What is Amaretto?

The Editors at Food Fanatic | Food Fanatic
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You may have come across it in a cocktail recipe or even as an ingredient for a dessert, and wondered... just what IS amaretto? Find out here!

Considering the fact that it's one of America's most popular liqueurs, you might be surprised to hear that this Italian treat wasn't actually imported into the United States until the 1960's.

Deliciously sweet and with a wonderful, distinctive, nutty flavor, amaretto originated in Saronno, Italy.

First made from bitter almonds, most brands now are made from either almonds or the crushed pits of cherries or peaches. These all contain something called 'benzaldehyde', which gives amaretto its almond flavor.

Eggnog Cocktail Photo

Despite the fact that 'amaretto' translates from Italian to 'bitter almonds', the liqueur is only mildly bitter, but very sweet! For this reason, it is best with an ice cube if served alone as it thins it a little and makes it less 'cloying'. It also works well as a mixer in all sorts of cocktails, as it mellows out the 'bite' of many spirits. Why not try:

French Connection - amaretto and cognac

Amaretto Piña Colada - amaretto, white rum, pineapple juice and coconut milk

Snickerdoodle Cocktail Martini - amaretto, cinnamon vodka and cinnamon liqueur

How else can amaretto be used?

  • Try adding a little to freshly brewed coffee - delicious!
  • Use it in savory dishes containing almonds - it really boosts the flavor.
  • Stir a little into ice cream.
  • Use it to make Tiramisu
  • Add a dash to whipped cream for a unique and delicious flavor
  • Mix it into pancake batter for a richer taste 
  • Toss diced sweet potato with a mixture of amaretto and olive oil, then roast until golden. Sprinkle with almonds before serving
Iced Coffee Cocktail Image

Not to be confused with...

The name 'amaretto' can sometimes be confused with other Italian terms.

These include:

  • Amaro - these are also Italian liqueurs, but are flavored with herbs and have a much stronger, more bitter taste
  • Amoretto - these are paintings of chubby Cupids!
  • Amaretti di Saronna - these are macaron traditional to Saronno, flavored with amaretto
Homemade Coffee Liqueur Photo

How to make your own amaretto

It's surprisingly easy to make your amaretto - and you don't even need to crush almonds or cherry pits to do so! Just grab a bottle of almond extract and everything else is plain sailing!

1 cup of water

1 cup of white sugar

1 cup of brown sugar

2 cups of vodka

2 tablespoons almond extract

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  1. Add the water and both types of sugar to a small saucepan and heat over a medium heat.
  2. Bring the mixture to a boil and stir until the sugar has dissolved.
  3. Set the mixture aside for 10 minutes to cool.
  4. Stir in the almond and vanilla extracts, mix well and pour into a bottle. Seal and store.

You may also like...

Peach Amaretto Crumbles

Amaretto Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Egg Nog Cocktail