How to make Nocino

Nocino is an Italian liqueur made from green walnuts.  It is fairly simple to make, delicious, and an excellent way to use unripe walnuts if you are lucky enough to have your own tree.  Here is a basic recipe, it can be modified by adding spices, herbs, fruit, etc.  I use 100 proof vodka in this recipe, but other recipes use grain alcohol, grappa, or another neutral spirit.

Green Walnuts on the Tree

First you will need to gather some walnuts, about 12-15 good sized walnuts will do for a half gallon jar.  The walnuts should still be soft enough to cut through easily with a paring knife.  Cut the walnuts into quarters, and pack into a half gallon glass jar.

You can now add any aromatics you might want, cinnamon sticks, orange or lemon zest, and vanilla beans or extract are traditional.  If you prefer a more intense flavor, try bitter herbs such as wormwood or mugwort.  Be creative, the dominant flavor will be the walnuts, so don’t worry about trying some unusual combinations.  For my latest batch I added mugwort for bitterness, lemon verbena for a citrus note, and a split vanilla bean for some sweetness.  Many recipes add sugar during the aging process,  I prefer to wait and add simple syrup to taste after the nocino is finished.

Now add the liquor of your choice, cap the jar tightly, and shake well.  Let the jar sit in the sun for at least three months.  In Italy it is traditional to pick the walnuts on June 21st, and let the nocino sit for 6 months, to be enjoyed on Christmas Eve.

Now we play the waiting game

I found the taste to be reminiscent of Jagermeister, but far less cloying.  I sipped it straight, over ice, and used it in cocktails.  Use it in place of any bitter liqueur such as campari or aperol, it also complements whiskey very well.  Here is a cocktail I particularly enjoyed.

Root of All Evil

1 1/2 oz whiskey

1/2 oz nocino

2 oz root beer

Shake whiskey with nocino and ice vigorously in cocktail shaker.

Pour over crushed ice in rocks glass.

Top with root beer.

Garnish with orange slice.

Enjoy!

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