Amaretto loosely translates to "a little bitter" in Italian, or "bitterish" according to Google Translate. If I were as misunderstood as this sweet, Italian liqueur I would be a little bitter too. In my green bartending years, I seldom touched the Disaronno sitting on the back bar, brushing it off as dated and internally scoffing at guests ordering Amaretto Stone Sours (sorry mom!) Luckily as the years passed I opened my mind, and explored the spirits I had previously overlooked, leading me to my love affair with Amaretto. Soft and nutty, with a rich mouthfeel and a bitter finish, Amaretto tastes like a summer romance in Saronno, not to mention how well it plays when you add it to just about any classic cocktail. Amaretto spiked Margarita? Chuggable yet complex. Amaretto stirred into a Negroni? Bittersweet perfection.
So in honor of National Amaretto Day, and Disaronno Day, here's the skinny on this golden era favorite, plus a modern amaretto cocktail recipe to get you inspired.
Amaretto is not made from almonds
Well not usually anyways. It does taste like almond though! Apricot kernels are the most popular ingredient used to make amaretto, and stone fruit pits contain the same organic compound that give almonds their flavor - benzaldehyde to be exact. Other spices such as vanilla, allspice, and cardamom give amaretto depth of flavor while burnt sugar lends to it's richness. Disaronno maintains that its secret recipe has been the same since 1525, and it is rumored to have 17 herbs and spices blended into the mix to create their iconic blend of sweet and bitter.
It plays well in the kitchen
Search for "amaretto recipes" and you will find far more cooking applications for the liqueur than beverage recipes. Tiramisu often uses amaretto for its almond flavor, but it can also be found in pancake batter, trout almondine, and as a glaze for meats, among plenty of other innovative recipes. Case in point: The raspberry amaretto preserves in this to-die-for recipe for cheesecake stuffed brioche french toast.
It's origin story is as bittersweet as you would expect
Remember how I said amaretto tastes like a summer romance in Saronno? That could very well be because it was allegedly invented there, by a heartbroken young widow in the midst of a new love story of her own:
"In 1525, a church in Saronno commissioned artist Bernardino Luini to paint its sanctuary. Luini had to depict the Madonna and was in need of a model. He found his inspiration in a young widowed innkeeper, who became his model and, eventually, his 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."
There you have it - historical proof that if you make a good enough drink it can be a means to true love. Or at least an adorable vignette meant to market a delicious liqueur. Either way, I'll drink to that.
Banana Nut Daiquiri
1 oz Disaronno Amaretto
1 oz Light Rum
.75 oz Fresh Lime Juice
.75 oz Toasted Coconut Simple Syrup
1 oz Banana Puree
Mix all ingredients in shaker with ice, and strain. Serve up. Garnish with Filthy Black Cherries.
Toasted Coconut Simple Syrup:
Toast 1 cup of shredded coconut in a large saucepan over very low heat, until light golden. Add 1 cup of granulated sugar and 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil, stirring often, until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat. Steep peel from one whole orange in syrup as it cools, then strain.