Bottles of amaretto liqueur

Amaretto (Italian for 'a little bitter') is a sweet Italian liqueur originating from the comune (municipality) of Saronno. Depending on the brand, it may be made from apricot kernels, bitter almonds, peach stones, or almonds, all of which are natural sources of the benzaldehyde that provides the almond-like flavour of the liqueur.[1][2] It generally contains 21 to 28 percent alcohol by volume.[3][4]

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 Italian and other cuisines, especially in recipes for confectionery and sweet baked goods.



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.[5] 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 before its use.[citation needed]

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 history of introducing and accepting almonds into Italian cuisine, newer takes on the meanings and origins have been popularized by two major brands. Though of sometimes questionable provenance, 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 needed a model. He found his inspiration in a young widowed innkeeper, who became his model and (in most versions) lover. The woman wished to give him a gift out of gratitude and affection. Her simple means did not permit much, so she steeped apricot kernels in brandy and presented the resulting concoction to a touched Luini.[6][7]

Notable brands


Amaretto serves a variety of culinary uses.



Cocktails with Amaretto liqueur as a primary ingredient:

Orgeat syrup

Amaretto is sometimes used as a substitute for Orgeat syrup in places where the syrup cannot be found or to impart a less sweet flavour.

See also

Media related to Amaretto liqueurs at Wikimedia Commons Media related to Amaretto liqueurs at Wikimedia Commons


  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. ^ Graham, Colleen. "What Is Amaretto Liqueur?". The Spruce Eats. Retrieved September 25, 2020.
  4. ^ Troy, Eric (September 6, 2012). "Amaretto Liqueur". Culinary Lore.
  5. ^ Hopkins, Kate. "Almonds: Who Really Cares?" Archived October 18, 2006, at the Wayback Machine (August 28, 2004). Accidental Hedonist. Retrieved January 1, 2007.
  6. ^ "A Brief History of Amaretto" Archived July 11, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. Shaw Media Inc. Retrieved December 30, 2011.
  7. ^ "Tradition". Retrieved June 17, 2023.
  8. ^ "Amaretto Pina Colada". Retrieved January 2, 2016.
  9. ^ Morgenthaler, Jeffrey (February 9, 2012). "I Make the Best Amaretto Sour in the World". Retrieved December 12, 2013.
  10. ^ "Amaretto Sour". Absolut Drinks. Retrieved October 18, 2020.
  11. ^ "Amaretto Stone Sour Drink Recipe | DeKuyperUSA". Archived from the original on August 14, 2016. Retrieved August 3, 2016.
  12. ^ "DeKuyper Nutcracker Martini". Archived from the original on December 3, 2015. Retrieved January 2, 2016.
  13. ^ "Snickerdoodle Cookie Martini". Archived from the original on January 27, 2021. Retrieved January 2, 2016.
  14. ^ Graham, Colleen (July 20, 2022). "Toasted Almond Cocktail". The Spruce Eats. Retrieved June 17, 2023.
  15. ^ "Toasted Almond". Tipsy Bartender. November 10, 2017. Retrieved June 17, 2023.