Walnut Liqueur (Nocino): 13 Things You Should Know [The Ultimate Guide]

1. What is Walnut Liqueur?

Walnut liqueur (nocino, noix, Nüsse) is a sweet spirit characterized by its nutty and slightly bitter flavor profile and aroma. Typically made from green walnuts, its base alcohol varies, often using vodka, brandy, or grappa. The production process involves steeping walnuts in alcohol with spices and sugar, creating a spectrum of types, from pure to blended. Prices vary, generally between $20-$50. Walnut liqueur is versatile, served neat or over ice, enhancing cocktails like Walnut Old Fashioned, and complementing cuisine. Its alcohol by volume (ABV) typically ranges from 20% to 40%.

Alternative Names

Walnut liqueur is known alternatively as nocino in Italy, noix in France, Nüsse (or Nüssenschnaps) in Germany, and other names, depending on the region. Walnut liqueur may also be known as walnut brandy or walnut schnapps, depending on its base spirit and regional nomenclature.

2. Factsheet

  • Names: Walnut liqueur, nocino, noix, Nüsse, walnut brandy, walnut schnapps
  • Flavor Profile: Nutty, rich, slightly bitter
    • Aroma: Aromatic, earthy, with hints of spice
    • Appearance: Clear to deep brown color
  • Production Process: Steeping green walnuts in alcohol with sugar and spices
    • Base Alcohol: Vodka, brandy, grappa
    • Ingredients: Green walnuts, alcohol, sugar, spices
  • Types: Pure, creamy, blended
    • Price Range: $20-$50
  • Serving Suggestions: Neat, over ice, in cocktails
    • Use in Cocktails: Walnut Old Fashioned, Walnut Manhattan, Walnut Martini, Nocino Sour
    • Use in Cuisine: Desserts, sauces
  • Shelf Life: 2-3 years (after opening)
    • Storage: Cool, dark place
  • History: Dates back centuries, varying by region
    • Popularity: Enjoyed globally, particularly in Europe
  • ABV: 20%-40%
    • Sugar Content: Medium to high

3. What Does Walnut Liqueur Taste Like?

  • Palate/Flavor Profile:

Walnut liqueur offers a complex flavor profile – a balance of nutty richness and a hint of bitterness, with an evolving palate and a lingering aftertaste. Its mouthfeel is smooth, and the balance between sweetness and nuttiness showcases its complexity.

  • Nose/Aroma:

The aroma of walnut liqueur is distinctly earthy and aromatic, with undertones of spices that complement the primary walnut scent.

  • Appearance/Color:

This liqueur typically displays a brown color with varying shades, based on the production method and aging process. Some pure walnut liqueurs can be clear, and the addition of cream will create an opaque look.

4. How is it Made?

  • Ingredients:

The primary ingredient is usually green walnuts, picked before they mature. Additional ingredients include sugar, spices (like cinnamon or clove), and a base alcohol such as vodka, brandy, or grappa.

  • Production Process:

The general process involves steeping the walnuts in alcohol, along with sugar and spices, for several months. The mixture is then strained and aged. Traditional methods vary by region, influencing the final flavor and texture.

5. Types & Brands of Walnut Liqueur

Walnut liqueur is a very diverse spirit that presents a wide array of flavors and crafting techniques.

The options are seemingly endless. From the robust traditional Italian nocino style of Aggazzotti, Vicario, and Rapa Giovanni; through the varied styles of French noix and German/Austrian Nüsse; to the American craft labels like Watershed Barrel-Finished, Cardinal Spirits, and Don Ciccio & Figli that offer innovative takes; or even the Toschi Nocello with its Italian blend of walnuts and hazelnuts.

Each region and label, while sharing the core ingredient of walnuts, exhibits a unique character through its origin, ingredients, and production methods.

1. Italian Classic Brands

Classic Italian nocino often uses green walnuts and a base of grappa or a similar spirit. The production method is traditional, involving steeping in alcohol with spices like cinnamon and clove, leading to a rich, deep flavor and a dark color. These nocinos have a smooth texture and a sweet, nutty aroma. They are steeped in history and culture, popular as digestifs and served neat or with desserts. Availability is more limited outside Italy, and they can be pricier due to artisanal production. ABV typically ranges from 30-40%.

Examples of classic Italian labels:

  • Aggazzotti Nocino Riserva “Notte di San Giovanni”
  • Vicario Nocino
  • Rapa Giovanni Nocino

2. American Craft Labels

American craft nocino liqueurs are innovative, using local walnut varieties and diverse base alcohols, including vodka or bourbon. They often experiment with additional ingredients and aging processes, like bourbon barrel aging, resulting in a broader range of flavors and aromas. The texture can vary from smooth to more complex. These nocinos are gaining popularity in the craft spirits market, used in cocktails or as sippers. They are more widely available in the U.S. ABV varies widely.

Examples of American craft labels:

  • Watershed – Barrel-Finished Nocino
  • Cardinal Spirits Nocino
  • Don Ciccio and Figli Nocino

3. Walnut Liqueurs from Other Regions

In other parts of the world, walnut liqueurs are often made with unique local ingredients and traditions. Their production methods can vary, from traditional steeping to more modern techniques. These liqueurs have a rich cultural significance, used in local culinary traditions. Availability and price are region-dependent, with ABV typically in the 30-40% range.

Regional walnut liqueur names:

  • Italy and Switzerland (Ticino) – Nocino
  • France – Noix
  • Austria and Germany – Nüsse or Nüssenschnaps
  • Slovenia – Orehovec
  • Croatia – Orahovac
  • Serbia – Orahovača
  • Romania – Nucată

Example of regional walnut liqueurs:

  • Nux Alpina (Austrian; fresh green walnuts of the “Weinsberg” variety are steeped in grape brandy with spices and alpine botanicals)
  • Nusseler Walnusslikör by Walcher (typical South Tyrolean liqueur from extracts of the green walnut)
  • Noix de la Saint Jean (excellent French noix, typically enjoyed as an aperitif)

4. Blended Walnut Liqueurs

Blended walnut liqueurs, such as those combining walnuts with other nuts or botanicals, offer complex and layered flavors. The base alcohol varies, and additional ingredients like hazelnuts or spices are common. These blends result in unique aromas and a varied texture. They are less traditional and more experimental, often used in innovative cocktails or as versatile digestifs. ABV can vary based on the blend and production method.

Example of blended walnut liqueur:

  • Toschi Nocello Liqueur (Italy, mix of walnuts with hazelnuts)

6. Buying Tips

Prices vary widely, from $20 for entry-level brands to over $50 for premium bottles.

When selecting walnut liqueur, consider the flavor profile (earthy, nutty, sweet, spiced), ingredients, aging process, and brand reputation. For a balanced choice, look for a harmony of sweetness and nuttiness, along with a smooth finish.

Premium walnut liqueurs justify their price with complex flavor profiles, superior ingredients, and meticulous aging processes. They offer a richer, more nuanced experience, making them worth the investment for connoisseurs.

7. How to Drink Walnut Liqueur?

Serving Guide

Walnut liqueur, known as nocino, noix, Nüsse, and others, varies in serving style. Serve chilled (around 8-12°C or 46-54°F) to enhance its rich flavors. Traditional glassware like small liqueur glasses or snifters is ideal. Drinking neat is common, but serving over ice can open up subtler notes. It’s versatile for cocktails too, adding a nutty depth.

Tasting & Appreciation

To properly taste walnut liqueur, observe color, viscosity, and clarity. Swirl gently to release aromas. Sip slowly to identify flavor profiles – nuttiness, spice, sweetness, and potential woodiness from aging. Quality is evident in the balance of flavors and the smoothness of the finish.

8. How to Use Walnut Liqueur in Cocktails?

Popular cocktails with walnut liqueur include the Walnut Old Fashioned, Walnut Manhattan, Walnut Martini, or Nocino Sour. Its rich, nutty profile complements whiskey and rum-based drinks, adding complexity and depth.

Different brands of walnut liqueur, pair differently in cocktails. Some are sweeter, ideal for dessert cocktails, while others, with a stronger nutty essence, suit robust, spirit-forward concoctions.

You can mix walnut liqueur with both alcoholic and non-alcoholic ingredients. Complement its flavor with citrus juices, cream, soda, ginger ale or apple cider.

In mixing, balance is key. Walnut liqueur’s intensity means a small amount can have a big impact. Experiment with ratios to find the right blend for your palate.

For an alcoholic substitute, consider other nut-based liqueurs like amaretto or Frangelico. For a non-alcoholic option, nut syrups or extracts can mimic its flavor in cocktails.

9. How to Use Walnut Liqueur in the Kitchen?

  • Culinary Applications

Walnut liqueur transcends cocktails. In cooking, it enhances sauces and glazes, especially for meat dishes. In baking, add to pastries or cakes for a unique, nutty twist.

  • Food Pairings

Pair walnut liqueur with foods that complement its rich, nutty profile. Cheese plates, particularly with blue cheese or aged cheddar, and chocolate desserts are excellent choices. Its complexity also works well with spiced or fruit-based dishes.

10. How to Store Walnut Liqueur?


Proper storage of walnut liqueur is crucial for maintaining its quality. Before opening, store it in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight. Post-opening, it’s advisable to keep the liqueur in a refrigerator to preserve its flavors. While freezing is an option, walnut liqueur typically doesn’t freeze due to its alcohol content. However, chilling enhances its rich, nutty profile.


Unopened, walnut liqueur can last for several years, retaining its quality. Once opened, its shelf life reduces, but it can still be enjoyed for up to a year if stored correctly. The high alcohol content acts as a preservative, ensuring the longevity of its flavors.

11. History & Popularity of Walnut Liqueur


Walnut liqueur, known variably as nocino, noix, Nüsse, as well as other regional names, has a rich history. Its origins trace back to ancient times, with specific references varying across regions. Historically, it was crafted by monks in Italy as early as the 9th century. The tradition of using green, unripe walnuts, particularly harvested on Saint John’s Day (San Giovanni; June 24th), is a significant part of its lore.

Cultural Significance

This liqueur holds cultural significance in many European countries, often associated with tradition and folklore. In Italy, nocino is a symbol of hospitality and celebration.


Its popularity extends across Europe and into artisanal markets worldwide. Walnut liqueur’s versatility is evident in its use in cocktails, culinary recipes, or enjoyed neat, making it a favored choice among connoisseurs and casual drinkers alike.

12. Recipe for Home-made Walnut Liqueur

1. Ingredients: Fresh green walnuts, sugar, spices (like cinnamon, clove), lemon zest, and a base spirit (typically vodka or grain alcohol).

2. Tools & Equipment: A large jar, a sharp knife, cheesecloth, and bottles for storage.

3. Preparation Steps: Slice the walnuts, combine with other ingredients in the jar, and let the mixture steep for several weeks, shaking occasionally. Strain using cheesecloth and bottle the liqueur.

13. Nutrition of Walnut Liqueur

  • ABV Content: Walnut liqueur typically has an alcohol by volume (ABV) content ranging from 20% to 40%, depending on the recipe and production method.
  • Sugar Content: It is moderately high in sugars and carbohydrates due to the added sugar. Exact values vary by recipe.
  • Dietary Restrictions: Generally gluten-free, but those with dietary restrictions should verify specific brands. Vegan suitability depends on the filtration process. Always check for potential allergens.
  • Disclaimer: This guide encourages responsible consumption of walnut liqueur. Readers should consider their dietary restrictions and make informed choices.
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