Amaretto (Italian for "a little bitter") is a sweet Italian liqueur that originated in Saronno, Italy. While originally flavoured from bitter almonds, various modern commercial brands are prepared from a base of apricot stones, peach stones, or almonds, all of which are natural sources of the benzaldehyde that provides the principal almond-like flavour of the liqueur.[1][2]

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 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.[3] 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.

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


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.

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


  1. "Best of Sicily Magazine". Amaretto. Roberta Gangi. Retrieved March 17, 2018.
  2. "GOZIO Amaretto Almond Liqueur". AHardy USA Ltd. Archived from the original on July 12, 2012. Retrieved October 18, 2010.
  3. Hopkins, Kate. "Almonds: Who Really Cares?" Archived October 18, 2006, at the Wayback Machine (August 28, 2004). Accidental Hedonist. 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. "Amaretto Pina Colada". Retrieved January 2, 2016.
  7. Morgenthaler, Jeffrey. "I Make the Best Amaretto Sour in the World". Retrieved December 12, 2013.
  8. "Amaretto Stone Sour recipe". Retrieved January 2, 2016.
  9. "Amaretto Stone Sour Recipe -". Retrieved August 3, 2016.
  10. "Amaretto Stone Sour Drink Recipe | DeKuyperUSA". Archived from the original on August 14, 2016. Retrieved August 3, 2016.
  11. "Twilight Amaretto Sour". Retrieved January 2, 2016.
  12. "DeKuyper Nutcracker Martini". Archived from the original on December 3, 2015. Retrieved January 2, 2016.
  13. "Snickerdoodle Cookie Martini". Retrieved January 2, 2016.
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