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Amaretto is a popular Italian almond-flavored liqueur. Here’s more about it and the best ways to use it in cocktails!

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It’s nutty, sweet, and got a little vibe of the 1970’s: it’s amaretto! This popular almond-flavored liqueur has been made in Italy for centuries, and it’s used in both desserts and cocktails. It became very popular in the US in the 1960’s, and since then has spawned a whole list of tasty cocktails. Is it worth adding to your collection? And what brand is worth buying? Here’s what you need to know.

What is amaretto?

Amaretto is an almond-flavored liqueur that originates from Italy, invented back in 1851. It tastes both sweet and bitter (amaretto means in Italian “little bitter”). It has such a distinctive flavor, once you’ve had it once: you’ll remember it forever. You may know the flavor from the popular amaretto cookies, a popular Italian sweet.

Though it tastes like almond, most often amaretto is not made with almonds. It’s made with the kernels inside apricot pits, which bring in that signature almond flavor! (This is also true about creme de noyaux, the almond-flavored liqueur responsible for the Pink Squirrel.)

Amaretto began to be imported to the United States in the 1960’s. By the 1970’s it had become very popular, and you’ll notice it in many cocktails of the era. By the 1980’s, it was the second most popular liquor in the US behind Kahlua.

What does amaretto taste like?

Amaretto tastes tastes rich and sweet, with a strong almond flavor, notes of vanilla and a subtly bitter finish. Quality brands of amaretto have a sophisticated and developed flavor; we recommend grabbing at least a mid-priced bottle. Low quality brands aren’t worth buying, as the flavor is overly intense.

How much alcohol is in amaretto? It is 21 to 28% ABV (alcohol by volume) depending on the brand, so it has a mid-ranged alcohol content. Compare it to 40% ABV for spirits like whiskeyrumvodka and gin.

Why we like it

Amaretto might feel a little 1970’s, but we’re fans of its sweet almond flavor. It’s at its best in a classic Amaretto Sour, combined with bourbon and fresh lemon. Remember: a little goes a long way!

How much does it cost?

Compared to other liquors, Amaretto is mid-priced. Quality and pricing varies, from about $10 to $20 for a 750 ml bottle.

What are the best brands? Avoid the brand DeKuyper. Consider Lazzaroni amaretto, which is a nice mid-priced option. Amore brand is classic and works as a lower-priced option.

You can drink amaretto straight up, or mix it into cocktails. Here are the most popular cocktails with this liqueur, then check below the list for a few more ideas.

Other cocktails

This Italian liqueur is also included in the following drinks:

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Amaretto sour

Amaretto Sour

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4 from 1 review

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 drink 1x


Here’s the perfect amaretto sour recipe that will impress everyone! It’s got just the right balance of amaretto with bourbon and lemon.


  • 1 ½ ounces (3 tablespoons) amaretto
  • ½ ounce (1 tablespoon) bourbon whiskey
  • 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon simple syrup or maple syrup
  • 1 egg white (optional)*
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • For the garnish: Cocktail cherry or Luxardo cherry, lemon slice


  1. Add the amaretto, bourbon, lemon juice, syrup, egg white, and bitters to a cocktail shaker without ice. Shake for 15 seconds.
  2. Add the ice to the cocktail shaker. Shake again for 30 seconds.
  3. Strain the drink into a glass; the foam will collect at the top. Garnish with a cocktail cherry.


*Substitute 2 tablespoons aquafaba (liquid from a can of chickpeas) for a vegan variation.

  • Category: Drink
  • Method: Shaken
  • Cuisine: Cocktails
  • Diet: Vegetarian

More cocktail guides

Need more liquor guides? We’ve got them! Here’s all you need to know about home bartending:

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes for memorable kitchen moments! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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  1. Cathy A Consaul says:

    Very informative & helpful!

  2. PHIL Bourget says:

    Is Amarretto a good substitute for creme de noyaux in PINK SQUIRRELS? Creme de noyaux is impossible to obtain here. A liquor distributor here advised “Use Amaretto for pink squirrels instead.”
    Thank you
    Phil Bourget

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      Hi! Yes, it is hard to find. It would be a good substitute.