Frangelico: The Sweet Hazelnut Liqueur Perfect For Winter Cocktails

Are you nuts about cocktails? Frangelico is the Italian liqueur for hazelnut lovers and fans of toasty tipples. It's no surprise that Italians love hazelnuts. Sweet and aromatic, Great Italian Chefs says that the Tonda Gentile delle Langhe or the Nocciola del Piemonte IGP can be heated and used in both baked goods and savory dishes — Italians even use them to craft a delightfully nutty liqueur.

Also known as a cordial, VinePair explains that liqueurs are essentially liquors that are flavored and sweetened through processes like infusion, extraction, distillation or smoking. That said, they can range anywhere from 15% ABV, all the way to 55%. When it comes to Frangelico, hazelnut is the flavoring compound of choice, in addition to a few other ingredients that help make it uniquely warm and inviting. Its sweet and toasty flavor makes adding Frangelico to your cocktail lineup in the colder months a must!

A brief history

Credited with creating cheeses, beers, and all sorts of goodies, a monastic order is also behind the nutty liqueur we've come to know as Frangelico, as the legend goes. The Frangelico company website shares that over 300 years ago, Christian monks living in the hills of northern Italy's Piedmont region practiced the art of distilling, using locally foraged hazelnuts and botanicals that grew in the area. Thought to be a riff on the name of a hermit monk, Fra' Angelico, it's likely that the liqueur was originally made for medicinal purposes, although its use today is pure indulgence. The liqueur maker pays tribute to the spiritual origins of this drink, as the bottle is shaped like a Franciscan friar's cloak, complete with a rope belt that was hand-tied up until a few years ago, notes Difford's Guide

Bevvy explains that the liqueur is produced in Canale, where craftsmen distill the liquor with locally roasted Tonda Gentile hazelnuts. They then blend the mixture with extracts and distillates from roasted coffee beans, cocoa seeds, and vanilla before adding sugar and water, and leaving to mature for several weeks in oak casks. The resulting cordial is unlike any other, boasting the power to warm you from the inside out.

Characteristics of Frangelico

In appearance, Frangelico may seem simple. But beyond its pale amber hue, the clear liqueur reveals an intensely nutty aroma, which is all thanks to the star ingredient, hazelnuts (via Frangelico). The toasted fruit imparts a decadent roasted perfume that's both delicately sweet and woody —  it's enough to inspire imbibing by a crackling fire.

On the palate, Frangelico is almost like a liquefied Nutella, though it isn't syrupy nor sickly sweet. It boasts a full-bodied texture and a pleasant balance of rich flavors — nutty like an amaretto, with bold notes of chocolate and vanilla, and hints of toffee, butterscotch and caramel. And with a delicate finish of the complex fusion of herbs, Frangelico is a one-of-a-kind flavor.

Given the specificity of its flavor, it can be tricky to use in a mixed drink, and Drinking Hobby suggests that the only thing that will really do as a substitute is another hazelnut liqueur. However, if it's the nutty flavor you're after, seek out an almond-based amaretto, or walnut-based nocello. 

How to enjoy Frangelico

Frangelico can be served anywhere, anytime, and with anyone, but, we think it's best enjoyed during the chilly winter season to help you stay toasty! Commonly served as a digestivo that's sipped as cordial or on the rocks, Punch shares that it can also be poured into coffee (or hot chocolate) and even served as part of dessert — spiked affogato, anyone? Baked goods (particularly holiday treats) that feature coffee, chocolate, or nuts can also benefit from a drizzle of Frangelico.

Likewise, the saccharine quality of the liqueur can also make it a great addition in cocktails, especially when used as a sweetener. Aside from adding a splash to a boozy espresso martini or White Russian, notes that Frangelico can even be mixed with reposado tequila and club soda for an earthy tipple that mellows the cordial. It can also add an element of warmth in festive cocktails like mulled wine or cider.

While an unopened bottle of Frangelico can last practically indefinitely, the same can't be said once the bottle is opened. Since it's a high-proof alcohol and doesn't consist of any ingredients that are susceptible to spoilage, Foods Guy shares that an opened bottle can last several years when stored on the shelf. However, flavors can start to fade, especially if bottles aren't kept in a cool place away from sunlight. If you notice that the color, aroma, or flavor has changed, it's time to toss your Frangelico.