Amaretto is an Italian liquor flavored with parts of fruits that imbue the liquor with an almond flavoring. It is a very popular drink both in mixers and chilled over ice, and it has what many people describe as a dessert feel. The word itself means “somewhat bitter” in Italian and refers to the slightly bitter aftertaste that the liquor sometimes has.
The origins of amaretto are unknown, but a popular legend places its creation in the early 16th century. According to this story, the Renaissance painter Bernardino Luini was in Saronno, Italy, to do a fresco for the Santa Maria delle Grazie church. While there, he used a widow as a model for his painting and ultimately had a love affair with her. So taken was she with Luini that she wanted to create a special drink in his honor, and amaretto was the result of her labor of love.
The recipe for this original Amaretto di Saronno was purportedly passed down through the generations and is used as the basis for the modern version or DiSaronno Originale. The original was most likely a stock of grape brandy that had apricot pits infused in it. Today's amaretto is typically made with the oil of apricot kernel that has been infused with alcohol, burnt sugar, and a mixture of fruits and herbs. The pits of apricots typically make up the main base, but occasionally the pits of cherries or peaches may be used.
Amaretto di Saronno has a very distinctive bottle, designed by a renowned glass crafter from the Italian town of Murano. The bottle is almost square with slightly rounded corners and heavily mottled, giving it a noticeable texture. The cap screws on and is a large, flat black square with the word DiSaronno emblazoned on it.
Overall, the taste of amaretto is very sweet with a strong taste of almonds, leading many people to describe it as a sort of liquid marzipan. It wasn’t imported into the United States until the 1960s, but since its introduction, it has rapidly become one of the most popular drinks for making cocktails. Some popular cocktails using it include the Amaretto and Cream, which consists of equal parts light cream and amaretto over ice, and the Godfather, which is a blend of the liquor with whiskey and cola.