Liquid Arizona: Chelly Limon Liqueur

Craig OuthierMarch 3, 2022
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A Tempe entrepreneur and his college buds reconceive an old Italian favorite.

When Wine Spectator dropped its list of the Top 100 Spirits of 2021 in December, local beverage hounds were delighted to find two Arizona products in the bunch. One was expected: Tucson’s august Whiskey Del Bac. The other was a shocker: Chelly, a limoncello-inspired liqueur from Tempe that only started bottling commercially in 2020. For his part, CEO and co-founder Nicolas Guerrieri was not overly surprised by the honor. Based on a family recipe formulated by his Italian second cousin, Giuseppe, the lemony liqueur has been an audience-pleaser since Nicolas first started pouring homemade prototypes at parties at his parents’ house in Scottsdale, he says. “Because it has the right balance between the lemon and sugar, it doesn’t have the sweet cloying taste [of traditional limoncello],” says the 20-something entrepreneur and University of Arizona graduate. “It doesn’t taste like straight lemon candy.” He steeped us in limoncello theory. 

After diluting their outsourced 190-proof base spirit to a more drinkable level, Guerrieri and his partners begin a traditional limoncello steep – using only the oil-rich outer peel of lemons. 

Sugar is added, but not enough to give Chelly the “very viscous, syrupy” quality of classic limoncello, Guerrieri says. 

Another difference: Limoncello takes 90 days to steep. Chelly uses a faster proprietary technique “so we [can] make it in volume without compromising quality,” Guerrieri says.

Chelly is ultimately bottled at 40 percent ABV – more potent than classic limoncello (20-25 percent) and thus a better backbone for cocktails.

Available throughout Arizona, Chelly may soon be available in California, Nevada and Texas pending a round of fundraising. “Modern, elegant, but not too buttoned-up,” Guerrieri says of his family spirit. “We think there’s a big market for it.” 

$20 For recipes and availability, or to become an investor, visit the website.

drinkchelly.com

Chelly limon liqueur. Photography by Angelina Aragon
Chelly limon liqueur. Photography by Angelina Aragon

BEER OF THE MONTH

Dillinger Brewing Co. Mango Nada

Gose/5.7% ABV/10 IBU

When the summer sun starts beating down on Mexico’s city streets – we feel your pain, amigos – brutalized locals often reach for a slushy mangonada, made with mango sorbet, chopped fresh mango or mango purée, and a tangy dash of a chile-salt condiment called Tajín. Leave it to a Tucson-based brewery – Dillinger Brewing Co. – to synthesize this Mexican street treat as a hot-weather-appropriate craft beer. Made in the style of a gose, the mango beer is kettle-soured, yielding a slightly less funky, more straightforward fruit beer than a traditional sour. It’s fruity and delicious, with a slightly salty finish courtesy of the Tajín. Summer isn’t quite here yet, but it already feels like mangonada season. dillingerbrewing.com

Dillinger Brewing Co. Mango Nada gose
Dillinger Brewing Co. Mango Nada gose

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