Stellacello: our favourite artisan liqueur makers
As part of our 'olive loves small-scale producers' season, we talk to the folk at Stellacello, the artisan liqueur makers based in Bethnal Green.
Pompelmo, a sophisticated grapefruit liqueur far from the lurid, sweet florescence of some limoncello, and bitter and aromatic Amaro (the first to be produced in the UK), were both inspired by Joe Stella’s Italian heritage. Nods to Joe’s family and to Italy shine through the Stellacello brand; the use of his family name, illustrations on the bottles drawn by his father, and his late Italian grandfather’s slang ‘cioccio di cello’ (loosely translated to ‘mothers milk’) written on every bottle. Joe lives two lives; as a partner in a firm designing hotels, bars and restaurants, and producing, marketing and selling Stellacello, so he has a global view of what and where people like to drink. It all started in his kitchen: ‘I was playing around with a few liqueurs that were inspired by things I grew up around, putting my own spin on them just for our enjoyment at home.
It’s a balancing act, the first few batches of the Amaro were absolutely horrendous!’ A restaurateur friend wanted to serve the Pompelmo, and from there others started contacting Joe; customers now include Ottolenghi, Polpo and the Tate galleries, and his first international orders are being sent to Italy. He’s had to start thinking about the logistics of production, and of taking it out of his own kitchen, particularly after someone greeted him in a bar with the words: ‘You’re the guy that makes that Pompelmo liqueur, I’ve heard you make it in your bath tub?’ He assures us that’s never been the case.
The products, mainly, are about making something he likes: ‘I haven’t set myself the goal of creating a tipple that’s everyone’s cup of tea’ he says. His experience suggests you don’t need to pressure on yourself to create a massive global brand, but just to enjoy what you do. stellacello.com