April 19th is National Amaretto Day and though it is uncertain why this date has been chosen, it is certainly a reason to try an Amaretto cocktail! Italian for “a little bitter,” Amaretto is traditionally made from bitter almonds and sometimes from apricot kernels. The nuts are infused with pure alcohol or brandy and provide bittersweet almond and vanilla flavors.
Legend has it that this spirit was created in the small town of Saronno in Italy, Saronno of the popular Disaronno brand. Bernardino Luini, a disciple of Leonardo da Vinci, was commissioned to paint the sanctuary and frescoes of the church. He needed a model to help him depict the Virgin Mary and found a young widowed innkeeper. In some versions of the legend she became more than a model for him. Grateful for having been chosen as a muse she wanted to give Luini a gift, her secret blend of brandy and almonds.
While the almond flavor might not be for everyone, in most drinks it is subtle enough to add a nice undertone without overwhelming the senses. For those with a bit of a sweet tooth the Italian Sunset scores well on presentation and taste.
Italian Sunset Recipe
-Fill a tall glass with crushed ice
-Pour in 2 ounces of amaretto
-Slowly pour 3 ounces of orange juice and then 3 ounces of club soda to add layers.
-Add a dash of grenadine and garnish with an orange slice.
-Do not stir and you have a cool, colorful cocktail to enjoy!
For those looking for a more sophisticated beverage to enjoy, the Marsala Martini has distinctive flavors and is well balanced. Featuring dry Marsala (an Italian wine), gin and dry vermouth as well as almond bitters there is a lot to enjoy and explore with this cocktail.
Marsala Martini Recipe
2 ounces Gin
1/3 of an ounce Marsala secco
1/3 of an ounce martini extra dry vermouth
a splash of amaretto
almond bitters (optional)
Shake with ice or stir and strain into a chilled glass.