Nocino: A Sip from Mendocino’s Past

Nocino: A Sip from Mendocino’s Past

by Heidi Cusick Dickerson

June 24th is the Feast Day of San Giovanni (St. John the Baptist), the patron saint of Florence, and traditionally it’s also the day when unripe green walnuts (noci) are gathered to make Nocino. Do your future self a favor and start this liqueur to make the perfect winter gift. Nocino was a popular digestif originally brought over by immigrant families from the Emilia- Romano region of Italy. Sipping this after dinner tipple can transport you to 1920’s Mendocino County, where Italian American wine-makers were struggling to survive prohibition. You too can visit this fascinating era while supporting a good cause at the Leadership Mendocino Festa at Testa! Celebrating the end of Prohibition 85 years ago, join this “grown-up treasure hunt” for food and fun at one of the authentic prohibition farmhouse cellars. Friday June 15th. Tickets at

Recipe: Green Walnut Liqueur (Nocino)

  • Pick 2 cups of green walnuts. Rinse and chop these immature walnuts into quarters (the young shells can still be tough so use caution). Put them in a big glass jar with a fifth of Everclear—has to be 100% alcohol.
  • Put it on the deck outside or on a windowsill in the sun for 40 days. If the temperature reaches 95 or more, move it to partial sun.
  • On the 40th day, strain the liquid, which will be dark brown. Toss the walnuts in the compost. Add sugar to the liquid—at least a cup, but more will give it extra viscosity and cut the bitterness.
  • You can also add lemon peel, yellow part only, and cinnamon stick to taste.
  • Cover and store in a cool place for 40 days. Then strain it and let it sit until the holidays.

Serve in tiny liqueur glasses for an after dinner digestif. Salute!