Coming from a website that specializes in unique drinks, this liqueur is one with an intriguing and mysterious past. The recipe is said to have originated in Northern Italy but some Roman historians believe that it was actually born in Britain. The Romans recorded the strange traditions of these people on June 24, when they drank a very special brew, and said they could talk with goblins, with elves and goddesses. Some believe that special brew was nocino but extant documentation is lacking.
The Origins of Nocino
What we do know is, nocino is a dark brown liqueur made from unripe green English Walnuts, a recipe that has traceable roots in Northern Italy. According to tradition, Italian nocino requires barefoot virgins to gather an uneven number (21 or 23) of soft, green, dew-laden walnuts. Tradition also dictates that the walnuts have to be harvested by hand, one at a time, so as not to damage the shell on St John the Baptist Day (24 June). The date is appropriate, since the unripe walnuts are still soft and easy to cut into halves. Nocino mustn’t be tried before November 3rd, although if the liquor is left to mellow for more than one year, the flavor will be much richer.
To make Nocino, simple cut the fresh green walnuts in halves and pour a strong spirit (Vodka or any neutral spirit) over them to steep. After steeping in a spirit for approximately 40 days, the walnuts are then removed from the now sinister green/black spirit and is mixed with simple syrup. Some family recipes include nutmeg, clove, allspice, whole coffee beans, etc. You can buy green walnuts online via the http://www.walnuts.us/id3.html
Manhattan with a Nocino Twist
This recipe is courtesy of the book, Saving The Season.
- 2 pounds green walnuts (30 count)
- 750 ml of 80-proof vodka
- 3 ½ cups sugar
- Zest of 1 lemon, in strips
- Zest of 1 orange, in strips
- 5 cloves
- ¼ whole nutmeg
- 1 heaping teaspoon whole dark-roast coffee beans
- Quarter the walnuts and place them in a large glass jar. Add the remaining ingredients and stir. Don’t worry that the sugar won’t dissolve immediately. Seal the jar, and place in a sunny place for 40 days. Once every ten days, agitate the jar by inverting it a time or two.
- After 40 days, strain the contents of the jar through a damp jelly bag, and funnel the liqueur into scalded bottled. Store in a cool, dark place for several months—or up to a year or longer. The liqueur will keep indefinitely without refrigeration.