Spirits like Rum, Vodka, Gin, and Whiskey are essential cocktail ingredients and can be found in every well-equipped home bar. Yet, when it comes to liqueurs, the selection is often limited. Coffee liqueur and an Amaro, sure. Something fruity, perhaps. But there's much more, and Frangelico is one of the best.
The hazelnut-based liqueur truly is one of my favorites. So here is all you need to know about Frangelico, the unique Italian hazelnut liqueur.
What is Frangelico?
Frangelico is an Italian liqueur made with hazelnuts. In Europe, it has been a well-liked après-ski shot after a day on the slopes for decades. But these days, you can find it in all parts of the world, in almost every well-stocked professional bar.
The reason is simple, Frangelico has a rich, distinct, and, above all, unique and intense nutty taste. You will be hard tried to find a comparable product that works as a substitution.
The bottle design of the Frangelico liqueur is as unique as its taste. It resembles the shape of a monk's habit and even has a rope tied around its waist.
The brand was established in 1978, yet, the recipe seems to be much older. The original version of the liqueur is said to have been invented during the 17th century by monks in the Italian Piedmont region. Supposedly, it was also named after a hermit monk called Fra' Angelico, who had lived in the hills of Piedmont at the time.
- Produced by: Gruppo Campari
- Origin: Piedmont, Italy
- Released: 1978
- ABV: 20% (40 proof)
- Price: $30
- Taste: Sweet, toasted hazelnuts, chocolate, and vanilla
- Best serve: Neat in a shot glass served with a hazelnut in the glass
How does it taste?
Frangelico is 100% one of the most hazelnut-forward liqueurs you can find. I would go so far as to say it is the liqueur with the most intense hazelnut flavor out there. At least, to date, I haven't come across something similar.
It is a delightfully sweet and rich blend that, besides the hazelnuts, carries notes of vanilla, coffee, and cocoa. However, it is not sickly sweet, and you get a slight but pleasant burn from the alcohol.
The sweet flavor makes it a perfect fit for winter drinks like hot chocolate, hot milk, or spiked cappuccino, but also for fall drinks and Christmas cocktails.
How to drink Frangelico
The first and most common version is to drink it neat as a shot - either out of the fridge or at room temperature. Both work well in this case. Personally, I prefer chilled, though.
At the same time, Frangelico is pretty versatile. As mentioned, it's great in hot drinks like hot chocolate or coffee. Also, it is great for cocktails. It works as beautifully with creamy and chocolatey ingredients as in a Sour.
Especially full-bodies spirits like Whiskey or Brandy are an excellent match for the nutty, rich flavor of the liqueur.
You can find Frangelico in various dessert cocktails. Plus, it can be used as a nutty element to get the typical Peanutbutter & Jelly combination in liquid form.
I'm not going to lie. Trying to replace Frangelico is a challenge, and one without a satisfying solution, really. There are other hazelnut-flavored liqueurs from renowned brands like DeKuyper or Bartenura, but they are nowhere near, and I cannot recommend them as a decent substitute.
Toschi Nocello, an Italian nut liqueur made of walnuts and hazelnuts, is an alright option. It comes reasonably close to Frangelico when you mix it into cocktails.
Further, there is a bottle I recently discovered from the North Italian brand Walcher. I haven't had the chance to try them yet, but what I heard indicates it could work as a replacement, too. It might be worth a try, and when I get a hand on it, I will let you know.
Further, some suggest using Amaretto as a substitute for Frangelico. However, I'm sorry to say that this won't work too well. But let me explain.
Amaretto vs Frangelico
Some people confuse those two products because, presumably, both are made from nuts. -One from hazelnuts, the other from almonds. Well, without wanting to be too nitpicky here, almonds are fruits, not nuts.
However, more importantly, Amaretto gets its almondy taste from stone fruits like peaches, not almonds.
Frangelico offers an intense and wide array of warm notes from hazelnuts, cocoa, vanilla, and coffee. The taste of Amaretto is more one-dimensional. It is also sweet but more reminiscent of marzipan. Both liqueurs are delicious, yet in very different ways.
How is it made?
The production process is comparable to that of other liqueurs. Crushed and toasted hazelnuts from the Piedmont region build the base left to soak in a solution of alcohol and water.
The resulting infusion gets distilled and then blended and flavored with extracts from cocoa, roasted coffee, vanilla, etc. Of course, the formula is a well-kept secret.
To finally achieve bottle strength, the distillate is watered down and sweetened. Before bottling, the liqueur needs to rest for six to eight weeks to allow all flavors to blend. That's when the iconic rich and intense hazelnut taste of Frangelico develops.
Frangelico is an absolutely delicious liqueur made of the finest hazelnuts in Italy. It might not be the most famous liqueur, but it certainly is among the best ones I've tried.
If you haven't had the chance to try Frangelico yet, do so during your next visit to your favorite cocktail bar. I'm sure it won't disappoint. Also, if you're looking for a drink featuring the beautiful hazelnut liqueur, try the Hazelnut Sour from our favorite Thanksgiving cocktails.