The usual response when I return from the bar, massive brandy glass in hand is ‘What on earth are you drinking?’ The dark amber liquid is Amaretto, my drink of choice. Most people I know haven’t even heard of it so I get to swan around like a spirit buff, expounding on the tasting notes and the history of the liqueur while pompously swishing it round the ice cubes.
Amaretto is the liqueur of love, a traditional almond flavoured liqueur from Saronno in Italy. It is made from apricot pits, almonds, or a blend of the two. If no almonds are used, the marzipan flavour is achieved through apricot kernel oil, burnt sugar and a variety of spices.
The liqueur is often associated with Amaretti, little Italian biscotti cookies that are flavoured with Amaretto. In turn, the Lazzaroni company infuse their Amaretto with the cookies for an authentic biscuit flavour. The name Amaretto means ‘a little bitter’, from the Italian word for bitter ‘amaro’. Not to be confused with the word for love ‘amore’, although the history of the drink suggests a deep connection.
Amaretto dates back to the 16th century in Italy. The local Saronno legend is that the artist Bernardino Luini, a pupil of Leonardo Da Vinci, travelled to the town in the north of Italy in 1525. He was commissioned to paint frescoes for the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie and he required a model to inspire his Madonna for the “Adoration of the Magi” fresco.
He was introduced to the beautiful, widowed innkeeper and she became his muse and, if you believe the town gossip, his lover. She fell madly in love with Luini and to demonstrate her feelings she gave him a special gift, creating the first ever Amaretto for him: a blend of brandy, apricot kernels and a secret mix of spices.
The two largest producers of Amaretto both claim the legend as their own and the title as inventors of the liqueur: Lazzaroni, who are renowned for their amaretti biscotti cookies and Disaronno.
In 1786 the Lazzaroni family first created their “Amaretti di Saronna” cookies for the King of the region and they remain, to this day, one of the most popular brands of amaretti. Subsequently, in 1851 they created their Amaretto Liqueur, which consisted of an infusion of their cookies with a little caramel for colour. Their Amaretto is still produced and bottled in Saronno, Italy, according to their formula which they say is based on the widow’s old recipe.
Disaronno also lay claim to being the originators of Amaretto. They have been making their Amaretto since 1900 and their recipe comes from the Reina family who insist theirs came directly from the innkeeper muse, passed down from one generation to the next. A global exportation and marketing campaign by Disaronno led to a rise in the popularity of Amaretto across Europe and the United States during the 1960s.
Its sweet smoothness makes it an ideal element in many drinks and cocktails and a great addition to desserts and creams. The almond flavoured drink became a hit and by the 80s it was second only in US sales to Kahlua.
Nowadays you will most likely come across it on cocktail menus in an Amaretto Sour which involves shaking the liqueur with lemon juice and adding an optional egg white. Any good Amaretto will do for a mixed drink and you can get lots of inspiration for cocktails on the Disaronno site.
If you are a fan of the almond flavoured sweetness of Amaretto like me, you will definitely enjoy it served up neat or over ice. If you are going to try it on its own, you should definitely ask for Lazzaroni Amaretto.
Imported and distributed by Dalcassian Wines, it is the Amaretto of choice for discerning bartenders and customers alike. The aromas of biscotti and cola nut give way to a smooth, velvety body of roasted almond, dried citrus and complex brown spices finishing with a long, lingering meringue and pink peppercorn fade.
It produces a much more authentic taste than Disaronno or Bols and elevates the liqueur from a mere cocktail ingredient to a delectable sipping experience. Perfect as an after dinner digestif or as a warm addition to your coffee, Lazzaroni Amaretto is the premium choice.
For more information on Dalcassian Wines and their products visit www.dalcassianwines.com
Alison has been writing since she could hold a pen, which came in handy for her degree in English, Media and Cultural Studies. She has been working in media since graduating and is the latest features writer for TheTaste.
Writing for TheTaste allows her to combine her passion for the written word with her love of food and drink. Find her on Twitter @AliDalyo