Spring comes early in Louisiana, and despite the sometimes chilly temperatures, the first crop of regional strawberries are already in the markets. Looking forward to that taste of spring, I decided to make fragole cello (strawberry liqueur) for the first time.
Like all Italian cellos, fragole cello is made by submerging fruit in high-proof vodka or grain alcohol and letting it rest. However, the strawberry version is finished much earlier than cellos like lemon or other citrus, offering almost instant gratification.
Here's the recipe I followed:
2 pints fresh strawberries
1 750 ml bottle 100 proof vodka
1 cup organic cane sugar
1 cup water
Wash, hull, and halve strawberries (quarter any overly large berries). Put in a glass (or other non-reactive) container and cover with the vodka (save the vodka bottle to decant the cello later). Cover the container and place in the refrigerator. Let it stand for 3-4 days or until the strawberries have been leached of color; strain.
Bring water and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan; stir to dissolve sugar. Take the syrup off of the heat and cool. After the syrup has cooled, add 1/2 cup of the syrup to the strawberry liqueur and taste. Continue adding syrup, a little at a time, until the desired sweetness has been achieved.
Pour the cello back into the bottle and put it in the freezer. You can drink it right away or let it mellow for another week. Serve ice cold, straight up.
Note: I will revisit this topic in the summer, when fresh herbs are in season. A tarragon, basil, bay laurel, or even black pepper infused syrup might be a nice addition to this cello, adding some complexity to an already good, but straightforward flavor.