Cookies from Southern Italy
Jun 242010

June 24 is the day when people in Calabria and throughout Italy start the process of making nocino.  June 24 happens to be San Giovanni’s day  (St John’s day) and tradition has it that the green walnuts must be picked on this day to make the best nocino.

Nocino is a dark-colored liqueur with a hint of spice, and  is typically served cold. It is considered a digestive in Italy but I like to use it in desserts. I make a walnut cake (the recipe will be in my book) that I serve with a custard sauce flavored with nocino and it is so good! I also drizzle it over ice cream.

I have never made nocino; instead I have always brought it back with me from Calabria. The brand I buy  is made locally in Scalea and has a 35% alcohol content.

I have been talking about making nocino for years but every year I always seem to miss the date of June 24. This year, tho, I remembered. I called my friend Laura, who  happens to have a huge walnut tree on her farm, and asked her if she could pick two dozen green walnuts on June 24 for me.  She brought me 27 walnuts and I used them all, even though I heard once in Calabria that you must use exactly 24 walnuts as it is June 24. I don’t think a couple of extra walnuts will ruin it. I was trained as a scientist, so I figure that the more surface area there is, the more I can extract, right? Or should I be a good Calabrian girl and follow the traditional ritual?

If you are interested in making nocino I am sure that you can still make it in the next couple of days if you can find some green walnuts.  If not, you can wait until next June 24 or if you just want to try the liqueur, you can buy nocino made by Monteverdi Spirits of Napa, California.

The only thing you need to make nocino is a couple dozen of unripe green walnuts…

some spices, and a bottle of Everclear grain alcohol, 151 proof.

I guess you could use vodka but in Italy it is made with grain alcohol and I have always used Everclear to make my limoncello so I decided to do the same for nocino.

You need to cut the walnuts in half lengthwise, and then quarter each half. You will end up with eight pieces.

Make sure you wear gloves and use a plastic cutting board; the juice of the walnuts will stain your hands as well as the  cutting board.

Place the cut walnut pieces with the alcohol and the spices in a canning jar with a rubber gasket and clamp lid, or any other jar with a tight-fitting lid.

Cover and leave the jar on a window sill for the next 40 days. Make sure that the walnuts are covered by the alcohol. I didn’t have quite the right size — my jar is a little too big but it will do.

After 40 days, the liquid  looks dark brown in color.

Filter the dark colored alcohol from the  walnuts and spices and add a cool simple syrup (3 cups sugar dissolved in 1 liter water) to the filtered alcohol.  Put it away for 40 days in a cool place.  After  40 days it is ready to be bottled and stored in a cool place.

The homemade nocino was as good, if not better than the one I brought back from Calabria.


Walnut Liquer

For a printable recipe click here


2 dozen or so green walnuts (I used 27)

1 bottle of Everclear (151 proof), 750 ml

Zest of one lemon (unsprayed)

2 sticks of cinnamon

12 cloves

1 vanilla bean, split

4 cups water (1 liter)

3 cups sugar


Make sure you wear gloves and use a plastic cutting board; the juice of the walnuts will stain your hands as well as the cutting board.

Cut the green walnuts in quarters lengthwise, and then cut each quarter in half. You will end up with eight pieces per walnut.

Place the cut walnut pieces with the alcohol and the lemon zest, cinnamon, cloves and vanilla bean in a canning jar with a rubber gasket and clamp-type lid, or any other jar with a tight-fitting lid.

Cover and leave the jar on a window sill for the next 40 days. Make sure that the walnuts are covered by the alcohol.

After 40 days, the liquid should look dark brown in color.

After this time, make a simple syrup by placing 4 cups of water and 3 cups of sugar in a pan over a low flame and heat until the sugar is dissolved.  When the sugar is dissolved, remove it from the heat and let it cool to room temperature. Make sure that the sugar mixture is completely cooled before adding it to the infused alcohol or the liquer will become cloudy.

Filter the alcohol from the green walnuts and spices and add the cool simple syrup to it.  Then put it away in a cool place for another 40 days.

After 40 days, you can bottle it and store it.  It will be perfect for Christmas!


Makes about 2 liters of nocino

  40 Responses to “Nocino (Walnut Liqueur)”


    MOLTO GRAZIE! I just read about this and wanted to research it more.. Now i do not have too :)


    Amazing. I must be channeling something as I just picked green walnuts to make this, but I think it’s going to be vodka so I don’t have to make a special trip to the store for Everclear.

    I’m also thinking of dyeing with some walnuts this year.


    I just found your site while looking for a Nocino recipe. Nice pictures and great descriptions. I’m making Nocino for the second time. The first time I added too many spices and the flavors were overpowering. I had a hard time filtering the liquid. Paper filters seem to dense and clog almost immediately. Cheesecloth seems to porous. My Nocino turned out quite cloudy. What do you use as a filter? (I filtered after adding the sugar, maybe that’s why the paper filters clogged.)


    This is the first time I am making nocino and I was planning to filter it using an extra fine sieve, just the alcohol and the walnuts. Then I will make the simple syrup, cool it and add it to the infused alcohol and then I would filter it again.
    I will post an update after the 40 days of infusion. Hopefully it will work.


    Mille Grazie!!!

    My mom has been telling me about nocino for years but she could never remember the recipe. Next June I will definitely be harvesting green walnuts from my tree.



    I just tasted my nocino and it turned out very good. Give it a try next year!


    Would you please run through the process in more depth “not a chef”. What is a fine seive, simple syrup, infused alcohol infusion and why did we cool? I didn’t see anything about heating.


    [...] için “My Calabria” adlı şahane kitabın yazarı Rosetta Costantino’nun şu yazısına [...]


    I’d really like to try this. I have a black walnut tree in my backyard. Do you think black walnuts would work as well?


    [...] you’re intrigued, there’s a recipe for homemade Nocino with step by step photos over at Rosetta Costantino’s blog, Calabria from Scratch. You must [...]


    I wish I had access to whole green walnuts! Warm regards from sunny Barcelona!



    I am sure that there are walnut trees around Barcelona. Ask around. One of these days I will come to Barcelona (on my list of places to visit).


    Thanks for including the link to my blog on how to make nocino. I am going to try to make granita with the nocino, sounds interesting.


    I think it should work. Give it a try and let me know if you make it with the green black walnuts and how it turns out.


    i hope this is the recepy u are looking to have .annamaria


    Missed it this year (I was concentrating on finally making Pickled Walnuts from an Old recipe), should be ready for Christmas.
    Next year I shall attempt the Nocino it looks great.
    After over a year in storage my Sloe Gin will be decanted for Winter, time definitely aids the build up of great flavour as I found with Bullace Vodka that is now delightful where it was,at first, quite raw .Poured on Bourbonm( vanilla) ice cream or greek yoghurt it is fantyastic.


    I have been exploring uses for the walnuts that pile up in our backyard each year and I’m thrilled to find this! The only disappointment is that I’ll have to wait until next year when the walnuts aren’t quite as matured. Thanks!


    Quick question, does this recipe still work if you double or triple the batch size??



    Yes you can double or triple the recipe as long as you have a large container that you can seal tightly.



    Well now you will have a good use for all your walnuts. Make lots of it in June and it will be ready to give as gifts by Christmas.


    Last year January, I was at a party where someone had brought a bottle of homemade nocino.

    I thought it was delicious!

    So, I inquired how it was made.

    I was pleased to learn how simple the recipe is!

    I gathered the walnuts from a friend’s backyard walnut tree. She’d told me that I was welcome to the walnuts, but that I’d have to compete with the squirrels living in her yard for them. I did manage to find enough for a batch of nocino, fortunately.

    I didn’t have an easy source of Everclear, so I used 80 proof vodka, instead. Also, I sorta got busy this summer and left the nocino soaking for more like 90 days, not 40.

    I finally filtered the dark liquid through coffee filters, then I add enough simple syrup to make a 12.5% V/V sugar solution when combined with the vodka and walnut solution.

    I bottled the nocino and stashed it away in a dark corner to wait until it’s ready.


    Where can I find green walnuts??? I”d love to buy a bottle of this somewhere nearby where I live in Pittsburgh or make it, but again, I never seen the green walnuts. Appreciate any help you can provide.




    I think there’s a misprint in your recipe.. I needed two bottles of everclear for the 28 or so walnuts I put in. Would you add the same amount of simple syrup, or double it? Looking forward to the end result!


    Aron, I only used one bottle of Everclear. I just made it again this past month and I only had 20 walnuts and one bottle covered them all. You must have large walnuts or maybe your container is too wide for the liquid to cover the walnuts. Since you used two bottles just double the recipe and it should work. Let me know how it turns out.


    For anyone looking for the green walnuts, I found an excellent source on Have used their organically grown walnuts for several years, to make a wonderful nocino!


    June 24th is my birthday…now I simply MUST make this liqueur. I know where the California Black Walnuts grow wild in Sonoma County…what would happen if we switched to this native black variety? From what I’ve heard, the flavor is deeper and smokier. Might make more of a digestivo than a dessert liqueur. I’ll let you know 80 days after my birthday.




    Michael, I have never tried it with black walnuts but I would think it should work, probably you will get a different flavor profile. If someone else has tried it with black walnuts maybe they will comment here and let you know how it works. I would try it and see how it turns out. Let us know by the end of the year when it will be ready to drink how it turns out.


    We made several bottles with Georgia Black Walnuts in 2012. The walnut flavor gradually eases over time, but it is taking a while to get it to the flavor that I remember and enjoyed from when I was in Italy.

    Interestingly, the black walnut nocino advertised on line is from 2010!


    Hmm, I must make your version, I’ve never used vanilla before, I’m positive the results are a delight. This year not only am I to make nocino again but a variation that uses not the walnut but the leaves of the tree, brandy being the spirit, the results are spectacular!….. Thank you Rosetta, your books enrich us.


    Last year I had some homemade nocino that I thought was fantastic. The maker of the liquor was the cousin of a friend who politely, but firmly, refused to give me the recipe. I don’t get that kind of mindset and it led me to the internet and this site. Your recipe looks great, but I noticed from the photos that it will be dark brown. The original one I don’t have the recipe for was clear, as I would like mine to be. Any ideas how I can achieve that result?


    Mark, I am not aware of a clear nocino. All the nocino liqueurs I have seen in Italy are dark in color.


    I just got my shipment of walnuts for the nocino recipe. Got them from Red Rosa Farm, a member of Local Harvest after getting a couple of texts apologizing for the long delay. What they sent me looks nothing like the pictures in your article. I got stuff that looks dehydrated with dark spots all over them, like something they picked up off the ground. Since I never bought green walnuts before, I don’t know what they are supposed to look like. Should I be concerned?



    Sorry for the late reply but the walnuts used to make nocino should be green like the ones in my pictures. It sounds like they didn’t ship you freshly picked green walnuts.


    I read your article regarding the use of black walnuts versus the English variety. I have a local source of black walnuts so today I picked 50 to do a double batch. I have made pistachio liqueur and cherry liqueur without exposing to sunlight during the maceration phase. The mix was good but it was orange in color not green as you would expect for pistachio, and the cherry DID oxidize once exposed to sunlight. I had a FULL 1 gallon glass jar with an airlock attached. So there was no exposure to oxygen. I am now ready to make the nocello using black walnuts. My neighbor who makes wine gets fresh juice in 6 gallon pails from California. He gave me 2 empty containers to use for this project. SInce they are the white plastic buckets similar to the ones used for olives, they are food grade but completely opaque. We will see how things turn out.

    I am also using Everclear per your article since you state that the Calabrese use grain alcohol to make this. I can see why. Grain is cheap and I would assume it is not illegal to distill alcohol for home use In Italy as it is in USA. Why buy vodka when you can make alcohol for free?
    As for the recipe itself I have seen many variations on the spices added. IN some cases I have only seen alcohol and green walnuts, while others add such spices as star anise, clove, vanilla beans or extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, and other spices I cant recall at this writing. Since I am not a clove fan at all, I will add about 6 cloves to the entire batch. Now, as for lemon zest, I can totally see this as Italy is famous for its lemon production. Since these are as big as footballs, or a large eggplant, they are NOT the American version we all know. However, I don’t live in Italy and cant get this variety so I opted for ORGANIC American variety. I also got organic vanilla whole vanilla beans, and had leftover cinnamon sticks from another old recipe for homemade eggnog.

    I am starting this tonight and will try to let you all know how it progresses. I bought the store version from Toschi and it tastes very similar to Bailey’s Irish Cream and has a slightly smokey mid to finish taste. Since I have never had the true Italian version, I must rely on this version as a reference point.
    If mine turns out as good or better, I will share the recipe with all.

    good luck to all you enthusiasts,


    Well, folks this is my first attempt at making Nocello, and the research on it is variable as could be.
    The name also is called Nocino and I have not been able to discern the difference. I also omitted the cloves in this recipe as I am NOT a fan of the taste of cloves especially in stuff like mulled wine.
    it tastes great as a studded spice in a spiral ham, but that’s about it. Now for the progress note. I am using black walnut as the source and Everclear. I added the vanilla bean and cinnamon and lemon zest. The initial smell of these walnuts do not even closely smell like what you get in the bag from Diamond. It smells like citronella and a simply green cleaner sort of smell. the second the Everclear hit the white flesh of the nut it turned the flesh brown and then the color of the alcohol turned almost immediately dark green almost black. As of this writing the extremely dark green hue is now more blackish. I strained out all the walnuts a bit early but I did use 73 walnuts and 2 liters of Everclear.
    I think the surface area discussion was more logical and lent to the early removal of the walnuts from the solution. I was also concerned with the strength of the flavor since the author stated that the flavor of English Walnuts might be different from Black Walnut and may taste more like a digestive.
    I dont want that flavor at all. The walnuts themselves look like little lumps of anthracite coal ( once used to heat homes and power steam locomotives). I can’t get over how much they look like coal in this short amount of maceration time. I will begin the filtering process before adding the sugar.

    Now as a side note, I have made my own version of Verde Noce, a Pistachio liqueur made from
    raw pistachios and vanilla bean in a rum base. I didn’t find that fact out until I made the first run with Everclear, but the second run I used rum. I blended the two versions into one jar and let them steep since June. The mix was very cloudy. I tried the coffee filter approach and clogged them all. It looked better than the original maceration, but it still was cloudy. I got the idea to try using a clearing agent made for wine. It uses chemical charge as the means of clearing. Positive particles repel against the clarifier charged positively, and likewise for negative particle. Both eventually settle out
    after 48 hours and the resulting liquid is crystal clear. I syphoned off the good stuff from the settled residue and discarded the goo. I then sweetened the solution and it is now aging in an old Smirnoff
    Vodka 2liter glass bottle. So my plan for the Nocello will be the same. I will use the clarifier as its much quicker than filtering and also you do not lose alcohol content due to evaporation, and introduce very little if any air/hence oxygen to the solution, which could cause oxidation…think of a sliced apple or potato turning brown ( that’s oxidation). I wish I could submit pictures.
    Well, I will keep you updated on the status and occasional taste test. lol. This Nocello version is using Black Walnuts as that was all I could find in my area, and in my area the trees had not even a blossom on june 24. They weren’t out until early July and began dropping the day I got them on Aug 4th. So while not true to the tradition by date, I am assuming that the climate differences this year affected growth in my region. I hope that when I got these walnuts, it would be the equivalent in ripeness time to June 24 even though it was August!


    Hello everyone,

    It is January 2015 and I just took a taste test of the nocino that has been quietly aging since I made it back in late August. While the color has changed from dark green to the desired dark brown, it still doesnt taste like the Toschi Nocello. I detect alot of bitter notes yet. I did not add a lot of sugar since I basically doubled the recipe and planned on adding sugar to taste as it ages. I think it is time to add more, since the astringent quality is albeit gone, but a bitter “afterbite” remains. That being the case, I do detect a “nutty” flavor developing on the initial taste, so I am hoping I’m heading in the right direction with this.

    Will keep you posted;


    I attempted making nocino for the first time last year. I’m in the process of making more right now. Last year I experimented with a few different recipes that I found on the internet, including this one. All the jars had some variation. Some vodka, some everclear, some add sugar at the beginning, some add sugar after a couple months, mix every day and let sit undisturbed. I also added juniper berries and dandelion root to some -but couldn’t tell the difference in taste. I just wanted to say that all the nocino I made with vodka came out pretty good and the flavors smoothed out really nice after sitting for 6 months or more. The vodka jars where I added sugar first and shook every day I thought were a tad bit better than the one that sits and I added sugar later. I would never use everclear again. I just grabbed one of my everclear nocino bottles to take to a camping trip. While everyone said they liked it. It tasted like it was made with rubbing alcohol. Maybe I could water it down more. But I’m sticking with vodka this year. Also starting out with a cup of demerara sugar, instead of refined cane sugar this year. And trying to use less sugar. My goal is to find the right balance of sweetness and not let it get overly sweet.



    I am happy to hear that you are experimenting and finding out what you like. It might be that you don’t like the taste of Everclear, I have always used Everclear for nocino and limoncello (Everclear has a higher alcohol content and extracts more than vodka does) and it comes out great and people like it, but we all have our different taste and you should make it how you like it. Keep on trying and refine the recipe as you like it.


    I just bottled a lot of Nocino –I then tasted and compared with a Nocino made by a local restaurant. Mine is way, way to sweet. I’m thinking of cutting it with Vodka which might cut the sweet somewhat although it ends up lighter in colour. Any other tips for the current batch or the future?

    Also, are there any tips for adjustments on the front end so it doesn’t get so sweet?


    Typically this is how it is made in Calabria, it is a sweet liqueur. If you don’t like it as sweet, cut down on the sugar. You can keep all the other ingredients the same and cut maybe 1/3 of the sugar and see how you like it.

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