How to Make Nocino (Green Walnut Liqueur) - Recipe with Pictures

Bottled nocino - a great holiday gift!
Bottled nocino - a great holiday gift!

If you've never tried nocino (no-CHEE-no), you'll wish you had the last time you had an upset stomach. This sweet, coffee-colored liqueur, with a maple/date/nutty flavor, is fantastic to enjoy on its own, but it also settles a belly ache almost like magic. It's relatively rare to find in the stores, but it's not terribly difficult to make—and a lot of fun—and you can get some satisfaction knowing you're participating in a tradition Italians have enjoyed for centuries. Croatians call it orahovica or orahovac (from the word orah, meaning walnut).

The drink is intriguing to make. You begin with immature, green walnuts (preferably black walnuts—Juglans nigra—although English walnuts can work; see Neil Robertson's comment below), harvested in June, well before the shell begins to harden. Cutting yields an unripe fruit that is white and green inside, with a clear, colorless juice. That juice and fruit quickly darkens, from amber to dark brown, almost black. This essence is drawn out using a clear, unflavored syrup, traditionally grappa, but you can use vodka, pisco, or even a neutral grain liquor like diluted Everclear, over the course of 40 days. Then it's diluted and sweetened with a simple syrup, bottled, and stored until at least December, during which time its spicy, harsh herbal notes mellow into a fragrant, nutty flavor. I've found it tastes even better as time goes on, so if you can resist the urge to tipple until past the one year mark, you'll be rewarded for your patience with a richly-flavored cordial. With flavors that remind you of maple, molasses, dates, and even pumpkin pie (especially depends on what spices you add), it's the perfect thing to imbibe on a cold winter night.

Although associated with Modena, the northern Italian town famous for another mahogany-colored liquid, balsamic vinegar, nocino traces its roots to the Celts, and was brought into Italy by monks. Tradition holds that you pick an odd number of green walnuts on San Giovanni's (St John's) day, June 24, let your walnuts steep for 40 days, and then bottle for drinking at Christmas. But keep in mind that walnut trees in different parts of the world have different maturation schedules: in California, for instance, you'll want to get your green walnuts at the beginning of June at the latest.

You start with these: green, unripe walnuts.
You start with these: green, unripe walnuts.

Step 1: Chop Up Your Green Walnuts

A freshly-cut green walnut, and the same walnut just 5 minutes later. Notice the rapid appearance of brown oxidation.
A freshly-cut green walnut, and the same walnut just 5 minutes later. Notice the rapid appearance of brown oxidation.

First, get some green walnuts. You should pick them or buy them in June sometime, well before they ripen too much and the inner hard shell starts to develop. If you can't push a needle or nail through the walnut using only your fingers, then the walnut might be too ripe. The walnuts should be a bright green color, with faint white speckles on them, and the size of a quail egg or so.

Although, when cut open, the walnut leaks out a clear, colorless liquid, and the interior is an innocuous-looking white and green, beware! That liquid will stain everything it touches with a practically indelible dark brown. Wear gloves!

Chop your walnuts into either quarters or eighths (this is the way it's traditionally done) or grind it up even smaller. Despite what tradition might tell you, there's no difference - the point is to expose the fruit innards to the alcohol so its essences can leach out. I cut them into quarters the first time I made nocino, and to a much finer dice the second time, and the only difference is that the walnut essence came out into the alcohol quicker the second time around.

Step 2: Add Alcohol and Other Flavorings, and Wait

Right after adding the liquor to the chopped nuts.
Right after adding the liquor to the chopped nuts.
About 15 hours later.
About 15 hours later.

Add alcohol - grappa, pisco, vodka, or Everclear, if you don't want the spirit's flavor to compete with the walnuts - and possibly some other flavorings, like:

  • espresso beans
  • lemon or orange zest (be careful to scrape away any pith, which is bitter)
  • cinnamon sticks
  • cloves
  • cardamom pods
  • allspice berries

I personally prefer to not detract too much from the flavor of the walnut myself, so I've only tossed in a few espresso beans, if anything. Keep in mind, too, that since the flavor of the walnut gets more and more subdued with each passing year, then the relative power of the spices you add gets more pronounced. If you plan on keeping your nocino for years before drinking it, go easy on the spices; if you plan on drinking it within the year you bottle it, be more generous.

How much alcohol? This might require some math, and it depends on the strength of the alcohol you're starting off with, and how strong you want your resulting nocino to be. Traditional nocino is in the 30-40% alcohol range; I personally like it to be a bit more mild, so I shoot for the lower-30%s range. So, if you use 80 proof alcohols (40% alcohol; most vodkas, grappas and piscos are in this range), then you won't need to dilute any of it with water, since the addition of sugar alone will bring the alcohol content to the 30%+ range. If you use Everclear, you'll want to eventually add some water in addition to sugar.

Rough Ingredient Estimates

# of Nuts
For every 12 very large (egg-sized) or 20 small (olive-sized) walnuts:
1 liter of 40% (80 proof) liquor like vodka, pisco, or grappa
1 1/2 cups of (regular white) sugar
= roughly 4 750ml bottles

Here are some rough rules of thumb:

  • about 12-20 walnuts per liter of 40% alcohol (depends on the size of the walnuts)
  • 1 1/2 cups of sugar per liter of 40% alcohol will eventually be added
  • 2 1/4 cups of (white) sugar is about 1 lb (will help with purchasing the right amount)
  • 2 lbs of (dry white) sugar will increase the volume of your liquid by 1 pint
  • I personally like to give 250 ml bottles as gifts (like in the picture at top), so that should inform you about how much of everything you'll need to get

So, for my most recent batch:

  • 69 very large walnuts, so about 5l of 40% alcohol
  • steeped in 2.5l of 40% alcohol (vodka and pisco), and 1.5l everclear (75.5%) alcohol, so adding 1.3l of water will bring the liquid to 40% alcohol
  • will add 7.5 cups of sugar
  • will have a total of 6l of finished nocino at about 35% alcohol
  • 6l of nocino will give me 21 gift bottles (250ml apiece) and a 750ml reserve bottle to keep for myself

If you're not a math geek, then use these rules:

For every 12 very large (egg-sized) or 20 small (olive-sized) walnuts:

  • 1 liter of 40% (80 proof) liquor like vodka, pisco, or grappa
  • 1 1/2 cups of (regular white) sugar

Straining and Sweetening

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Filtering the sediment out of the liquor.Pouring the finished liqueur into decorative bottles.Ready-made holiday gifts!
Filtering the sediment out of the liquor.
Filtering the sediment out of the liquor.
Pouring the finished liqueur into decorative bottles.
Pouring the finished liqueur into decorative bottles.
Ready-made holiday gifts!
Ready-made holiday gifts!

After the customary 40 days, strain out the large chunks of green walnut and discard them, and then begin the (rather slow) process of filtering the liquid with paper coffee filters or several layers of cheesecloth. A very fine black sediment is formed as part of the aging of the liquor over 40 days that you'll want to get out. The problem is that the sediment is so fine that it tends to clog up paper filters, so you'll have to give it a lot of time. The two times I've done it, it's taken about 4-5 hours, so...bring a book! It's worth the effort, though. The resulting liquor should be a clear, very richly dark reddish brown, almost coffee-colored.Trust me, this stuff will taste as delicious as it looks, so take the time to make sure it's not murky.

Now's the time to add the sugar and any remaining water. To prevent crystallization, I'd combine the water and sugar you have to add and cook it into a simple syrup. I've added the sugar and water together in a large pyrex measuring cup, put it in the microwave for 4-5 minutes, and heated it up so that it fully dissolves when you mix it. When all the sugar grains are gone, pour the the syrup into the liquor, mix it well, and it will transform into a liqueur!

When you're done with that, you have a couple of choices: you can let the liqueur age in the glass jars over the next few months (in a cool, dark place this time) and then bottle it, or you can bottle it now and allow it to age in the bottles themselves. Either way should work just fine.

Small bottles of the nocino (about 250ml each) make a terrific gift, and it's not difficult to get the bottles and labels for them. If you're in the US, I've been pleased with Specialty Bottle's corked and swingtop bottles (they're the most reasonably priced), and using 4over4's small batch (as low as 25) standard labels (I get their 1.5" x 2.5" labels for both the corked and swingtop 250ml bottles).


(And if you have some green walnuts left over, you might consider making green walnut preserves (instructions here), which are delicious and yet another exotic foodstuff you can share.)

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Comments 42 comments

Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco

An intriguing process indeed! I did not know that there's a difference between black walnuts and English walnuts, so I'm glad you pointed that out O_O

So when you made this, did you pick an odd number of walnuts, and will you indeed try some at Christmas to see if the saying holds true? Sure, past batches have not come out as good tasting that early, but perhaps with the holidays and whatnot, there's divine intervention? Hehee

Also, am I right in understanding that when one purchases the walnuts, one must actually pierce their skin so they ripen properly?

Well, this is just all kinds of awesome. I love the helpful photos and great explanations- and the bottles and custom labels look AWESOME!!!! Epicly great Hub, this is. ... if "epicly" is a word.

livelonger profile image

livelonger 5 years ago from San Francisco Author

Thanks! I've seen some people's attempts using English walnuts, and the results were NOT spectacular. The flavor might have been close, but the color was a sickly green color instead of that rich, coffee-like brown.

I ended up with 69 walnuts this year, but more or less by accident. I don't think I waited an entire 40 days, either! (I think I was at 35)

You only have to pierce the skin if you're making green walnut preserves (and, actually, only after you've peeled them). The chopping/maceration of the walnuts for nocino does enough to liberate the juices inside. :)

stclairjack profile image

stclairjack 5 years ago from middle of freekin nowhere,... the sticks

yes, i'm blond,.... do i need to peel the green outer skin or do i just cut the whole creature into 8ths?

loved this, and because i didn't see this until late july i will be waiting unil next year to try it,... but is just fascinating!

livelonger profile image

livelonger 5 years ago from San Francisco Author

Nope! No need to peel them. Just chop them up into quarters, eighths, or even smaller chunks (the smaller the chunks, the more quickly the taste/color will develop in the liquor). Yes, timing is important to get the walnuts when they're still green and "soft", but good luck next May/June!

Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 5 years ago from Jamaica

This is so interesting. We don't have walnuts here in Jamaica so I was wondering if there are other things I could use as substitute. I would really like to try something like this. Any suggestions please?

stclairjack profile image

stclairjack 5 years ago from middle of freekin nowhere,... the sticks

excited to see the answer to Cardisas question,...

and great link to your previous work, pickeled walnuts,... i printed both,... there will be starange experiments in my kitchen next year i assure you!

livelonger profile image

livelonger 5 years ago from San Francisco Author

Cardisa: That's an interesting question. I have no idea! I feel like I've read other people asking about green almonds and green hazelnuts, but I'm not entirely sure liqueurs made of them would be safe, much less delicious. I'd probably do a little research before venturing to try!!!

Lyricallor profile image

Lyricallor 5 years ago from Croydon

What a wonderful hub! Thank you for taking the time to be so detailed in sharing. I would love to try this one although walnuts are not my favorite. I am adapting to them because they are healthier than peanuts and cashews.

livelonger profile image

livelonger 5 years ago from San Francisco Author

Thanks, Lyricallor. Green walnut liqueur (and preserves) taste almost nothing like the dry walnuts we eat. They really taste more like date or maple (? hard to describe). But they're not as healthy as the dry nuts, probably because of all the added sugar and alcohol! :)

TheListLady profile image

TheListLady 5 years ago from New York City

This sounds exciting! I promised myself that this winter I will work on making some liquors. This will be fabulous.

Thanks a million and rated up!

livelonger profile image

livelonger 5 years ago from San Francisco Author

Thanks! You might have missed the season for green walnuts this year, but I'd make a reminder for yourself (like I do) to seek them out in late May. You will be rewarded with one of the most intriguing liqueurs. People won't believe you when you tell them it's made from unripe walnuts!

Hollie Thomas profile image

Hollie Thomas 5 years ago from United Kingdom

What an unusual liqueur I've actually never heard of it before. This sounds very tempting and the medicinal use is an added bonus.

livelonger profile image

livelonger 5 years ago from San Francisco Author

Hollie: Thanks! The medicinal benefit is a bit anecdotal (but it certainly worked for me). It is delicious, though; very warming around the time it becomes fit for drinking.

Neil Robertson 5 years ago

We've been making Nocino from English Walnuts because that's what our walnut tree is. Since I don't think I've tried it with Black Walnuts, I'm quite happy with our results. The colour is a really rich dark green, almost black, and the flavour is awesome.

Cheers, Neil.

livelonger profile image

livelonger 5 years ago from San Francisco Author

Neil: Thank you for your comment. I had seen pictures of nocino made with English walnuts, and the liqueur had this awful, sickly (yellowish) green color. I'm glad that the color was more appetizing-looking in your case, and that the taste was great, too.

LaniK profile image

LaniK 4 years ago from Minnesota

This looks amazing!! I'm bookmarking this for next spring. I can't wait to start, more so, I can't wait to have some, and give. People are going to LOVE this! I often suffer from tummy trouble, so am especially grateful for that benefit. Thanks for sharing. Voted way up!

livelonger profile image

livelonger 4 years ago from San Francisco Author

You and your lucky gift recipients will *love* it. Once it mellows out in flavor, it has such a delicious (maple/nut) flavor, and it's really easy on the stomach. Let me know how it turns out!

Rick 4 years ago

Very nice article - wish I'd seen it before putting up my first nocino batch! The procedure I followed was slightly different - the initial aging was in the dark, and I aged it about two months. Then I filtered and bottled. I had a little left over after bottling, so put that into a wide-mouth jar as a test so I could monitor its progress. Initial taste tests were discouraging - very, very harsh. Also, the liquid, while appearing black when I bottled it, was actually dark green. You could really only see this around the meniscus, but it was clearly green, not brown.

Well, last week I did another taste test of the portion in the jar, and noticed three things: it was really good!; it had turned brown; there was a thick layer of sludge on the sides and bottom of the jar. After examining the bottled liquid I realized it, too, had sludge on the sides (and as it turned out on the bottom), but it was still very definitely green. So, I just finished siphoning the liquid out of the bottles and refiltering, though paper towel and then coffee filters. The filtrate still seemed a bit cloudy to me, though the liquid is so dark it's hard to tell if it's suspended particulates or just the color. Also, taste tests of the bottled liquid indicated that it was still pretty harsh. I'm assuming that it has to turn brown before it's drinkable. The steeping started in early July, so it's been a while.

So.... my questions:

First: why has it taken so long to turn to brown, or rather, why is there a difference between the bottled liquid, which is still (very, very dark) green, and the test batch in the jar? Since the liquids in the jar and bottles were both treated the same way, with the one exception being that there's a lot more contact with the atmosphere in the jar (though it was sealed), my guess is that it's an oxidative process, rather than, say due to exposure to light (both were stored in the dark).

Second: does this precipitate form in the process of maturation, or was it just stuff I didn't get the first time I filtered? If the former, is there a point at which it stops forming? While the nocino in the test jar was really tasty, it definitely left a slightly gritty feel in the tongue.

Sorry for the overly long post, but this process seems very mysterious to me, as well as very time consuming. I'd be curious to hear if anyone else has had similar experiences.

livelonger profile image

livelonger 4 years ago from San Francisco Author

Rick - Thank you for your comment (not overly long at all!). Based on your and my experience, it seems like something about light does change the character of the liquid, not just oxygen. Mine was dark green for a long time but changed into a dark brown by the end of the 40 day period. It was coffee-colored by the time I filtered and bottled it.

The sediment: I think it was just stuff you didn't get the first time, although I could be wrong here. When I filtered using coffee filters, I was able to get everything except the very, very finest silt-like sediment out. When I bottled it, it continued to mature but nothing else precipitated out of it.

I don't notice anything gritty about the mouth feel: was this not just some of the astringency of your fresh batch? I don't ever drink nocino until it's been aged at least 6 months, and have never noticed any grit.

Rick 4 years ago

Thanks so much for that quick reply! After doing a bit more research I'm wondering if the change from green to brown is due to break down of chlorophyll, which is in part an oxidative process, but one that is definitely hastened by exposure to light. [as an aside I'm in a scientific field that involves quite a bit of chlorophyll measurement, and minimizing exposure to light when analyzing chlorophyll is extremely important]

Oh, and I'm pretty sure that the gritty mouth feel was due to the fine silt in that batch, or which there was quite a bit. The flavor was remarkably good, not harsh at all.

Right now I have the refiltered nocino back in the steeping jars, which I think I'll leave out in the open for a few days to see if some indirect sunlight affects the color. I'll also monitor for any precipitate formation. If any further insights develop, I'll report back!

livelonger profile image

livelonger 4 years ago from San Francisco Author

Sounds good - I'd really like to know how it ends up turning out!

You might be right about the chlorophyll breakdown, although there doesn't seem to be a lot of it in the fresh walnuts themselves (the skins are a light green color, though).

Rick 4 years ago

Found this fascinating blog post on the chemistry of nocino:

Seems like the change from green to brown might be due to oxidation of alpha-hydrojuglone to juglone (the genus name of walnuts is Juglans). Perhaps this oxidation process is why the original Modenese recipe [] calls for initial steeping for 60 days in an unsealed container, with frequent stirring.

Always something to learn...

livelonger profile image

livelonger 4 years ago from San Francisco Author

Fascinating; glad someone's done the research. Thanks for the link, Rick.

The 2nd page has links to make nocino ice cream...hmmm...

peepingtomb profile image

peepingtomb 4 years ago

A great and detailed hub. I will have to remember to start this as a family project the next time I am in PA during the proper season.

robert guthrie 4 years ago

Where can I acquire green hull black walnuts?

livelonger profile image

livelonger 4 years ago from San Francisco Author

Robert: If you have a farmer's market or fruit stand with someone selling nuts, I'd ask them in early June.

CroatianBoy profile image

CroatianBoy 2 years ago from Palm Springs, CA

Hi...I visited Croatia in 2009 and it was my first introduction to this seductive liquid. This year will be my first attempt at making it here. Just a couple of questions, please. Are the walnuts initially mixed with the alcohols and is all the water saved for the later addition as part of the simple syrup? And should it be aged in the dark or the light? When I was in Croatia I saw many homemade containers aging in the sun? Thank you VERY much for your help. Mike.

livelonger profile image

livelonger 2 years ago from San Francisco Author

I'm working on a batch myself - I have two very large jars full of walnuts soaking in vodka right now. :)

Yes, the walnuts are soaked in the alcohol only; the water can be added either after the walnuts are finished steeping, or in making the simple syrup. (You'll want to keep the percentage of alcohol relatively high for the steeping - it enhances extraction.)

And as for aging: I've seen both recommended (some put it out in the sun, some keep it in a closet/basement). I don't think it makes any difference.

Sretno i recite nam kako je vam proslo!

Alonna Smith 2 years ago


I made Nocino in June with green walnuts, but got distracted and didn't remove the walnuts. So they have been steeping for 4 months. Do you think I should just throw the batch out and try again next spring?


livelonger profile image

livelonger 2 years ago from San Francisco Author

Hmmm...good question, Alonna. I don't think the fact that the walnuts have continued to steep would be the issue, but rather the fact that any volatile aromatics that give the nocino its fragrant, nuanced flavor, might have vaporized since your jars were presumably not tightly sealed. (I let my nocino sit out unbottled for a year and a half once, and the resulting flavor was really insipid.) Maybe you can strain and sweeten a bit of it, and see if it still tastes good? There will be some residual sharpness because it hasn't aged yet, but you should get a rough idea whether it's worth salvaging or just throwing out. Good luck!

Imotski 23 months ago from Apopka, Florida

livelonger, I have a Nocino recipe form an old Italian woman in Italy. I am trying it now. It calls for freshly cracked Walnuts (I would assume they are English type, the kind you buy at the store), sugar, water, Everclear, cinnamon and cloves. After boining water and disolving the sugar and putting that in the jar that is to be sealed for 40-50 days, you just add all of the other ingredients. Shake bottle every day, and keep in a dark warm place. After the 40-50 days, filter it and enjoy. This recipe sounds so simple and it has been tried by the man who gave me this recipe that the Italian woman gave to him while on a trip in Italy. He says it is delicious, so I will be curious as to how it turns out. I have the "Real McCoy persay at home. One from a distributer in Croatia and a family recipe in a bottle. I will be comparing all three against each other. I will be trying your recipe next June. My liquid after only a few days is a caramel brown color already. I will keep you posted. Thanks for sharing all of this wonderful information!!

livelonger profile image

livelonger 23 months ago from San Francisco Author

Thank you, Imotski (are you from there?). Let us all know the results of your taste test!

Imotski 23 months ago from Apopka, Florida


My great grandfather was from there, and I still have a lot of relatives there in and around Imotski. Prolozac Donji to be exact :) I went there in 2009 and met all of them after 17+ years of searching for them. Long of the short is that it would make for a great book. I was in the newspaper there in regards to my story, my family's story and how long it had been since the family had connected. Great memories that I will carry with me forever. I will surely let you know how the Orahovac/Nocino turns out.

livelonger profile image

livelonger 23 months ago from San Francisco Author

Wonderful story! Thank you.

Jeanette! 14 months ago

Finally! The details I have been looking for :)

I do have one question, in Sweden they leave it out in the sunlight, do you recommend sunlight or cool,dark place? Also, do you open the jar to stir it in the 40 days at all?

Thank you!

livelonger profile image

livelonger 13 months ago from San Francisco Author

Hi Jeanette - I do not put it out in the sun myself, but I've heard of others putting it in the sun. I don't open up or stir it at all. But, to be honest, I don't know if doing/not doing these things makes much of a difference either way. Good luck! 4 months ago

for your beautiful recipe you do not mentioned water could you pls tell me every littre of votca how much sugar how much water . Thank you very much Julia from Cyprus

livelonger profile image

livelonger 3 months ago from San Francisco Author

I would not add water, but I would apply the vodka:sugar ratio as specified in the recipe. Thanks!

duckandpenguin 3 months ago

Hi! I just gathered a bunch of black walnuts from a friends yard to make nocino (first time). Only a small percentage were nice and white inside. Most had black spots on the outside, and some of the insides were turning brown. I discarded any that looked rotten, but threw in the ones with brownish nutmeat. Will this affect the flavor adversely? Is the black/brown between the hull and the nut toxic? Should I toss and start over? Thank you for your help!

agb 3 months ago

Thanks for the descriptive recipe! I have several black walnut trees in my backyard and would love to try this as I've enjoyed experimenting with infusions in the past, but I was wondering if there is any concern of the toxicity of black walnuts when making this? I've read that traditional Nocino is made with English walnuts and I was always told that the black walnut hulls were poisonous, but I guess it's not a concern in this quantity?

livelonger profile image

livelonger 3 months ago from San Francisco Author

Hmmm....I've never experienced that. Maybe the walnuts were off. I would probably not use any walnuts that aren't fresh and white inside.

livelonger profile image

livelonger 3 months ago from San Francisco Author

No, black walnuts are not poisonous. From googling around, it seems the juglone (the bitter component that goes from clear to greenish-yellow to dark brown) can be poisonous to surrounding plants.

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