Amaretto is a sweet almond-flavored liqueur from the Lombardy region in northern Italy. It's either made from apricot kernels, peach stones, and almonds and typically contains about 20% to 28% of alcohol.
As you might know, Italy is home to many famous liqueurs. Especially the popular representatives of the Amaro family are essential in countless cocktail creations. Campari, Aperol, Cynar, Amaro Nonnino, or Amaro Montenegro belong to this category, and the list goes on.
Perhaps you already guessed that Amaretto also derives from the term Amaro. Amaro is the Italian word for bitter, so the Amaros are bitter liqueurs made of various herbs, plants, roots, and flowers. Consequently, Amaretto in Italian means 'a little bitter'.
And indeed, the Amaretto liqueur is a lot sweeter than your regular Amaro but still has a distinctive bitter touch.
What is Amaretto made from?
Though Amaretto is widely-known to be almond-flavored, in most cases, it doesn't contain almonds at all. The flavor is derived from either peach stones or apricot kernels.
The base of the liqueur is a neutral spirit like Vodka. Depending on the brand, the ingredients like apricot kernels and peach stones 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 and it's flavored with vanilla and other botanicals.
How it tastes
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 almonds aroma.
Also, the level of sweetness can vary and is generally lower in high-end Amaretto liqueurs. More affordable alternatives often are overly sweet with an intense, almost artificial flavor. This extra sweetness should cover the harsher alcoholic notes in the liquor.
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.
The best ways to drink it
Amaretto works well when you drink it straight over ice with just a splash of lemon. The ice dilutes the thick and syrupy consistency, yet, the lemon is not a must but can help balance the sweetness. I recommend it, though, especially if you're generally not that much into sweet liqueurs.
It 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.
Use Amaretto in cocktails
If you tried the first one during the 70s and weren't convinced, check out our improved Amaretto Sour recipe. It's less sweet and more balanced than what was served during the 1970s.
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 course of the centuries. It is believed to have remained very similar to the original recipe from 1525.
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