Like Girl Scout Cookies and Great Lakes Christmas Ale, the release of Watershed Distillery's Nocino liqueur is an anticipated, once-a-year occurrence.
Like Girl Scout Cookies and Great Lakes Christmas Ale, the release of Watershed Distillery's Nocino liqueur is an anticipated, once-a-year occurrence. Made with Ohio black walnuts, this dark-and-sweet liqueur hailing from Northern Italy is both labor intensive to produce and ephemeral. Watershed works with the Ohio Nut Growers Association to source unripe walnuts, which are harvested in July. After the ground walnuts steep in vodka, spices and sugar for months, bottles hit the shelves in early December and supply may only last through the winter. When Watershed launched its Nocino in 2014, the distillery made 2,500 bottles. They doubled the batch in 2015. Watershed co-founder Greg Lehman says the plan in 2016 was to produce 10,000 bottles thanks to gaining popularity. But the walnuts wouldn't cooperate. "It turns out there was a huge walnut shortage," Lehman says. "We could only make about 4,500 bottles and it was a later harvest. I think the flavors are going to be amazing this year, there's just going to be less of it." With little time to waste, here are three Nocino cocktails by some of the city's best bartenders.
If Jack Never Met Rose, Watershed Kitchen & Bar (coming soon)
1 1/2 ounces apple brandy
1 ounce lemon juice
1/2 ounce grenadine
1/4 ounce Watershed Nocino
1/4 ounce Aperol
1 dash apple cider vinegar
1 spray rose water
Shake and strain into a rocks glass, then fill with crushed ice. Garnish with pomegranate seeds and dried rosebuds.
About the cocktail:Bar manager Alex Chien's cocktail is a playful cross between two historic drinks, a Jack Rose and a Switchel. Look for sightings of it when Watershed's restaurant opens in February.
Spiced Walnut, M at Miranova
Ron Zacapa 23-year rum, Watershed Nocino, angostura bitters, orange zestgarnish and large hand-chipped ice cube
About the cocktail:Head bartender Cris Dehlavi embraces holiday spices with this addition to her winter menu. "I love the way the walnut liqueur pairs with this lovely aged rum. The angostura bitters add the flavors of clove, cinnamon and nutmeg," she says.
The Bailiff, Blind Lady Tavern
Espolon Anejo tequila, Watershed Nocino, sweet vermouth and orange bitters
About the cocktail:Nocino's "rich, warming characteristics" are ideal for winter "when you want to batten down the hatches and sip on something," says owner Seth Laufman.In the boozy Bailiff, oak and vanilla notes from the Anejo tequila complement the nuttiness of the Nocino. Orange bitters help balance the sweetness.