A nutty, warming liqueur with Italian heritage, nocino (pronounced no-CHEE-no), is exactly right to pour when the weather starts to cool. This liqueur, made from walnuts, tends to offer gentle sweetness and spice, without becoming too cloying. Some producers harvest the still-green walnuts as early as June, following Italy’s directive to pick on San Giovanni’s Day (June 24); others wait until September. Here are four takes on the traditional spirit, all worth pouring right now.
This bottling (40 percent ABV, $25) from Bloomington, Ind. is an amaro lover’s nocino, with an herbal sarsaparilla-like core underpinned with rich vanilla and maple. It’s made with green walnuts steeped in vodka—note, at 80 proof (40 percent ABV), it’s also the strongest of the ’cinos in this list—plus cinnamon and a touch of Indiana maple syrup. The producer recommends adding this nocino to a milk punch, which sounds pretty good to us.
2. Nero Walnut Liqueur
A particularly fruit-forward nocino-style liqueur, this spirit (25 percent ABV, $30) from Bulgaria is made from tender green walnuts and wine. Look for a bold cassis-like scent and a robust palate-coating flavor that suggests raspberry jam tinged with espresso and baking spice. It’s ideal as a dessert pairing.
This inky-dark pour (24.2 percent ABV, $30) from Columbus, Ohio, is the most reminiscent of actual walnuts, even down to the slightly drying finish. Made with Ohio black walnuts macerated in vodka, then finished with orange peel, sugar and spices, this liqueur suggests unsweetened chocolate and blackberry jam, plus a sprinkle of cinnamon, making for a refreshing digestif.
Made by a Washington, D.C., distiller with Italian heritage—the owner grew up on Italy’s Amalfi Coast—this deep brown liqueur (29 percent ABV, $36) has a pleasing dark chocolate scent and earthy, fleetingly sweetness that’s perked by a spicy, tingly exit. It’s easy to see this adding spice and mild sweetness to whiskey or brandy drinks.