A digestif, or a spirit that is sipped after dinner, is a ritual that we can get on board with this time of year — just a little pour of something special that warms you from head to toe.
Our newest spirit, nocino, is exactly that.
Nocino is a traditional Italian liqueur made with green, unripe walnuts. For our version, we harvested walnuts right here in Indiana, then combined them with our vodka and spices, and let that steep for months. The result: A luscious, mellow, earthy elixir that has this wonderful, naturally warming quality. It's meant for this time of year.
A 375ml bottle is $25, and with the holidays coming up, it makes the perfect host gift: It's local, unusual and easy to drink. So, one for you, and one to share, perhaps?
As far as we can tell, this is the first Indiana amaro (a.k.a. an Italian after-dinner drink). You can sip our nocino neat, mix it into cocktails or pour it over ice cream.
This is a special spirit for us. It all started with this walnut tree and its bounty:
The tree belongs to Cardinal Spirits co-founder Adam Quirk's uncle- and aunt-in-law, Walt and Barb Schroeder, of Fort Wayne. Walt's walnut trees are volunteer seedlings from his own aunt and uncle in Ohio. Walt remembers the young trees were about a pencil's width and 2 feet tall when he planted them. Fast forward many years, to Adam and his wife, Jessica, and some of their family, loading several baskets with green walnuts from this big, plentiful tree.
Nocino is something that many Italians would traditionally make from scratch to have on hand for family and friends. Cardinal Spirits co-founder Rick Dietz researched those family recipes and translated them from Italian. The instructions offered great tid-bits, surely from some knowledgable Nonnas, on when to harvest the walnuts (on June 24, the Feast of St. John the Baptist), how long to age them (many recipes say at least 40 days, but one said exactly 48), what to add in (cinnamon, cloves and lemon peel are common) and agitation techniques (stir the walnuts for two minutes at a time, every few days, with a dedicated wooden spoon).
We made our nocino the old-fashioned way. We quartered the walnuts, then submerged them in vodka along with spices, and left to steep for months. Over time, the mixture got darker and darker.
Last week, we took a trip to Burton's Maplewood Farm in Medora, Ind., to get the last ingredient for our nocino — maple syrup. Burton's syrup is legendary, and it's the perfect foil to bitterness from the walnuts.
Now all that's left to do is fire up the bottling line and fill, fill, fill. We can't wait for you to try our newest spirit starting Saturday!