[am-uh-ret-oh, ah-muh-]
Amaretto is a sweet almond-flavoured liqueur of Italian origin. It is made from a base of apricot or almond pits, or sometimes both.



The name is a diminutive of the Italian amaro, meaning "bitter", indicating the distinctive flavour lent by the mandorla amara--the bitter almond or the drupe kernel. However, the bitterness is not unpalatable, and the flavour is enhanced by sweeteners, and sometimes sweet almonds, in the final products. Therefore, the liqueur's name can be said to describe the taste as "a little bitter". Conflation of the homophonous amare and amore ("love") is primarily responsible for the associations with romance. Amaretto should not be confused with amaro, a different Italian liqueur that is flavoured with herbs.


Sicily is mostly responsible for the introduction of almonds into general Italian cuisine. Its location has encouraged contact with a variety of ethnic groups who made their presence known in the Mediterranean. Ancient and early Medieval Sicilians traded and otherwise interacted with neighboring Levant cultures to whose lands the almond was indigenous. Later, power in Sicily was taken by the Arabs or "Saracens"; their dominating presence from the 9th to the 11th centuries A.D. helped to diffuse many Arabic cultural and culinary concepts throughout the region.

Almonds became a favored component in Italian food and drink as Arab-Sicilian influence spread over the peninsular mainland, inspiring innovations. The concept reached all the way to the north of Italy, including the region of Lombardy, in which a municipality named Saronno would become famous for its almond-infused liqueur. In many regions, particularly these northernmost ones, distinct local varieties of amaretto biscotti developed. Amaretti di Sassello, unique to Liguria, are very soft and moist, like marzipan. Amaretti di Saronno, at the other end of the spectrum with a crunchy, crisp texture, became associated with the liqueur of the same town and therefore the most prominent style.


Despite apparently clear etymology of the terms, and known history on the introduction and acceptance of almonds into Italian cuisine, more recent takes on the meanings and origins have come about, further popularized by the two major brands. Though of sometimes questionable factuality, these tales hold a sentimental place in Saronno culture.The liqueur In 1525, a Saronno church commissioned artist Leonardo Da Vinci and student Bernardino Luini to paint their sanctuary with frescoes. As the church was dedicated to the Virgin Mary, Luini needed to depict the Madonna, but was in need of a model. He found his inspiration in a young widowed innkeeper, who became his model and (in most versions) lover. Out of gratitude and affection, the woman wished to give him a gift. Her simple means did not permit much, so she steeped apricot kernels in brandy and presented the resulting concoction to a touched Luini.The biscuit The invention of amaretti has also received an amorous Renaissance treatment. In the early 1700s, a Milanese bishop or cardinal surprised the town of Saronno with a visit. A young couple, residents of the town, welcomed him and paid tribute with an original confection: on the spur of the moment, they had baked biscuits made of sugar, egg whites, and crushed apricot kernels or almonds. These so pleased the visiting bishop that he blessed the two with a happy and lifelong marriage, resulting in the preservation of the secret recipe over many generations.


Disaronno Originale

Disaronno Originale (56 proof), the most popular brand, has a characteristic bittersweet almond taste and is known for its distinctive appearance. Disaronno claims its "originale" amaretto's "secret formula" is unchanged from the year 1525, and claims the Luini tale as its own particular history. Its production remains in Saronno, but the product is sold worldwide.

The company describes its amaretto as an infusion of "apricot kernel oil" with "absolute alcohol, burnt sugar, and the pure essence of seventeen selected herbs and fruits". The amber liqueur is presented in a rectangular glass decanter designed by a craftsman from Murano.

Formerly known as "Amaretto Disaronno", the company changed the name to "Disaronno Originale".

Lazzaroni Amaretto

Lazzaroni Amaretto (48 proof), produced by Paolo Lazzaroni & Figli S.p.A. and distributed in North America by Heaven Hill Distilleries, Inc., also presents itself as the first such liqueur. However, it is based on an infusion of Amaretti di Saronno, a process which imparts a "delicate almond/apricot flavour". Lazzaroni claim the tale of the young couple blessed by the bishop as the origin of their the generations-guarded family recipe, dating it to 1718; the amaretto has been in production since 1851.

Dwersteg's Organic Amaretto Liqueur

Dwersteg's Organic Amaretto Liqueur, produced in Germany by the Dwersteg Destillery is the first organic amaretto liqueur.


Amaretto serves a variety of culinary uses.


  • Amaretto is added to desserts, including ice cream, which enhances the flavour of the dessert with almonds and complements chocolate.
  • Savoury recipes which call for it usually focus on meat, such as chicken.
  • A few shots of Amaretto can be added to pancake batter for a richer flavour.


  • Non-alcoholic amaretto flavour, commonly available in several brands of flavoured syrups and creamers, is added to coffee, hot chocolate, and other non-alcoholic beverages.
  • Mixing Amaretto with cola results in taste similar to cherry cola or Dr Pepper, but with alcohol.
  • May be served neat (by itself) or on the rocks (with ice).
  • Also is very good served with orange juice (on the rocks), creating a refreshing beverage.

Amaretto is often added to other beverages to create several popular mixed drinks. In addition to the drinks below, many cocktails which call for coffee liqueur can substitute amaretto for an interesting change of flavour.

The following cocktails highlight Amaretto liqueur as a primary ingredient.

Amaretto Sour

  • Traditional: 2 parts Amaretto liqueur and 1 part sour (half a lemon), shaken with ice, strained into an old fashioned glass that has had its rim optionally "frosted" with granulated sugar, and garnished with a maraschino cherry
  • Modern: use 3 parts Amaretto and 1 part sour mix instead of the lemon juice; do not frost the rim of the glass with sugar.

Italian Sunset

  • 2 Parts Amaretto liqueur
  • Fill Glass with Pineapple Juice
  • Add a splash of Grenadine

Alabama Slammer

Equal amounts of Amaretto, Southern Comfort, Sloe Gin, and Orange juice chilled and then poured into a highball glass.

French Connection

  • 1 part (3.5 cl) Amaretto liqueur
  • 1 part (3.5 cl) Cognac

Pour all ingredients directly into old fashioned glass with ice cubes. Stir gently.


  • 1 part (3.5 cl) Amaretto liqueur
  • 1 part (3.5 cl) Scotch

Pour all ingredients directly into old fashioned glass filled with ice cubes.


  • 1 part (3.5 cl) Amaretto liqueur
  • 1 part (3.5 cl) Vodka

Pour all ingredients directly into old fashioned glass filled with ice cubes.


Pour all ingredients directly into old fashioned glass filled with ice cubes.

Toasted Almond

Equal parts of

  • Vodka
  • Kahlua
  • Amaretto
  • Half & Half or Milk

Flaming Dr Pepper

  • 6 oz Beer
  • 5/6 Shot of Amaretto
  • 1/6 Shot of Bacardi 151

Pour beer in a glass. Pour Amaretto in a single shot glass then pour the Bacardi 151 into the shot. The 151 will rise to the top. Light the shot on fire, drop the shot into the beer, and drink quickly.

See also


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