Amaretto, which is Italian in origin, is a liqueur that offers a sweet almond flavor. It is usually created using a base of either almond or apricot pits. But, in some cases, both are used.

The name Amaretto is derived from the word amaro, an Italian term that means bitter. It was given to describe the liqueur’s distinctive bitter flavor that has been enhanced and sweetened through the addition of sweeteners and/or sweet almonds. Amaretto, however, can be translated to mean only a little bitter, and should not be confused with the Italian liqueur amaro, which using herbs as its main flavoring.

When it comes to amaretto’s origin, it is said that Italy is the liqueur’s main birthplace. However, it’s exact origin is an often debated subject.

It has been said that the liqueur was originally created in Saronno, Italy by the Lazzaroni family. They have been credited with creating amaretto cookies around the year 1786 and then following up with the liqueur several years later, in 1851.

Another, much longer version states that the Reina family, who had once been employed by the Lazzaroni family, knows the true story, and it has to do with art and love.

In their version, Bernardino Luini, a Renaissance painter, was commissioned in 1525 to paint frescos for a church in Saronno. Luini had to create a picture of the Madonna, but was without a model. A young, widowed innkeeper became is model, inspiration, and quite possibly his lover. She wanted to show her gratitude to Luini for all that he had done, but had little money to use. So, she supposedly created his gift by soaking apricot kernels in brandy, a concoction which would eventually become known as amaretto. It is said that her recipe had been handed down through future generations and is now being marketed under the Disaronno name.

Today amaretto is a staple in many bars and kitchens. Not only is it wonderful as an ingredient in drinks, it also works well in many recipes.

Desserts can benefit from the addition of amaretto. The flavor of chocolate is often complimented by amaretto. Adding the liqueur to a recipe containing almonds is also said to enhance the flavor of the nut.

Amaretto works well in savory dishes, especially those using chicken as the main meat ingredient. Punch up pancake batter by adding a bit of the liqueur.

Of course, many feel that amaretto is best used in drink recipes. To achieve a Dr. Pepper-like beverage, mix the liqueur with cola. It also adds quite a kick to eggnog and makes cold orange juice taste even better.

Those who enjoy amaretto by itself know how wonderful it is on the rocks or neat. Some like the flavor, but don’t necessarily want the alcohol. For them, non-alcoholic versions are available, such as flavored creamers and syrups that work well in hot drinks, cold drinks, and food recipes.

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