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Updated on January 23, 2017

Heavenly Nectar

I think I have found my all time favourite drink.  Absolute and utter bliss in a glass.  The rich amber nectar with its autumnal tones and sweet marzipan aroma; the thick, honey sweet yet fiery liquid glides down the throat like liquid satin

What is it?

Amaretto.  The name is the diminutive of the Italian word amaro meaning bitter and roughly translated the name Amaretto means  'a little bitter', 

What is Amaretto?

Amaretto is a beautiful topaz coloured liqueur traditionally made in Italy from almond or apricot stones; although most do not actually contain nuts.


During the 9th to 11th Century the Saracens occupied Sicily; a large autonomous Mediterranean island located just off the toe of the boot of Italy.  The Saracens brought with them a love of the almond as a component in food and drink and this spread to the whole of Italy but notably to the north of the country to Lombardy.  In Lombardy is a municipality called Saronno and this name has now become synonymous with the name of almond liqueur.


Legend has it that in 1525 a church in Saronno dedicated to the Virgin Mary, commissioned the famous artist Leonardo Da Vinci and his student Bernardino Luini to paint frescos in the sanctuary.   Lacking inspiration for his depiction of the Madonna, Luini needed a model. According to the legend he found a young lady  inkeeper who was a widow and she agreed to model for the fresco.   She also became his lover.  To convey her gratitude and affection she steeped apricot kernels in brandy and gave it to Luini and thus Amaretto was born.

Saronno - Courtesy of Flickr
Saronno - Courtesy of Flickr

Types of Amaretto


The most well known brand of Amaretto is Amaretto di Saronno from whence the above legend comes.  It is claimed to be the one of the oldest brands in the world. It has a very distinctive square glass bottle made by a Murano (the glass capital of Italy) craftsman.  It's secret formula remains unchanged from when it was first made in 1525 and is still made in Saronno.  It contains no almonds at all but the oil of apricot kernels which give it it's unmistakeable almond flavour and aroma.  It is described by Saronno as "an infusion of apricot kernel oil with absolute alcohol, burnt sugar, and the pure essence of seventeen selected herbs and fruits

LAZZARONI - Amaretto 1851

Also made and bottled is Saronno since 1851 this liqueur is made by the infusion of Amaretti Biscuits in a unique formula. Amaretti biscuits were created by the Lazzaroni family in the 18th century to celebrate the visit of the Cardinal of Milan to Saronno.  They are a slowly baked blend of apricot kernels, sugar and egg white decorated with white sugar crystals.


A rich amber coloured  liqueur from almonds, vanilla and distillates of citrus fruits. 


Rich, velvety-smooth, almond-flavored liqueur made with the crushed essence of apricot which has a deep mahogany colour.

Another Amaretto Sour Recipe


Amaretto is simply delicious on the rocks.

My own favourite way is with fresh orange juice and plenty of ice. The liqueur sinks to the bottom of the glass though so you need a swizzle stick to keep stirring as you drink.



If you peeps from US have never tasted our famous English Bakewell Tart then try this: -

  • 1/2 shot Amaretto
  • 1/2 shot Bailey's Irish Cream
  • 2 tsps Cherry Liqueur

Pour into a Collins (Highball) glass filled with ice in the above order then stir.


  • 2 x 25ml shots amaretto (almond liqueur), (eg. Amaretto)
  • 1 Lemon, juice only
  • ¼ shot sugar syrup, (7ml approx)
  • ½ egg white
  • 1 cherry,
  • 1 lemon wedge,

Put the almond liqueur, lemon juice, sugar syrup and egg white into a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake. Pour into a tumbler filled with ice and decorate with the cherry and lemon wedge.


  • 1/2 lager
  • 1/2 coke
  • 1 shot Amaretto

Take a large glass and half fill with lager, then fill with cola leaving around an inch from the brim. then fill a shot glass with amaretto, take the amaretto shot and depthcharge (drop) it into the glass, you then must drink the full glass all in one go. It does what it says on the tin - tastes exactly like Dr Pepper


  • Shot sambuca
  • Shot amaretto
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Pomegranate juice

Fill a large glass with ice and add the Sambuca then the Amaretto shot. Add the lemon juice on top of that then fill to the top with the pomegranate juice.


  • 1.5 Shots Blended Whisky
  • 1.5 Shots Amaretto
  • Top up with Ginger Ale

Fill a large glass with ice and add ingredients in order listed. Stir gently and serve

These are just a small selection of my favourites. Many more can be found here on the In the Spirit website The recipes all use Di Saronno but I'm sure they will work with any brand.

TraditionalBanoffee Pie
TraditionalBanoffee Pie


Not only is Amaretto a versatile ingredient in drinks, it can also be used in cooking.  Below are a couple of my favourite recipes courtesy of



  • 1x400ml can condensed milk
  • 50g nibbed Almonds
  • 55g Butter
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar
  • 100g digestive biscuits, ground (Graham Crackers in US)
  • 55g demerara sugar
  • 75ml amaretto (almond liqueur)
  • 4 Bananas
  • 150ml double cream
  • 250ml Mascarpone
  • Chocolate


1. In a large pot of simmering water, gently boil the unopened can of condensed milk for 3 hours - this makes the caramel. 

2. Grease a 25cm springform cake tin and line it with baking paper. Make sure the strip round the sides is at least 10cm inches taller than the tin. 

3. Toast the almonds in a hot, dry frying pan for a minute. Take them off the heat when they're still very pale brown as they continue cooking in their natural oils. 

4. Cream the butter with the half the almonds and half the icing sugar and fold into the ground biscuits, then press the mixture firmly into the bottom of the cake tin. Place in the fridge and leave to set for at least an hour until firm. 

5. Spread the caramel over the biscuit base. 

6. Heat the demerara sugar and amaretto in a pan on a low heat for about a minute to make a syrup. Add the sliced bananas and gently stir so they are all coated, then leave to cool. 

7. Whisk the double cream together with the remaining icing sugar until it peaks. Loosen the mascarpone in a bowl, working it with a spatula until it becomes soft. 

8. Fold the cream into the mascarpone and stir in a further tablespoon of amaretto. Spread half of this over the base. Arrange the bananas on top. Cover with two thirds of the remaining cream, pipe the rest over the cake in small rosettes as decoration. 

9. Finish by sprinkling the remaining toasted almonds over the top. Drizzle with melted chocolate (if using) and chill for 2-3 hours before serving. 


This is a cake with an Easter theme


For the cakes:

  • 50g golden sultanas
  • 25g dried Cranberries
  • 25g dried Blueberries
  • 200ml amaretto (almond liqueur)
  • 370g plain flour
  • 450g unrefined light muscovado sugar
  • 150g Valrhona Cocoa powder
  • 225g unsalted Butter
  • 4 medium Eggs
  • 185ml double cream
  • 1 tsp Maldon sea salt, 
  • 385 ml hot water, 

For the amaretto ganache discs:

  • 500ml double cream
  • 50g unrefined light muscovado sugar
  • 450g 70% Valrhona dark chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 10 amaretti biscuits
  • 200ml amaretto (almond liqueur)

To decorate

  • 11 chocolate truffles


1. For the cake: put the dried fruit into a non-reactive bowl, sprinkle over the amaretto and leave to soak overnight. 

2. Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4. Line a 20-25cm loose-based cake tin with parchment paper. 

3. Put the flour, sugar, cocoa powder and butter into a large mixing bowl and rub together with your fingers until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. 

4. In another bowl, whisk the eggs and cream together. 

5. Dissolve the salt in the hot water and add to the egg mixture. 

6. Blend the egg mixture into the dry ingredients with a whisk, mixing until smooth. Mix in the soaked dried fruit. 

7. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake for 1 hour 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. 

8. Cool the cake in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool thoroughly. 

9. For the amaretto ganache discs: Put the cream and sugar into a medium saucepan andbring to a simmer. Add the chocolate pieces and whisk until the mixture is smooth and glossy. 

10. Soak the amaretti biscuits in the amaretto liqueur until soft, then combine into a paste. Mix this paste into the melted chocolate, giving a ganache with a slight texture, similar to almond paste. 

11. Divide the mixture evenly between 2 ring moulds of the same diameter as your cake and put in the fridge to chill. If you do not have ring moulds or cutters of the right size, then line a tray, or your cake tin, with cling film and pour in the ganache. Chill, then cut to fit the size of your cake, if necessary. 

12. Cut the top off the cake to level it, then cut your cake through the middle. 

13. Put the top cake face down on a cake board and put the first disc of chilled ganache onto the cake. Put the remaining cake disc on top of the ganache. The bottom of the cake has now become the top. Put the remaining disc of ganache on top of the cake. 

14. Using a hot palette knife, tidy any edges of ganache around the cake so that it is smooth and neat. 

15. To decorate: quickly flash a kitchen blow torch across the ganache to give a glossy shine. Arrange the chocolate truffles around the edge on the top of the cake, with the Easter decoration of your choice in the centre. 

Cook’s notes: 

Paul says that this moist, indulgent, popular and moreish chocolate cake recipe is the one he uses when making all his chocolate wedding and celebration cakes. 

Simnel cake has a layer of almond paste baked through the centre of the cake. For those who can’t stand the stuff, or simply just for a change, Paul’s alternative is to replace the almond layer with an amaretto biscuit ganache in the centre and on top of the cake. 

Traditionally, almond paste is put on top of a simnel cake and almond paste balls, or egg shapes, are placed around the edge to represent the 11 disciples (minus Judas). In this version, 11 chocolate truffles are used to represent the 11 disciples. 

© Susan Bailey 2009 All Rights Reserved

Traditional Simnel Easter Cake
Traditional Simnel Easter Cake

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