Limoncello has strong ties to the Mediterranean, Italy and particularly the regions of the Amalfi Coast and the Island of Capri, dating back to the late 19th century. And as fruit liqueurs increase in popularity, adding interesting diversity to cocktails, the prevalence of limoncello and other cello makers in the U.S. continues to grow.
Bryan Toedtli, owner of Drop Shop Distillery in Hillsboro, Oregon, is one of those makers, sharing his Italian-style limoncello, along with two other citrus cellos, in the Pacific Northwest.
“We like to say our limoncello has a little more heat, but it’s a lot less sweet,” Toedtli says. “It’s 70 proof, and when it comes to a traditional limoncello, that’s typically where it is.”
Toedtli and his wife, Bri, launched Drop Shop in 2016, becoming an officially licensed distillery one year later. But the recipe development all started years before that, closer to 2010, according to Toedtli. “A friend of mine gave me a limoncello recipe and said I should try making it,” he recalls. “It was OK, but it was really sweet. So, I took that recipe, started tweaking it and cut two-thirds of the sugar out. It made it more palatable, and people told me I ought to start making it and selling it.”
Drop Shop started with the limoncello, but as popularity for the liqueur grew, Toedtli began to experiment with other citrus fruits as well, eventually perfecting his recipe for an orangecello and a limecello.
“I really had no experience at all going into this,” Toedtli says, who works full time doing 3D modeling for an electrical contractor. “I started reading and doing research. My daytime job requires a lot of thinking ahead and planning. It’s kind of my niche to figure things out.”
And he did just that. Toedtli ended up building his first still in his garage, which he continues to use to this day as a test still, even now that his operation has grown.
Today, Drop Shop is producing three citrus cellos in small batches, along with a pumpkin spice liqueur, a vodka and now a gin on the way. “You can drink the cellos straight or on ice, and with them being 70 proof, they don’t freeze,” Toedtli says.
To use it in a cocktail, Toedtli suggests the limoncello in a Lemon Drop, the limecello in a margarita or a mojito and says the orange pairs up perfectly with anything chocolate for a unique flavor combination.
And as for the name of Drop Shop? It all has to do with playing homage to the street car culture once quite prevalent in the Portland area.
“My dad grew up around the Portland/Vancouver area in the mid-’50s, and he always used to tell me the story that if people wanted to get their car lowered, they would take it to the drop shop,” Toedtli says. “Classic cars have always been a part of my life, and that story has stuck with me forever. So, I decided to tie street car culture and booze together.”