What is Amaretto Liqueur?

By Timo Torner / Last updated on April 17, 2023

Our guide to Italian Amaretto liqueur, how it tastes, and how to use it in cocktails.
Amaretto, a sweet almond flavored liqueur, on the rocks

Amaretto is a sweet almond-flavored liqueur that originates from the Lombardy region in northern Italy. It's flavored with apricot kernels, peach stones, or almonds and typically contains about 20% to 28% of alcohol. It is an essential ingredient of shots and classic cocktails like the Amaretto Sour, Godfather, and French Connection.

How does it taste?

The taste of Amaretto liqueur is rich and sweet, with a strong note of almonds and a slight bitterness. Depending on the brand, different botanicals and herbs are added to complement the dominant sweet almond flavor.

The level of sweetness may vary and is generally lower in high-end Amaretto liqueurs like Adriatico. More affordable alternatives often are overly sweet with an intense, almost artificial flavor. This extra sweetness should cover the harsher alcoholic notes in the liqueur.

How to drink Amaretto

One of the best ways to drink Amaretto is straight over ice with just a splash of lemon juice. The ice dilutes the thick and syrupy consistency, yet, the lemon is not a must, but the acidity can help balance the sweetness. 

Amaretto also works exceptionally well with hot beverages like coffee and hot chocolate. In coffee, it is a beautiful substitute for more traditional sweeteners like sugar. To hot chocolate, it adds gorgeous almond notes to the cocoa flavors. The result tastes a bit like liquid marzipan chocolate.

It's a very versatile ingredient, and its distinct almond flavor is great for cocktails and shooters. It goes well with high-proof spirits like vodka, whiskey, rum, or brandy. 

Substitutes for Amaretto liqueur

Sweet and nutty in taste, hazelnut liqueur is one of the best substitutes for Amaretto. Great alcohol-free alternatives include almond syrup, almond extract, orgeat, and. marzipan. 

What is Amaretto made from?

Most brands make their Amaretto liqueur from a neutral base spirit, sugar, and almond flavoring derived from peach stones or apricot kernels. The base spirit is mostly made from grains, sugar cane, or sugar beet. The almond flavor in the liqueur typically comes from either peach stones or apricot kernels. -But almonds can also be part of the ingredients.

Ingredients in Amaretto liqueur

How is it produced?

The base of the liqueur is a neutral spirit similar to Vodka. Depending on the brand, ingredients like apricot kernels, peach stones, and bitter almonds are added and steeped.

This step can take anywhere from one week to multiple months and is crucial for many Amaretto brands' secret recipes. In another step, burnt and caramelized sugar is added to the mix. Finally, the liqueur is flavored with vanilla, herbs, and botanicals.

The color of the liqueur

Most Amaretto is of amber color. However, the color varies between products and ranges from light amber to dark brown color. 

The history of Amaretto liqueur

The history of the liqueur is a debate of ongoing discussion. Its roots most likely date back to the 1500s. According to a legend, in 1525, Bernardino Luini was handed an old version of the almond-flavored liqueur when painting his famous painting of the Madonna. His model, muse, and potential lover gave a drink to him made of apricot kernels soaked in brandy. 

Allegedly, this recipe had been passed down from generation to generation. Today this original version is sold under the name Disaronno Originale.

According to sources close to the brand, the formula for Disaronno has changed only a little over the centuries. It is believed to have remained very similar to the original recipe from 1525.

Where is it produced?

The majority of Amaretto is made in Italy, but it's produced all over the world. You can find great Amaretto from many other countries like the Netherlands, UK, and the U.S.

Amaretto vs. Amaro

Amaretto liqueur is a lot sweeter than your regular Amaro but still has a distinctive bitter touch. The name "Amaretto" also derives from the term Amaro. Amaro is the Italian word for bitter, so Amari are bitter liqueurs made of various herbs, plants, roots, and flowers. Consequently, Amaretto in Italian means "a little bitter". 

Italy is home to many famous bitter liqueurs. Especially, the popular representatives of the Amaro family are essential in countless cocktail creations. CampariAperolCynarAmaro Nonnino, or Amaro Montenegro belong to this category, and the list goes on.

The alcohol content of Amaretto

The Alcohol By Volume (ABV) of Amaretto liqueur is usually between 20% to 28%, depending on the brand. That is in line with many other popular fruit liqueurs and well below the standard 40% that classic spirits like Whiskey, Rum, or Gin contain.


Since the 1960s, Amaretto liqueur has become a popular ingredient in cocktails. Most of these Amaretto drinks are more on the sweet side as this is where the almond flavor shines.

Popular brands

Nowadays, many companies and brands produce Amaretto liqueur in every quality and price range. If you're looking to add a premium Amaretto to your liquor cabinet, you can not go wrong with these Italian brands:

  • Disaronno Amaretto Originale
  • Lazaronni Amaretto
  • Amaretto Adriatico
  • Luxardo Amaretto di Saschira

For an in-depth analysis, check out our list of the best Amaretto liqueurs.

Amaretto liqueur FAQs

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