When it comes to winter liqueurs, if they drink it in the Alps, that’s good enough for us. So today, we’re diving into the delicious, snow-day-friendly world of walnut liqueurs — specifically, our favorite, Nux Alpina from Austria.
Known as nocino in Italian, noix in French and Nüsse in German, walnut liqueur is traditionally made from fresh, green walnuts, which are steeped in an alcohol base, then spiced and sweetened. Nux Alpina in particular is smooth and drinkable enough to enjoy on its own after dinner; it’s sweet, but balanced with nutty and warm-spice and botanical elements. And all those interlocking flavors play well in cocktails, too. Here are three of our favorites.
Easy: Cognac-Walnut Sour
Nux Alpina is made by steeping walnuts in grape brandy — so a distinctive aged grape brandy, like Cognac, pairs perfectly. Take those two delicious bottles, marry them in a classic sour, and don’t leave out the Angostura, which brings out all the warm-spice elements of the liqueur.
Instructions: In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine 1.5 ounces of Cognac (we’re using Courvoisier VSOP), 1 ounce of walnut liqueur, 3/4 ounce of lemon juice, and 1/4 ounce of simple syrup. Add a dash of Angostura bitters. Shake all that up, strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice, and garnish with a thin lemon wheel.
Intermediate: Walnut Toddy
A traditional hot toddy is made from bourbon or brandy, but anything with a little weight and a little booze can be toddi-fied — and at 32 percent alcohol, Nux Alpina can stand alone in a toddy just fine. A guaranteed remedy for any cold winter night. (Really, it’s medicinal.)
Instructions: In a heat-safe glass, combine 1 ounce of walnut liqueur, 3/4 teaspoon of honey, and 3 ounces of hot water. Stir until honey is dissolved. Garnish with a cinnamon stick. Squeeze in a lemon wedge, stud with three cloves, and leave in drink.
Advanced: Winter Walnut Flip
While flips have a proud tradition in the cocktail world, the notion of using a whole egg in a drink still sounds odd to some — unless it’s winter, in which case, just think of it as eggnog! And “eggnog” with this ridiculously good walnut liqueur might be the best we’ve ever made.
Instructions: In a cocktail shaker without ice, combine 1 ounce of walnut liqueur, 1 ounce of bourbon, 1 ounce heavy whipping cream, 3/4 ounce simple syrup, and 1 medium-sized egg. Shake all that up without ice — that’s called a “dry shake” — and then with ice, to chill (that’s the “wet shake”). Strain into a rocks glass without ice. Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg, and a little sprig of your Christmas tree if you’re feeling cheeky. (Just don’t let it get in the drink.)