugar than citrus; too long, and the fruit's oils overtake everything else, saturating your drink with the sharp taste of harsh moonshine. No, the timing is everything and only the golden color of the concoction tells you it is ready. It does not listen to fixed days or firm dates but arrives at perfection in its own time.
You admire your first batch of limoncello when it is complete, almost hesitant to take that first sip. But when you do, overlooking the quiet evening from the comfort of your patio, it is perfectly chilled and reminiscent of those long, slow nights in Italy, unrushed, unfettered, the taste of sweet lemon on your tongue. The taste of present sweetness birthed from past bitter harvests.
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