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Bottles of amaretto liqueur.

Amaretto (Italian for "a little bitter") is a sweet, almond-flavoured, Italian liqueur associated with Saronno, Italy. Various commercial brands are made from a base of apricot pits, almonds, or both.[1]

When served as a beverage, amaretto can be drunk by itself, used as an ingredient to create several popular mixed drinks, or added to coffee. Amaretto is also commonly used in culinary applications.



The name amaretto originated as a diminutive of the Italian word amaro, meaning "bitter", which references the distinctive flavour lent by the mandorla amara (the bitter almond) or by the drupe kernel. However, the bitterness of amaretto tends to be mild, and sweeteners—and sometimes sweet almonds—enhance the flavour in the final products.[2] Thus one can interpret the liqueur's name as a description of the taste as "a little bitter". Cyanide is processed out of the almond preparation prior to its use.

Conflation of amaro ("bitter") and amore ("love") has led to associations with romance.[3]

One should not confuse amaretto with amaro, a different family of Italian liqueurs that, while also sweetened, have a stronger bitter flavour derived from herbs.


Despite the known history on the introduction and acceptance of almonds into Italian cuisine, newer takes on the meanings and origins have been popularized by two major brands. Though of sometimes questionable factuality, these tales hold a sentimental place in Saronno culture:

In 1525, a Saronno church commissioned artist Bernardino Luini, one of Leonardo da Vinci's pupils, to paint its 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.[4][5]

Notable Brands[edit]


Amaretto serves a variety of culinary uses.


  • Amaretto is frequently added to desserts, including ice cream, which enhances the flavour of the dessert with almonds and is complementary to the flavor of chocolate. Tiramisu, a popular Italian cake, is often flavoured with either real amaretto or alcohol-free amaretto aroma.
  • Savoury recipes which call for it usually focus on meats, such as chicken.
  • A few shots of amaretto can be added to pancake batter for a richer flavour.
  • Amaretto is often added to almondine sauce for fish and vegetables.
  • Amaretto is often added to whipped cream.


Some popular cocktails highlight Amaretto liqueur as a primary ingredient.

  • French Connection. Ingredients: Amaretto liqueur, Cognac and ice cubes
  • Godfather. Ingredients: Amaretto liqueur, Scotch and ice cubes.
  • Amaretto Sour. Ingredients: Amaretto liqueur, lemon juice and ice cubes.[citation needed]
  • Twilight Amaretto Sour. Ingredients: Amaretto liqueur, bourbon whiskey, lemon-lime soda, lemon juice, and sugar.[6]
  • Snickerdoodle Cookie Martini. Ingredients: Amaretto liqueur, cinnamon liqueur, and cinnamon vodka.[7]
  • Nutcracker Martini. Ingredients: Amaretto liqueur, dark crème de cacao, vodka, and Irish cream.[8]
  • Amaretto Sour variant. Ingredients: Amaretto liqueur, egg white, cask strength bourbon, lemon juice, and simple syrup. Shake and pour over ice.[9]
  • Amaretto Piña Colada. Ingredients: Amaretto liqueur, light rum, coconut milk, pineapple juice, and ice cubes.[10]
  • Amaretto Stone Sour. Ingredients: Amaretto liqueur, orange juice, and sour mix.[11][12][13]

Amaretto is sometimes used as a substitute for Orgeat Syrup in places where the syrup cannot be found, or just to impart a less sweet flavour.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "GOZIO Amaretto Almond Liqueur". AHardy USA Ltd. Archived from the original on July 12, 2012. Retrieved October 18, 2010. 
  2. ^ Hopkins, Kate. "Almonds: Who Really Cares?" (August 28, 2004). Accidental Hedonist. Retrieved January 1, 2007.
  3. ^ Harper, Douglas. "Amaretto". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved January 1, 2007. 
  4. ^ "A Brief History of Amaretto". Shaw Media Inc. Retrieved December 30, 2011.
  5. ^ Disaronno Archived December 16, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.. Retrieved January 1, 2007. Home → Heritage → Page 2: The Legend. (A direct link is not available due to the Adobe Flash-based interface.)
  6. ^ "Twilight Amaretto Sour". Retrieved January 2, 2016. 
  7. ^ "Snickerdoodle Cookie Martini". Retrieved January 2, 2016. 
  8. ^ "DeKuyper Nutcracker Martini". Retrieved January 2, 2016. 
  9. ^ Morgenthaler, Jeffrey. "I Make the Best Amaretto Sour in the World". Retrieved December 12, 2013. 
  10. ^ "Amaretto Pina Colada". Retrieved January 2, 2016. 
  11. ^ "Amaretto Stone Sour recipe". Retrieved January 2, 2016. 
  12. ^ "Amaretto Stone Sour Recipe -". Retrieved August 3, 2016. 
  13. ^ "Amaretto Stone Sour Drink Recipe | DeKuyperUSA". Retrieved August 3, 2016. 

External links[edit]