It's not difficult to make your own limoncello, as Ventura Limoncello owners James Carling and his Rome-born wife Manuela Zaretti-Carling are quick to point out. But if you proclaim yours the best in SoCal (and please not Danny DeVito's namesake version), we will declare you one shot over the cuckoo's nest.

Ventura Limoncello's version is the sort of mesmerizing elixir that startles with its liquid lemon curd intensity on the first sip, as every good digestif should, and then beautifully mellows.

What makes this simple combination of lemon peels, sugar and alcohol so great is not the ingredients, though James did work a deal with Ventura farmers to resolve his lemon peel issues (lemons intended for juicing are too ripe to yield limoncello-worthy oily skin). The secret here is a family one: James is not permitted to assist on the production line.

Manuela and her mother, Rosanna Zaretti, are resolutely in charge of peeling hundreds of lemons by hand each week. After infusing the peels in grain alcohol, they add just enough sugar to balance the tart bite. The amount varies slightly batch-by-batch, explains Rossana, adjusting her rhinestone-crusted Chanel eyeglasses. Because like an Italian grandmother's Bolognese sauce, the best limoncello should never taste the same twice.

Ventura Limoncello's production facility is not open to the public, but check the website for retailers or call 805-658-0881. The limoncello is widely available in well-stocked L.A.-area liquor stores.

Yes, it's that time of year again, or almost. This is one of over 400 pieces that will be appearing in our upcoming Best of L.A. issue, out October 6th.

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