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The Nocino, and the fame you didn’t expect

The lagAlpi shop hosts various drinks with an important reputation. Absinthe, Damassine, Genepì, are all illustrious guests of the fervent alpine imagination, which certainly does not lack imagination. If naming these drinks immediately recalls the history they carry, the association isn’t so immediate when it comes to the Nocino. Yet, this historic liqueur has a lot to tell us, you just need to know how to listen …

The Nocino, properties & uses

The nocino’s a dark-colored and dense-looking liqueur. It can be served at the end of a meal as a digestive and is used by many as a tonic and as a remedy for liver aliments.

To tell the truth, the use of walnut husk as an ingredient for medicines or liqueurs dates back to ancient times. And today, there are many applications that see the nocino protagonist of treatments purify the liver and antiparasitics. The tannins naturally contained in this digestive help digest proteins, kill bacteria and parasite.

The myth of San Giovanni

It’s incredible to believe, but the feast of St. John’s Day ( June 24), numerous legends bordering on the sacrilegious are linked, and one in particular-the one we are interested in now-is the one that has witches gathered around a walnut tree in a mysterious propitiatory dance.

In fact, the Walnut is a tree with a not exactly good-natured reputation. In fact, the Walnut is a tree with a not exactly good-natured reputation. Of him, among other things, it is said that the cross of Jesus was made, while Dionysus, blinded by anger, chose his features for the sad fate of his beloved Caria (we have already talked about this fame in another article dedicated to walnut oil, which you can find here).

It is therefore no coincidence that the witches collect the branches for their magical rituals, while the hulls, which in the shortest night of the year are still unripe, are collected by them to ensure vitality to the plant.

This is where the legend that binds Nocino to the night of San Giovanni was born. It’s precise during the night between 23 and 24 June that the woman judged to be the most skilled in the preparation of the digestive (or, in other versions, a virgin) will have to climb the walnut tree, barefoot, to collect the still unripe fruits.

Does this seem like a slightly complicated way to make a liqueur? If so, you must recognize that our producer Manifattura Branchihas no shortage of courage. Its Noos, in fact, is produced exactly according to tradition, and with every sip, you can savor the mystical energy of the shortest night of the year …

The origins of nocino and the myth of Picti

But where does Nocino come from? So far be it from us wanting to do the work of professional historians, it is nevertheless fascinating to take for granted the story that tells of the strange encounter that Julius Caesar‘s soldiers had in Gaul …

Here, in the origin of the legend according to which the Walnut tree was the twitches’ tree, the Roman soldiers found themselves faced with disturbing warriors who, to scare their enemies, dyed their faces with a greenish-brown paste. It was a tincture made from unripe nuts. This strange concoction of nuts, honey, and other fermented fruit was then drunk by the fearsome roosters, which in this way took the courage necessary to enrage the battle.

It seems that such a concoction is the distant ancestor of nocino and that these fearsome and ruthless adversaries are its first producers. The Romans called them “Picti,” that is, paintings, precisely because of their faces marked by … nocino!

The Ratafià, to seal agreements and pacts

Many of you will also know nocino as Ratafià. In fact, in many places, especially in northern Italy and Italian Switzerland, this is the official name of the walnut liqueur, while the term nocino has appeared more recently. This is also evidenced by the materials collected for the Vocabulary of the dialects of Italian Switzerland (circa 1920). The description of this walnut liqueur is found only under the heading ratafià. This term indicates various liqueurs obtained from fruit, alcohol, sugar, and substances aromatic and widespread in the Mediterranean area.

But why “ratafià”? It was an ancient tradition to consume a solid alcoholic beverage to seal a pact or agreement. The etymology is traced back to the Latin rato fieri used by ecclesiastical writers, which means “to be ratified”. Hence the fiat installment, rata fiat: ““that it is ratified.”

The Ratafià del Ticino of our producer Tamborini takes inspiration from this fascinating tradition Ratafià of Ticino from our producer Tamborini whose secret recipe seems to come directly from a certain Father Gaucher of the monastery of Santa Maria dei Frati Cappuccini in Bigorio sopra Tesserete, who has been producing this tasty liqueur since time immemorial of walnuts.