If you don't know Frangelico as a hazelnut liqueur, odds are you know it as "that weird-ass bottle that kinda looks like a monk." Though it was only released in the '80s, the Italian-made liqueur has one of those elaborate backstories: monks in the Piedmont region had been making something similar to Frangelico for centuries, inspiring its particular blend of hazelnut, vanilla and cocoa flavors.
Regardless of the true origin, Frangelico can be fun to experiment with in cocktails. Like many nutty, low-proof liqueurs, it's quite sweet—but when you balance it out with more potent spirits, the sugar gets tempered a bit, and its pleasant hazelnut flavors come out. These drinks will taste a bit dessert-y, but it's a still-plenty-boozy sort of dessert.
Easy: Frangelico & Cider
Nuts and apples are a classic flavor pairing, and this cocktail combines fresh apple cider with nutty Frangelico and plenty of American whiskey to amp it up. This is how we like our Frangelico: as a pleasant hazelnut background, not an overwhelming sweet liqueur hit.
Instructions: In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine 2 ounces of Jack Daniel's, 3 ounces of apple cider, 3/4 ounce Frangelico and 1/4 ounce of honey syrup (equal parts honey and hot water). Add a dash of Angostura bitters. Shake that all up and strain into a tall glass with fresh ice. Garnish with a large cinnamon stick.
Intermediate: Frangelico Sour
Like its cousin the Amaretto Sour, a Frangelico Sour can be quite tasty if made right. What this means is that you should always use fresh lemon juice and sugar instead of sour mix. You should also add an egg white, which gives a classic sour its light, airy texture. We also chose to cut Frangelico with bourbon, so you can still appreciate those hazelnut flavors without them taking over.
Instructions: In a cocktail shaker without ice, combine 1 ounce of bourbon, 1 ounce of Frangelico, 3/4 ounce lemon juice, 3/4 ounce simple syrup (equal parts sugar and hot water) and a dash of Angostura. Add one egg white. Shake all that up hard without ice—this is called a "dry shake"—and then add ice and shake again (the "wet shake”). Strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice. Garnish with a lemon wheel and brandied cherries.
Advanced: Irish Hazelnut Cream
Most creamy dessert drinks are sweet to the point that you can barely make it through even one. That’s why for our creamy drink we’re going with zero added sugar. The Irish whiskey, Frangelico and whipped cream make a pleasantly creamy drink that doesn’t in any way resemble a Frappuccino.
Instructions: Combine 2 ounces of Irish whiskey (like Jameson Black Barrel) and 1 ounce of Frangelico in a mixing glass with ice and stir. Pour into a cocktail glass.
Now, we're going to make a loose whipped cream—less stiff and form-holding than the texture of a fully whipped cream, the kind you'd top dessert with. You can do this with a whisk or a hand beater, or try this nifty bartender trick: If you've got a Hawthorne strainer—the kind you use to strain cocktails, with a spring around the edge—take out that big spring. Drop it into a cocktail shaker. Add an ounce of heavy cream, and then shake all that up hard. The spring will help "whip" the cream to just the texture you want (watch expert mixologist Jim Meehan’s tutorial here).
Once you've got whipped cream, carefully float it over the top of your cocktail. Garnish with fresh grated nutmeg.