This old-world Italian liqueur has oodles of tricks up its sleeves. It has an intriguing history, surprising ingredients, and plenty of potential in an array of cocktails and desserts.
Are Those Almonds In My Amaretto?
Yes and no. Amaretto is a nutty tasting liqueur with hints and aromatic notes of almond, but the flavorful ingredient that contributes to those tree nut characteristics are in fact apricot pits! The apricots pits are soaked in a base liquor (a high octane ABV liquor) that aids in the extraction of benzaldehyde, the natural molecular compound responsible for that almond taste. The resulting brew is certainly “almondy”, but is also extremely bitter. Amaretto artisans combat the bitterness by using dark brown sugar or caramelized granulated sugar, which also gives amaretto that telltale dark brown coloring. Even the word, amaretto, translates to ‘little bitter’ in Italian; amaro means “‘bitter” and etto means “little”.
Team Lazzaroni or Disaronno: Who Made Amaretto First?
Beautiful Saronno, Italy is where we set our scene. What started as an ancient grudge has turned into a modern-day boozy battle for amaretto dominance. In one corner, we have the Lazzaroni family. The Lazzaroni claim that they created amaretto in 1851, making the liqueur, not from the apricot pits, but from cookies (cookies called amaretti, which are made from apricot pits). The cookies are soaked in a boozy base to create their version of amaretto.
In the opposite corner are the Reina family. The Reina’s, owners of Disaronno, claim that they are the gatekeepers of amaretto and have made amaretto using a top secret recipe dating back to 1525! The Reina further their originator claim with a story about Renaissance master Bernardino Luini and a beautiful innkeeper (read all about it here and decide for yourself who came first).
Amaretto Cocktails and Desserts
Whether you’re team Lazzaroni or team Disaronno, both amaretto producers make exceptional products perfect for the bar or kitchen.
Baked goods and amaretto are, *chef’s kiss*, perfectly paired. Add a little splash of amaretto to your cake batter to impart those nutty almond notes; amaretto would make a very tasty addition to this Flourless Chocolate Cake Recipe. A shot of amaretto (or two) in your favorite cookie recipe or your next pudding will add addition layers of delicious Italian flavor.