This Green Almond Liqueur recipe is a whole new kind of awesome with an aromatic but bittersweet flavor! I will show you how easy it is to prepare this Italian liqueur with unripe almonds.
I love experimenting with homemade liqueur recipes. And I found a really good almond flavoured liqueur recipe to play with, inspired by a trip. The whole story is down below. This is basically an Italian amaretto liqueur, or as close to an amaretto substitute as you can make at home. So let’s get started as I offer you a naughty recipe to wake up the bootlegger in you with a homemade Green Almond Liqueur recipe.
Update: May 22, 2017 – It has been 6 weeks and the amaretto flavor liqueur is now bottled. Update: June 5, 2018 – A year has passed since I posted the digestivo recipe on the blog, the Green Almond Liqueur is ready for a tasting!
One evening in the summer of 2016, while on vacation in Austria, as I sat around the table with my Austrian family, my cousin pulled out a bottle of homemade liqueur. He offered me a glass and I fell in love at first sip. OMG this was the best thing ever! I asked what it was made with and he said green walnuts and gave me a brief idea of how it is made.
As soon as I made it back home I started researching this green walnut liqueur. This liqueur goes by the name of Nocino and is an Italian digestif. The recipe requires, no INSISTS, on green walnuts from the English walnut tree. One cannot use the Black Walnut green fruit as the shell is too hard, even when green. Well, either way, I have never seen any green walnut at any market. So what is this girl to do?
Have you ever seen green almonds before?
Then I remember my local Middle-Eastern grocery store has sometimes green almonds in spring! And guess what I found on their shelves last week? Lots of green almonds! So I immediately bought some as the season to find them in spring is short. The season is over a 6 week period, from April to June.
Left on the tree, this fluffy green exterior is what will become the shell. At this green stage, you can easily bite right into it and enjoy a green almond. The ‘shell’ part does have a bit of a bitter taste and the almond inside is smaller and a bit gelatinous. Green almonds fans eat them like snacks, either dipped in sugar or even salt. Or slice one up to toss into a salad.
Since I first posted this blog on Eater day, a day filled with Christian traditions, I wanted to share with a few more notes about the walnut liqueur…you know for educational purposes 😉 Sacred walnut trees had a strong presence in pagan belief and we know many religious days now coincide with Christian celebrations. Nocino was always made on the summer solstice, the day with the shortest night.
Through religious influence, the walnuts had to be picked on the night of St John the Baptist Day, June 24, another celebration of light’s battle over darkness. Now the best part: the walnuts had to be picked by barefoot virgins who only gathered an uneven number dew-laden green walnuts, usually 23 to 25 green walnuts. Back then, this liqueur batch would be ready to warm your shivering bodies by the time of the winter solstice, but absolutely not to be tasted before November 3rd. In reality, waiting a year is best so that the liqueur can mellow first.
As you can see, besides not even being able to source English green walnuts, there are several factors that dictate that I am not the right candidate to make this liquor…the barefoot part, as I am sure you had all properly guessed 😉
Come shopping with me in my neighborhood for some ingredients and let’s make the green almond liqueur, a homemade amaretto…
So could I make this Nocino liqueur with green almond? I don’ t see why not. Obviously, it will not be identical to the walnut liqueur but a green almond liqueur should be just as good, right? And I already have under belt a few successful and delicious nut and liqueur recipes, such as pistachio syrup and green tea liqueur.
According to the internet, only a few have tried with green almonds and were happy with the results. I am pretty sure this is also a typical Italian recipe as well, a form of amaretto alcohol. If you do know the name, please let me know in the comment box below.
Let’s give this Green Almond Liqueur recipe a try. I macerated my green almond liqueur for 6 weeks on a window sill. I did not get enough almonds the first time around (left pic above) as I had no idea what the almond equivalent was to 23 green walnuts.
But I later found a weight measurement so I doubled my almond quantity two days in (right pic above). Once the 6 weeks were up (left pic below) the liquid had gotten a lot darker. In the end, I achieved an amber color when I bottled the green almond liqueur (right pic below).
An experiment in patience
Update Part 2
The liqueur has now been bottled. I have prepared a video where I took clips and pics of the liqueur for a weekly update, I filmed the straining process and had a little first taste. In a year from now, I shall do a last follow up Part 3 with the final tasting. Hope you will follow along 🙂
TIP: Keep your original vodka bottle to store the green almond liqueur after it is strained.
OMG I did it, I waited a whole year and did not touch my resting booze. Look at how clear the liqueur has become, it is a gorgeous pale amber color. And as you can see on the very bottom of the bottle, any sediment still present has sunk to the bottom. No harm in drinking it but you could filter it out. It’s time to taste!
So let’s talk about the texture of the green almond liqueur recipe. We associate the best liqueurs as thick and viscous from all the sugar. Well, this liquid is very thin, like a hard alcohol. You definitely taste the sweetness when you take a sip but you also get the hard alcohol feel like a sip of grappa. Maybe not quite as potent, but close.
The original harshness is almost entirely gone but you still feel the green freshness of the unripe almonds. The liquid is smooth to taste, with that alcohol bite at the end. I will enjoy sipping away at the fruits of my one-year long labor, imagining myself a glass in hand on the shores of Lake Como.
Disaronno vs Amaretto
As I wrote my part 3 I decided to do a little bit more research into amaretto. What is amaretto liqueur anyway? In Italian, the word means a little bitter. Originally, amaretto was made with bitter almonds. Now they use different varieties of almonds for the amaretto ingredients and there are a few other ingredients in there as well as herbs and spices.
OK now here is a shocker. When we think of amaretto brands, the first one that comes to mind is the Disaronno alcohol. Well, guess what? There are no almonds in it at all. So what is Disaronno then? Turns out it is alcohol, a mix of herbs and fruits, sugar and apricot kernel oil. Similar methods are used for Galliano liqueur and Benedictine liqueur. Shocking right? The actual closest thing to real amaretto is Frangelico liqueur which is made with hazelnuts.
How to drink amaretto or your own green almond liqueur recipe
Rinse and pat dry the almonds. Carefully cut each almond into quarters.
Place the almonds in a 2 liter glass jar, along with the remaining ingredients. Close the lid tight and shake to mix well.
Place the jar by a window sill and leave to macerate for 6 weeks. You must shake the jar daily, especially at the beginning so the sugar can dissolve. The liqueur will get darker over time.
Strain the liqueur of all solid particles through several layers of cheesecloth. Bottle the liquid back into the original vodka bottles. Cork or seal tightly. Store in a cool, dry place for at least 4 months but preferably for 1 year so the bitter taste can mellow out.
Feel free to use the spent almonds for a 2nd maceration with the same recipe to get a lovely lighter liqueur.