Dessert liqueur Amaretto with almond biscuits (amarittini)
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At once sweet and nutty, Amaretto liqueur has a chameleonlike quality that allows it to blend effortlessly into both cocktails and desserts. Made from extracts of almonds and apricot seeds, the sweet concoction has been termed amaretto, derived from the Italian word amaro, meaning bitter or dry. For generations, families distilled their own versions of this tasty drink and amaretto has been sold commercially for more than a hundred years.

Shaken or Stirred

Amaretto cocktails run the gamut from sweet to sour. To make an amaretto sour, dampen the rim of an old-fashioned tumbler with lemon juice, dip the rim in sugar, and fill the glass halfway with ice. In a cocktail shaker, combine the juice of 1/2 lemon, 2 ounces of amaretto and a cup of ice. Shake vigorously, strain into glass. Garnish with maraschino cherry and orange slice. For a cherry-and-pomegranate-flavored variation, add 1/2 teaspoon of grenadine before shaking, and top with a maraschino cherry.

On the sweeter side, create an amaretto driver by stirring 1 ounce each of amaretto and vodka into an 8-ounce glass of orange juice. Garnish with a slice of orange.

Blend, Blend

Amaretto works nicely in blended specialty drinks.

  • Toasted Almond
    In a blender, combine equal parts vodka, coffee liqueur, amaretto, milk and unsweetened cream. Add a scoop of crushed ice and blend until smooth. Serve in martini glass with a dash of nutmeg on top. Substitute Irish cream liqueur for coffee liqueur if desired, or throw calorie caution to the wind and blend in a scoop of ice cream.

  • Peach Fuzz For each serving, blend together 1 ounce amaretto, 1 ounce peach brandy and 1/2 ounce vanilla or peach ice cream with a 1/2 cup crushed ice. Blend and serve in wine glass.

Some Like It Hot

  • Add an ounce of amaretto to hot chocolate and top with marshmallows for a treat on a chilly evening.

  • Give your after-dinner coffee an extra kick by adding an ounce of amaretto and a topping of whipped cream with a sprinkle of dark chocolate shavings. Serve with Italian almond cookies.

Sweet Finish

  • Nothing says Italian dessert like zabaglione and it is deceptively simple to prepare. Although traditionally made with Marsala wine, substituting amaretto adds body and sweetness. In a double boiler or a pan over simmering water, whisk together 6 egg yolks, 1/3 cup amaretto, 3 tablespoons sugar. Using a wire whisk, beat vigorously for 3 minutes, add 1/4 cup heavy cream and whisk for another 2 minutes or until the mixture is frothy and has slightly thickened. Serve immediately, alone in a wine glass with a long spoon or over cake or berries.

  • Add a couple of tablespoons of amaretto and a handful of slivered almonds to your favorite cake recipe.