Amaretto, The Almond Flavoured Liquor! Does It Have Almonds?
Image Credit: The vintage drink, Amaretto, Shutterstock

Savour the ever-enduring amaretto with its endearingly nutty flavour, delicious sweetness, and elusive '70s vibe. This widely-known liqueur, infused with the delicate flavour of almonds, has been expertly crafted in Italy for ages, enhancing both sweets and cocktails with its delectable touch. Following its surge in popularity during the 1960s in the United States, this exquisite elixir has birthed a plethora of scrumptious cocktails. The question arises: is it a worthy addition to your liquor cabinet, and if so, which brand deserves your attention? Let's get enlightened about amaretto.

It could be manufactured with apricot kernels, bitter almonds, peach stones, or almonds, but that depends on the brand. The benzaldehyde responsible for the liqueur's distinctive almond flavour comes from these natural compounds.

Have you ever wondered what exactly amaretto is? 

Amaretto, a delectable almond-flavoured liqueur, originated in Italy in 1851, but it may be older than this. Its unique taste is a harmonious blend of both sweetness and bitterness. The word "amaretto" is Italian for "little bitter." Once you've sipped this exquisite beverage, its unforgettable flavour will linger in your memory. You may already be familiar with the taste of the classic Italian treat, amaretto cookies.

A debatable history

The creation of the amaretto is credited to two different families in the city of Saronno. The Reina family's formula is based on a native innkeeper's rendition of the drink. According to folklore, the innkeeper offered the liqueur to Renaissance painter Bernardino Luini in 1525 while he painted a fresco of the Madonna using her as a model. In the early 1900s, the Reinas put their liqueur in bottles and sold it with the moniker Di Saronno, and the 1960s marked Disaronno's journey outside the country. Disaronno Originale was created to distinguish it from other amaretto brands. Another story links the liquor to the Lazzaroni family, who made amaretti cookies. They sold alcoholic drinks in mid-19th-century bottles.

Different brands of amaretto, Image Source: Wikimedia

Secret behind the almond flavour

Despite its almond-like taste, amaretto is not necessarily made from almonds but rather from the kernels found within apricot pits, which impart the liqueur with its signature flavour. Interestingly, the same is true for creme de noyaux, the almond-flavoured liqueur that gives rise to the popular Pink Squirrel cocktail.

Historically, bitter almonds were soaked in wine by the Romans. This recipe may have inspired the classic amaretto, which also includes brandy, caramelised sugar, and almonds. In recent years, oil produced from apricot pits has replaced almonds as the primary ingredient in the production of most amaretto, but other fruit essences are often blended in. Peach pits, vanilla beans, cardamom, and allspice have all made their way into various brands over the years. Almonds are rarely employed in contemporary recipes.

Amaretto neat, Image Source:

Amaretto was first introduced to the United States in the 1960s and quickly rose to prominence, appearing in numerous cocktails throughout the 1970s. By the 1980s, it had become one of the most popular liquors in the US, second only to Kahlua.

Flavor profile: a symphony of almond, vanilla, and subtle bitterness

This luscious liqueur is rich and sweet, boasting a robust almond flavour, hints of vanilla, and a subtle bitter undertone that lends it an air of sophistication. For the ultimate amaretto experience, we suggest investing in a bottle of at least mid-level quality, as low-grade varieties tend to have an overpowering, unrefined taste that needs to be improved.

Regarding alcohol content, amaretto sits comfortably in the mid-range, with an ABV (alcohol by volume) ranging from 21 to 28%, depending on the brand. For comparison, popular spirits such as whiskey, rum, vodka, and gin typically pack a more potent punch, with ABVs of around 40%.

What is it about amaretto that we enjoy so much?

Although it may evoke a sense of nostalgia for the 1970s, amaretto remains a cherished beverage for those with a sweet tooth and a refined palate. Its irresistible almond flavour has captivated many, especially when mixed into a classic Amaretto Sour, where it blends perfectly with smooth bourbon and fresh lemon for a truly unforgettable taste. However, it's important to note that a little goes a long way with this delectable liqueur - so be sure to savour every last drop.