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How to make Italian Nocino, liquor recipe from Emilia-Romagna

Nocino (walnut liqueur)

The nocino is an ancient liquor recipe traditionally made in June between the Summer solstice and San Giovanni celebrations.

Although the solstice usually falls on the 21st, the longest day of the year, rituals celebrated in the countryside have always given great importance to the 24th, St. John’s Day, believing that the night between the 23rd and 24th is magical.

St. John the Baptist, not to be confused with the Evangelist, was born by chance in the middle of the calendar at a crossroads of seasons. His celebrations are about religious rituals and the rich cultural traditions passed down through generations. These celebrations involve rites in which fire, water and food are protagonists, harking back to the rural nature of the pagan rites on which the Christian ones were grafted.

These rituals include night bonfires to ward off evil spirits and the practice of placing a bouquet of herbs and flowers in an outdoor basin of water on the evening of June 23 to collect the night’s dew, which is believed to have healing properties. This same dew would moisten the husks of the still unripe walnuts, preparing them for the making of nocino. Along the Via Emilia, tortelli di erbetta di Parma and nocino are two culinary traditions linked to celebrations of the saint.

Nocino, a green walnut Modena liqueur

Nocino, the spirit of San Giovanni

Climate change affects the growth and ripening processes of traditional fruit trees. Today, harvesting depends on how the weather has been: it can be earlier or later than this. Either way, there is a method for knowing if the nuts are ready. You have to be able to stick a needle or pin into the green shell. If it goes through, the nuts are ready, and you don’t risk getting a green, bitter liquor.

The origins of the recipe are ancient and uncertain. Of possible French origin, it may even date back to the Britons.

In Italy, the recipe has been known in the Modena area since the 16th century.

The first written version refers to a walnut ratafià (cherry liquor) in 1766 in an anonymous cook’s text, The Piedmontese Cook perfected in Paris.

The production of a liquor known by its current name, nocino, dates back to the period between 1860 and 1867, when Ferdinando Cavazzoni, a confectioner at Casa Molza (Modena), included the recipe for Liquore noto (called) come (as) nocino in his recipe book dedicated to specialties from Modena.


Traditional recipes of Emilia-Romagna

Traditional recipes of Emilia-Romagna

My first time making Nocino 

A year ago, for the first time, my husband and I prepared walnut liqueur following one of my home recipes.
In Emilia-Romagna, the preparation of this liquor is widespread, and I grew up watching and helping in preparing liquors, juices, and syrups of all kinds.

I didn’t remember how dangerous green walnut hulls can be for your hands. Remember the latex gloves: the unripe green walnut dye. In comparison, artichokes are a joke. My husband’s hands were stained for a whole week!

Getting back to the recipe, every family has its own.
Some add some spices, and some others, more or less sugar; some people move or even stir the contents of the jar during steeping, while others won’t touch it.

Here, I share with you the home recipe I tried, which has become the one I use.
The quantity is enough to make a few bottles. They will be ready around Christmas time. In fact, once bottled, nocino needs a few months to a year to give its best.

Its dark color reminds me of dark chocolate. It has a sugary but balsamic and nuanced flavor.
Serve it after dinner as a digestive or invigorating drink on cold winter evenings.

In summer, add a lemon peel and an ice cube.

Buona cucina, Monica

Cook with me

My family traditionally buys a certain amount of walnuts that must be enough for one year. Grandma used to make delicious walnut cookies. In the dough, she would add a little nocino. You can find the recipe here.

How to make San Giovanni’s bunch

The blooms change depending on where you live; therefore, the bouquet’s composition may change. Of course, you can also personalize it by choosing herbs and flowers according to their meaning or properties.
Let’s say that hypericum, called St John’s wort, is a must.

Compose with lavender, mugwort, rosemary, mallow, yarrow, garlic, rue, fern, or mint. The bunch should consist of 6 to 9 herbs.

On the evening of the 23rd, immerse the bunch in a water bowl and leave it outside to catch the night’s dew. The following morning, rinse your face with that water: it protects against diseases and makes the skin bright and fresh.

Keep in Touch

Green walnuts

Nocino liquor recipe from Emila-Romanga

Nocino is a typical Emilia-Romagna liquor made from the green hull of walnuts, macerated in pure grain alcohol, sugar, water, and spices
Course Liquor
Cuisine Emilia-Romagna
Keyword Nocino liquor
Prep Time 30 minutes


  • Latex gloves; a 2-liter capacity jar with cap


  • 700 ml of water
  • 700 g of caster sugar
  • 30 fresh walnuts with green hulls
  • 1 liter pure grain alcohol (95% alcohol)
  • 1/2 organic lemon, zest fillets
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 10 cloves


  • Put the water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn it off, pour the sugar, and dissolve it while stirring.
  • Let the syrup cool.
  • Meanwhile, put on rubber gloves and cut the walnuts into 4 parts. You can use a cleaver-type knife or, more conveniently, a nutcracker.
  • Put the walnuts in the jar, and add the alcohol, sugar-water syrup, and flavorings.
  • Seal the jar tightly and place it in a dark spot in your pantry or closet. Let the Nocino age for a tantalizing 40 days, allowing the flavors to meld and deepen.
  • Sugar tends to crystallize and, therefore, end up at the bottom. Once a week, move the jar vigorously or stir the liquid with a spoon.
  • After this time has elapsed, strain and taste. If it seems too strong, add 100 ml of water once or twice (to your taste). Stir and bottle.
  • Consume after a few months.

Homemade Nocino recipe

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