Have you heard of Afendello? If you haven't yet, you're missing out on a lot and I will tell you why. You can take a minute. Perhaps you're still pondering over the name - Afendello - as it sounds like something you know? Afende (Lebanese clementine), Limoncello, the Italian liqueur many are fascinated about...? Combine the two thoughts together and you're in for a zesty experience like no other.
Before starting, let's familiarize ourselves better about the renowned Limoncello. This Italian lemon liqueur is mainly produced in Southern Italy, especially in the region around the Gulf of Naples, the Sorrentine Peninsula and the coast of Amalfi and islands of Procida, Ischia and Capri. It is also produced in Sicily, Sardinia, Menton in France, and the Maltese island of Gozo. Though there is debate about the exact origin of the drink, it is at least one hundred years old. Traditionally, it is made from the zest of Femminello St. Teresa lemons, also known as Sorrento lemons or Sfusato Lemons. Lemon zest, or peels without the pith, are steeped in grain alcohol until the oil is released. The resulting yellow liquid is then mixed with simple syrup. Clarity and viscosity are affected by factors like the relative temperatures of the two liquids. Most lemons, including the more-common Eureka lemon, will produce satisfactory Limoncello.
I first discovered it's Lebanese counterpart, Afandello at the Wine Tellar, when Najib Moutran concluded our wine tasting evening with this fascinating bottle of liqueur. Then after, I went to The Hangout and froze when my eyes spotted the Afendello bottles just standing there. I asked the owner of The Hangout, Selim Heleiwa, who the person behind Afendollo was... and he told me: Jalal Nakad. That was where the journey to discovering one of Lebanon's best yet creations hidden in the heart of the Bekaa Valley. Salim promised to take me up directly to the village of Jdita to learn about the production of this spiritual orange liquid. This Monday, Jalal Nakad was waiting for us in the Bekaa, in his family's old house and cave. The plan was to spend the day together and discover more about Afendello. We arrived at 8am and we were welcomed with a Lebanese breakfast, which included eggs with Kawarma followed by local Manakeesh. Afterwards, although it was only 9am, we went on a wine tasting tour. The Afendello came last.
Afandello came last. Hidden in his personal lab at the end of the factory are couple of bottles, the last of this season's batch, as the oranges are coming to an end. A chair, low fire and dozens of barrels filled with any kind of citrus fruits available in Lebanon. Yes, Jalal is experimenting, Jalal is creating and trying to reach a formula even better than the Italian one... And believe me he has already succeeded.
The Afandello: A unique citrus liqueur, an artisanal Limoncello made in Bekaa! Created in 2012 by Jalal Nakad from citrus peel, it reveals a special taste that is the purest expression of fruit and nature. To be enjoyed in anywhere like a café, a restaurant or a pub or home with friends.... Fresh, sweet and fruity, Afandello is to be tasted alone with crushed ice, as a cocktail or after a meal. Jalal expressed that more than three tons of Tangerines were thrown away before the first bottle has seen the light. Jalal reached a high level of expertise, giving birth to a drink that has half the amount of sugar found in a Limoncello and less alcohol. (25% for the Afandello and 32% for the Limoncello). Jalal fills the bottles one after the other by hand. Not a single machine helps.
An artisan creation on many levels, I really enjoyed my time around the enchanting aromas of the cave.
A pure local production we all have to be proud of indeed... Afandello will be available on the market soon. Meanwhile you can enjoy it in some restaurants in the four corners of the country.
I bought 15 bottles which I'll be tasting and sharing with my friends this summer.