[guest post + recipe] Margo Sorenson, Secrets in Translation, and a Sip of Limoncello

Buongiorno! Come va?

Let’s escape to beautiful Positano on the Amalfi Coast. 🙂

Today I’m happy to welcome back award winning author Margo Sorenson, whose brand new YA/Crossover Adult Novel, Secrets in Translation (Fitzroy Books, 2018), officially hits shelves on Friday, October 19.

Limoncello, the popular lemon liqueur from Southern Italy, plays an integral role in this captivating story, a delightful blend of travel, culture, mystery, coming-of-age, and romance — ahhh, amore!

Thanks, Margo, for telling us more about limoncello and sharing your friend’s recipe. Everyone, lift your glasses, take a refreshing sip and enjoy!




via The Potting Shed


Close your eyes for a moment, and imagine you smell lemons, a piquant, rich scent that swirls around you. Now, open your eyes—and you find yourself sitting in a tiny, open-air restaurant, perched on a cliff that drops precipitously to the azure sea below. Where are you? You are in Positano, a small town on the Amalfi Coast in Southern Italy, looking at a drop-dead-gorgeous view.



The lemons are everywhere in Positano, one of the capitals of Limoncello production on the Sorrentine Peninsula. Lemons are found not only as the main ingredient in Limoncello; they decorate and embellish local pottery and ceramics, floaty dresses in boutique shops, jewelry, and sandals. Luckily for you, a frosty glass of chilled Limoncello sits on the table, just waiting for you to savor it! During our visits to Italy and Positano, I discovered how special it is to drink Limoncello. Complimentary chilled glasses of the golden liqueur are served in many restaurants after your delicious meal, and it is often the restaurant’s own recipe made in the kitchen. Limoncello is an inextricable part of life in Southern Italy.

Aaaah, Limoncello — just saying the name evokes fond memories of the lemony liqueur with the piquant tang and a powerful punch. Limoncello production is carefully controlled by the Italian government, because its quality is based on the very specific lemon varieties licensed to produce it.

Commercial Limoncello producers closely guard their secret recipes, but if you have Italian friends, they may be willing to share their family recipe with you, as one of my friends did. Many families in Southern Italy have their own treasured recipes that they make, and the process, although time consuming, you’ll find well worth the trouble, especially when you take that first sip once it’s ready!

We all know how preparing and sharing food and drink together can bond people together; making Limoncello with family or with friends a rich and fun-filled experience — and so is the enjoying of it, forty (yes—forty!) days later.

Here is my Italian and Positano friend Carmela’s recipe, unedited directly from her email:


In this area we used to make Limoncello at home, so it is natural and savoury being prepared with natural ingredients; old family recipe, as follows:

 Lemon peels (you need about 13 lemons) in 1 litre of alcohol (95% alcohol 190 proof) to leave marinate for 48 hours in a well closed jar. In the meantime, you need prepare a syrup (boil 750 gr. of sugar in about 1 litre of water).  

Let the syrup cool before adding it to the Lemon peels mixture. (After 48 hours).

Allow to rest for another 10 to 40 days.

After the rest period, strain and bottle: discarding the lemon zest.

The factories have to respect some rules about the ingredients that have to be as natural as possible and from this area “IGP lemons” and the hygiene.

There are also some rules regarding shipping it outside the country.

The only danger that can be traced with the Limoncello is that to get drunk.


So, how much fun can you have actually writing about Limoncello? When I began writing SECRETS IN TRANSLATION, my newest young adult/crossover adult novel (people say YA is the age of the character, not of the reader!), I had no idea that I was about to find out all about Limoncello!

In the book, a celebration of Italian life and culture, seventeen-year-old Alessandra reluctantly returns to Italy as a nanny for the tween from hell and finds herself in the midst of Mafia intrigue when she falls for Carlo, the hot university student whose family owns the local Limoncello factory in Positano.

She must discover who she really wants to be, before everything she cares about is destroyed. Limoncello was intrinsically involved in the plot. Of course, Alessandra and Carlo drink Limoncello during the story, and she and her charge’s family take a tour of his family’s factory. She discovers that the Limoncello factory’s production has become a target of — well, no spoilers, here!

Doing the research on all aspects of the novel, including the Limoncello production, was fascinating, and many of my Italian friends generously helped me with the process. Writing SECRETS IN TRANSLATION took me right back to Positano, and I hope that reading it can do the same for you!

What does it actually look like to make Limoncello? Pictures below show numerous aspects of Limoncello production, as well as of gorgeous Positano.


Hand peeling (all photos courtesy of Manuela and James Carling)



Specially licensed lemons







Here are Beautiful Italy’s videos about Limoncello on Facebook:



Chill those glasses in the freezer, pour in the Limoncello, and raise glasses in a toast: “Cin-cin!”


Author of twenty-eight traditionally published books, Margo Sorenson spent the first seven years of her life in Spain and Italy, devouring books and Italian food. A former middle and high school teacher, Margo has won national recognition and awards for her books, including ALA Quick Pick Nominations, recommendations from Multicultural Review, and was named a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award in YA Fiction.



written by Margo Sorenson
published by Fitzroy Books, October 2018
Young Adult/Crossover Adult Novel, 244 pp.
*Available in hardcover, paperback and eBook


Copyright © 2018 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

22 thoughts on “[guest post + recipe] Margo Sorenson, Secrets in Translation, and a Sip of Limoncello

  1. I hope that making lemoncello & drinking it will take me directly to Positano, and then I’ll sit, sip & read Secrets In Translation! Thanks, Jama & Margo.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Ooooh, that looks like it must be so fragrant and lovely. I don’t particularly want any limoncello, but I’ll give you mine, and we’ll just carry on with getting to the Amalfi coast to read a swoony romance novel. Deal? Deal.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I think I will need to read this book! This genre is new to me. When I was a young adult there was just children’s and adult’s. I have noticed this in bookstores. I must read some of these books.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think you will enjoy this one, Tana — the young adult genre is rich and varied — many adults love YA books — in many cases they are edited more scrupulously than adult novels.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Mi piace limoncello molto!! My cousin makes it :). When life gives you lemons, make limoncello (my family calls in limoncino 🙂 )

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Hmm, I can almost smell those lemons. I was fortunate to read SECRETS IN TRANSLATION ahead of time–loved it! And now to see how limoncello is made brings the whole process to life. Great post, Margo, and congratulations on your new book!

    Liked by 2 people

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