Faced with the prospect of bushels and bushels of black walnuts, I texted my resourceful friend Toby Cecchini, owner of Brooklyn’s Long Island Bar and author of bartending memoir, Cosmopolitan. I asked him: “Do you know if I could make nocino out of American black walnuts, of which I have approximately six tons?”
Moments later his response came: “My father made amazing nocino out of American black walnuts every year. I even have his recipe somewhere, though you can basically figure it out yourself: Everclear, sugar, citrus peels, lots of black walnuts when they’re green in the late summer or autumn.”
The plain black walnut version created a heady black green liqueur that is simultaneously sweet and bitter, with a pallet stripping side of tannin. It’s kinda like a punch in the face by a nice old Frenchman – sweet and appealingly foreign at first then – wham! Right in the kisser. (Also, it stains the hell out of your shirt.) If you’ve never tried black walnuts, the flavor is way more exotic than standard walnuts. This liqueur captures the flavor essence perfectly.
When we first made nocino we were so disappointed with the initial result that we put the lid back on the big jar and pushed it right back into the corner! A year later we had forgotten about it and realized it was still sitting patiently in the dark. To our delight, it was incredible! So, this year we are making it again. Good things will eventually come to those who are willing to wait.