Nocino (pronounced no-CHEE-no) is a bittersweet liqueur originally of Italian provenance that’s flavored with walnuts and various spices. It can be sipped neat or over ice as a digestivo or used in cocktails. Several commercial brands can be found on liquor store shelves, mostly Italian with a few American companies having recently joined the mix. But you can also make it yourself.
This recipe comes courtesy of Mariena Mercer, the head bartender at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas. She infuses vodka’s neutral flavor with not just walnuts and sugar but also maple syrup, orange zest and a host of wintery baking spices, letting it sit for a month to let the flavors fully meld. The result is rich and complex, perfect for the holiday season but delightful all year round.
Many nocino recipes call for green walnuts, which are in season only briefly during the summer months and can be difficult to find. Fortunately, Mercer’s recipe calls for regular walnuts, toasted and crushed, meaning you can make this recipe at any time of the year.
There’s no secret to it except patience. The mixture needs to sit for a month to fully steep. It’s a long time to wait for a drink, but you’ll find it’s worth it.
- 1 liter vodka (such as Russian Standard)
- 1 cup maple syrup
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 cups walnuts, toasted and crushed
- Zest of 2 oranges
- 6 cinnamon sticks
- 8 whole cloves
- 2 green cardamom pods, crushed
- 2 vanilla beans
- 4 star anise pods
Add the vodka, maple syrup, sugar, walnuts, orange zest and spices into a large jar and seal tightly.
Let stand at room temperature for 1 month to infuse.
Strain out and discard solids.
Will keep, stored tightly covered in a cool, dry place, for up to 1 year.