Nocciano

The Nocciano is made with the Italian liqueur called nocino, and has a hazelnut flavor, as well as a strawberry rim.

Nocciano, Italy

This was a very exciting cocktail for me because I used a homemade liqueur which I first tasted in Italy.

Some years back, I spent the summers teaching drawing and painting in Italy. I spent my first summer in a village called Nocciano (pronounced No-CHAH-no). It’s located on a steep hilltop not too far from Pescara…if you picture Italy as a boot, Pescara lies exactly where the calf of the boot curves back toward the leg bone. Nocciano is a little inland from there. We painted a lot of landscapes – we held most classes on a terrace that faced the mountain range, and sometimes I woke up early to walk to the sunflower fields and paint there.

Rocco and Silvana

Rocco and Silvana were my first host family. They were a very charming older couple who introduced me to nocino (pronounced no-CHEE-no) – but which they shortened to noc’ (NOCH).

We had a very comical relationship with after-dinner drinks. Every night, Silvana cooked a lovely meal. She never let me help her clean the kitchen, so I sat and chatted with Rocco (in proto-Italian) at the table while she tidied. Every night, at some point, Rocco inevitably asked whether we wanted a little something to drink, to finish the meal. Usually, he mentioned limoncello. Silvana always looked shocked and she immediately, and firmly, refused. I remember her waving her hands in the air, shooing away the offer, every night. And every night, Rocco offered again, and looked to me. I wasn’t quite sure if I should, especially since Silvana wasn’t, because you know, when in Rome. Every night, Rocco offered a couple of more times as he rose from his chair and got the bottle from the counter…brought over two tiny glasses…started to pour…around this time, every night, Silvana wiped her hands on a towel, hurriedly grabbed a third glass, and clicked it down on the table. She didn’t slam it down, but she decisively placed that glass on the table in front of him – just in time to take advantage of his pouring – with a sort of sighed “Oh, all right!” Then the three of us laughed, made a toast, and drank the limoncello.

Noc’

One night, he offered something called noc’. I found out later that it’s short for nocino, which Rocco and Silvana made themselves from walnuts. They buried bottles in the backyard, to age them, and dug them up when they were ready to drink. It was all very ritualistic, on the same day each year, because that was the saint’s day when you did this. (Saints’ days are very popular in Italy; almost every day is a saint’s day, though some are more widely celebrated than others). I thought they told me they made noc’ every year on June 15, but none of my research backs that up now. I think it was probably on June 24, which is the saint’s day for San Giovanni (St. John). They sent me home with a little corked bottle of my very own noc’ which I treasured.

Fast forward some years, and I get to drink homemade noc’ again! A good friend had made it herself (she told me there was no burying involved, though, and that it was made in December. And you can be sure that the Pandemic Pub is going to try our hand at making noc’ someday soon!).

I waited and thought very hard about what kind of drink I’d make with such a special liqueur, because I wanted to pay proper homage to Rocco and Silvana.

I muddled strawberries with the noc’, added cream, a dash of vanilla and cherry bitters. I garnished the finished cocktail with a big jagged chunk of strawberry, to echo the mountainous landscape I saw there everyday.

A sunset view of the Appenine Mountains, seen from Nocciano, Italy.
Photo courtesy of Antonio Tinelli, via tripadvisor.com

In honor of Rocco and Silvana, who made me noc’ some years ago, in the traditional way, by burying it in the backyard in mid-June. We toasted to them.

Ingredients

  • 3 oz. Homemade noc‘ (I don’t know what’s in it yet, but use walnuts and then bury the bottle)

  • Approx. 5 – 6 Strawberries

  • 1 oz. Cream

  • Dash of Vanilla

  • Dash of Cherry Bitters

Directions

  • Muddle the strawberries in a cocktail shaker; add ice, noc‘, vanilla and bitters.
  • Shake vigorously. Add cream and shake again (a little less vigorously is fine this time).
  • Garnish with a mountainous strawberry.
  • Toast to Rocco and Silvana – salute!
gustato il 24 agosto

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