The search for the perfect holiday after-dinner drink ends at Bloomington craft distillery and cocktail bar Cardinal Spirits, which uncorks its second commercial batch of the aromatic Italian liqueur nocino this month. The potent green-walnut digestif is the product of a rich tradition of harvesting walnuts on June 24, the holy feast day of St. John the Baptist.
For the past four years, Cardinal Spirits co-founder Adam Quirk and his family have plucked from a relative’s Carpathian walnut tree in Fort Wayne to create an Indiana version of nocino. The soft, undeveloped hulls cut into quarters soak in vodka and secret spices for several months as the spirit turns dark brown and develops its lusty flavor—with notes of coffee, hits of citrus, and a sweet uppercut of maple syrup from Burton’s Maplewood Farm in Medora.
Nocino, which arrives at Bloomington liquor stores this month, can be sipped neat or mixed into heady cocktails like walnut Manhattans, nocino sours, and Milk Punch.