What Is Amaretto? How to Make It and Cocktails to Try

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S.A. Yanes Published: January 14, 2022
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Along with Frangelico liqueur, Amaretto is another premium nut-flavored alcoholic drink that hails from Italy. This Italian liqueur brings sweet, nutty notes to cocktail drinks, refining the sharp burn of many spirits. It’s downright delicious whether sipped on its own or added to mixed drinks. But what exactly is amaretto?

Continue reading and discover everything you need to know about this nutty liqueur, starting from its origin to the best brands you should try. In the end, you can also learn how to make your own homemade amaretto! 

What Is Amaretto?

amaretto liqueur, what is amaretto

Amaretto is an almond-flavored Italian liqueur. Its name stems from the words amaro (which means “bitter” in Italian) and the suffix “etto” (which indicates littleness). Simply put, amaretto translates to “little bitter” in Italian.

There are varying accounts of when and how this almond liqueur came to be. The legend goes that it was the Lazzaroni family who first created this liqueur. They invented the amaretto cookies way back in 1786, and in 1851, they made a tasty liqueur that replicates the dessert’s taste. 

Another story tells of a widow from the Reina family coming up with this quintessential beverage. It was said that in 1525, she fell in love with a painter named Bernardino Luini (who’s supposedly a student of Leonardo da Vinci). She concocted a potion made from apricot kernels soaked in brandy for him, which was supposedly the amaretto liqueur. This recipe was then passed down through generations. Her recipe is presumably the same used by Disaronno Originale Liqueur, one of the most popular Italian amaretto drinks.

The Italians have been enjoying this beverage for many centuries, although it did not reach the American market until the 1960s. It rose to popularity in the 1980s. Today, it is used in many popular drinks, including the Godfather shooter, and is now among the best-selling liqueurs worldwide. 

What Is Amaretto Made From?

Being an almond liqueur, you would probably think that amaretto is made solely from almonds. The truth is, apricot pits are the primary ingredients of some brands. Although, some recipes also use a combination of almonds and apricot pits or kernels. Botanicals are also sometimes infused into the liqueur. Besides the dark amber hue, the dark or burnt sugar element also provides sweet notes to the liqueur.

Amaretto has varying alcohol content or ABV levels (alcohol by volume) depending on the brand. Generally, it only has a mid-ranged ABV, ranging from 21 to 28 percent.

What Does Amaretto Taste Like?

Amaretto is known for its bittersweet and nutty flavor, like that of an almond. Several brands, as we mentioned earlier, have varying ingredients. Hence, they have different levels of sweetness. Just a case in point, a few even add herbs and spices. Premium brands are also less sweet than inexpensive ones. Cheaper brands usually fall on the sweeter scale.

Popular Amaretto Brands

popular amaretto liqueur brands

Infrogmation of New Orleans | Wikimedia Commons

Because of its popularity, many companies are producing this almond-flavored alcohol. So if you plan on recreating amaretto cocktails, here are the best amaretto liqueur brands that deserve a spot on your bar cart:

  • Disaronno – Disaronno, the most popular amaretto brand, is produced in Saronno, Lombardy. Hence, its original name was Amaretto di Saronno. It was rebranded as Disaronno Originale in 2001. Though it tastes like almonds, it is made from apricot kernel oil infused with alcohol, burnt sugar, and herb and fruit essence.
  • Di Amore  – Amaretto di Amore is made from the crushed essence of apricot and has a sweet palate with underlying notes of caramel. Its production, however, is not entirely disclosed to the public. Luckily, you can easily find this inexpensive brand throughout the USA should you want to experience its saccharine flavor.
  • Lazzaroni – Lazzaroni amaretto is supposedly the very first amaretto. In 1786, The Lazzaroni family tried to replicate the flavor of their amaretto biscuits, and so the liqueur version was born. To make this liqueur, the crushed biscuits are soaked in alcohol. Beet sugar and cocoa, meanwhile, sweeten the flavor of this alcohol. Overall, it has a roasted almond-like taste with hints of spice.
  • Luxardo – Cherry, peach and apricot kernels are the primary components of the Luxardo brand. You can expect a deep flavor from this liqueur, with hints of spice and orange peel.
  • Gozio – Gozio amaretto has a refined almond taste with a creamy finish. When it comes to its aroma, you will instantly recognize whiffs of almond and spice. Its delicate flavor works well with cocktail drinks and even dessert recipes.

How to Serve and Drink Amaretto

Since this alcohol is sweet and nutty, you can drink it on its own over ice for a perfect after-dinner beverage. Its flavor can also shine, especially when married with cola, whiskey, vodka, and coffee liqueur. 

Because of its overall smooth palate, it will blend perfectly with the flavors of coffee and even ginger. It is also a delicious component when mixing up creamy cocktails and martinis. You can incorporate it into your boozy coffee drinks as well, just to jazz things up.

How to Use Amaretto in Cooking

Versatile as it is, you can also use this nutty liqueur when cooking and baking. So if you have a bottle of this alcohol in your cabinet, feel free to glaze your savory dishes with it. Incorporating it into baked goods such as these cheesecake bars also adds depth. Want to make your ice cream even more fun? You can also drizzle a bit of this liqueur on it! A sprinkle of amaretto syrup, meanwhile, keeps your cake deliciously moist. 

How to Make Homemade Amaretto

how to make homemade amaretto

 This nut-flavored beverage is widely available on the market. However, those of premium quality tend to carry hefty price tags. Thankfully, making your own amaretto at home is like a walk in the park!

First things first, gather the ingredients you will be needing. Luckily, they are easy to find and are probably lying around your pantry already. The vodka is the base of this liqueur, whereas the white (granulated) and brown sugars are the sweeteners. You can opt for almond and vanilla extracts in place of apricot kernels for the flavorings. 

Here are the ingredients you need:

  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups vodka
  • 1 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoon almond extract
  • 2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Once you have all the necessary components, here’s how to make this nutty beverage:

  1. In your handy saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Then, add the granulated sugar and the brown sugar. Or, if you prefer, you can also mix the water and the sugars straight away and boil the mixture to dissolve the sugars.
  2. Remove the saucepan from the heat once the mixture reaches a syrupy consistency. Then, allow it to cool. 
  3. Next, add the vodka, almond extract, and vanilla extract. Stir constantly to mix well together. 
  4. Using a funnel, pour the final product into the bottle. Make sure to seal the bottle the right way. 

There, now you can enjoy this flavorful liqueur any time you want! Go ahead and serve this alcoholic beverage on its own or incorporate it in your go-to cocktails. 

5 Amaretto Cocktails To Try

amaretto sour cocktail recipe

Amaretto is an essential ingredient in many cocktail recipes. Why, a small shot of this almond liqueur goes a long way! Here are a few drinks with amaretto to prove our point:

  • Amaretto Sour Cocktail – Amaretto and lemon juice come together amazingly in this zesty cocktail drink. Here, the lemon juice rounds out the sweet palate of the sweet-nutty alcohol. You can also garnish it with an orange slice for a more refreshing vibe. 
  • Italian Margarita – You just know a cocktail would be superb when it is made with a mix of flavorful liqueurs. This version of margarita pairs the amaretto with triple sec, creating a melody of citrusy yet sweet flavors. But of course, this impressive drink would not be as fruity without sour mix and freshly squeezed orange juice. 
  • Amaretto Stone Sour – Sipping on a refreshing amaretto stone sour on a lazy afternoon is a dream! Luckily, mixing up this drink is easy-peasy and only requires amaretto, orange juice, and sweet and sour mix. If you don’t have a sweet and sour mix, you can use simple syrup or lime juice in a pinch.
  • Amaretto Café – Want to booze up your morning coffee? Add nutty alcohol to your coffee, just like what we did in this amaretto coffee recipe. The marriage of almond liqueur and coffee brings forth delicious flavors that are impossible to resist. Top with whipped cream, and you’re all set for your boozy coffee time!
  • Alabama Slammer – Mix up this classic fruity cocktail on a lazy afternoon! Amaretto teams up with sloe gin (a British red liqueur) and orange juice in this refreshing highball drink. Make sure to use crystal clear ice for a fancier drinking experience.

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S.A. Yanes

S.A. Yanes is a fiction writer, poet, book blogger, and content editor. At Recipes.net, she writes food ingredient guides, product reviews, and more. Prior to that, she has worked in a publishing house and was the brand manager of an up-and-coming writing and reading online platform. She has written numerous short fictions as well as engaging bible stories for children. She's also a certified foodie with an immense love for anything cheesy and chocolatey.

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