Amaretto is a sweet, almond-flavored liqueur that graces the shelves of just about every bar you may have been to. And while it’s not most people’s go-to daily drink, it’s earned its place among mixologists’ litany of popular liqueurs thanks to its unique flavor and versatility as a sipper, mixer, or cocktail component.
Disaronno is the most famous of amaretto brands; according to the company, it’s responsible for taking a centuries-old Italian family recipe and popularizing it around the world. "Amaretto Di Saronno" refers to the liqueur’s geographical provenance in Italy, literally translating to "little bitter of Saronno" (via Italia Living). Most versions of amaretto are made from apricot pits and almonds, though variations in recipes can occur depending on the brand and place of origin. Today, companies all over the globe are making their own versions of the bitter-sweet liqueur.
If you’ve got a bottle of amaretto kicking around your home bar and don’t know what to do with it, don’t fret. While it does make a beautiful addition to many of the more complex cocktails out there, amaretto is also great for good, old-fashioned mixing. These simple, two-ingredient drinks are a great way to add a little flair to your at-home cocktail hour without going all out.
Want to try Italy’s answer to Irish coffee? Mixing amaretto and coffee is perhaps the most classic and well-known way to enjoy the almond-flavored liqueur, short of sipping it straight. Adding a shot to your after-dinner cup of joe is a great way to drink your dessert without consuming hundreds of unnecessary calories.
The nutty sweetness of the amaretto plays beautifully with the bitterness of black coffee. And, it makes for an easygoing two-ingredient drink that you can spice up by adding whipped cream or serving with amaretto cookies. It’s also not unheard of to liven up your morning cuppa with a couple of ounces of the almond stuff, but we typically recommend reserving that for weekends and holidays.
Why should Bloody Marys have all the fun? Try an amaretto and coffee the next time you’re out for brunch. It’s the perfect combination of that wake-up jolt you need with a little bit of booze to even your keel.
Mixing cranberry juice and amaretto is fairly common around the holidays when the weather turns and cranberries are in season. The bitterness of cranberry juice is both complemented and undercut by the bitter-sweetness of the amaretto, and it’s a simple drink you can play with until you’ve found the ratio that suits your palate. Typically, we recommend a 3:1 cranberry to amaretto ratio; pour six ounces of juice and two ounces of liqueur over ice in a highball glass, then adjust to suit your taste.
The drinks on this list don’t necessarily require garnishes, but you’ll rarely find people complaining if you gussy something up. For a Thanksgiving or winter special, try adding fresh cranberries and a sprig of rosemary. Or, if you’re drinking this particular beverage year-round, a little wedge of citrus will do to brighten the cranberry flavor and offset the more nutty, savory character of the amaretto. If you typically reach for a Cosmo or Cape Codder but are looking for a low-octane alternative, give a cran-amaretto a shot. You’ll be glad you did.
The Godfather cocktail, in its most classic form, is a simple yet unassailable mix of scotch and amaretto. Traditionalists will tell you blended scotch is the way to go, but you can honestly use whatever you prefer (we won’t tell). Different types of scotch whiskey will impart different levels of smokiness and pungency to the drink, so find a variety you like on its own before introducing the nutty liqueur to the mix.
As with many mixed drinks, the ratio is half the battle here: Once you’ve figured out which amaretto and scotch you want to use, it’s all about finding a balance between the two. Most recipes you find will suggest a 1:1 ratio, but a 1:2 amaretto to scotch ratio also has its merits if you prefer the almond flavor to act as a subtle enhancer to your drink. Try both and see what works best for you!
As mentioned before, a standard Godfather cocktail mixes amaretto and scotch — and that’s all well and good if you’re looking for a little bit of smokiness. But an inexpensive, well-balanced American whiskey makes for a nice riff on the classic drink: enter amaretto and bourbon. The amaretto softens the bourbon’s bite — and combines its own nuttiness with the slightly sweeter, baking spice-like flavor found in many bourbons — for a booze-forward drink that’s still easy to enjoy.
This is typically served over ice in a rocks glass with a twist of orange, and experts will argue about the appropriate ratio of the amaretto and bourbon. Some enjoy an even split, with equal parts of each spirit. The other common ratio is 1:2, amaretto to bourbon, but feel free to tweak and experiment until you’ve figured out what you prefer.
If you like this mix, there are several other famous alternatives to this: a Godmother calls for vodka rather than brown spirits, and a French Connection swaps the bourbon for cognac.
You’re not going to win any mixology awards for dropping a few ounces of amaretto in a glass of apple cider, but it’s a surprisingly good drink in a pinch. Plenty of seasonal amaretto sour recipes out there will have you adding some sort of citrus and cinnamon to the mix, but if it’s a one-two punch you’re after, look no further than this easy concoction. Apple cider never lacks flavor on its own, and the almond notes of the amaretto play nicely with the autumnal vibe of cider.
The great thing about this mix? You can fix it chilled and throw them back on a sunny autumn afternoon in a highball over ice. Or, heat the cider for a delicious, soothing cocktail. If you happen to have cinnamon sticks lying around, popping one of those in there as a garnish certainly won’t hurt — but it’s not required.
The nutty flavors of amaretto are a perfect complement to the bright, energetic fizz of ginger ale. While ginger beer also has its place in amaretto’s date book, it’s an intense mixer that typically requires citrus to temper some of its verve. For that reason, we’ve passed over ginger beer in favor of ginger ale, which is a great yin to amaretto’s yang in a two-ingredient cocktail. Restrained enough to act as a base on its own, ginger ale offers a softer touch than its spicy older cousin and can play with the subtlety of amaretto.
Carbonation also adds a nice component to the mix. At the risk of summoning negative connotations, we hazard to say that a ginger ale and amaretto combination feels somehow medicinal — but in the best way: like a tonic that you sip after a long day and think, "Ah, just what the doctor ordered." Garnish with a lemon or lime if you have it, but don’t sweat it if you don’t.
Almond is a flavor commonly found in tiki drinks. It stands to reason, then, that amaretto would pair nicely with another tropical cocktail mixer: pineapple juice. While most tiki drinks are made of sterner stuff than an almond liqueur, a simple amaretto and pineapple is a breezy, low-octane way to ease into the afternoon or evening if you’re not quite ready for your daily dose of rum. And since pineapple takes other mixers so well, it’s easy to jazz this up for a DIY cocktail if you’ve got some citrus or other juices around your home bar. (Try it with cranberry or lime juice and a dash of grenadine.)
This drink is best served in a highball glass over ice and garnished with a wedge of pineapple or a maraschino cherry — if you’ve got either on hand. Start with an ounce and a half of amaretto and fill the rest of the glass with pineapple juice. If that’s not strong enough for you, just take a few sips and re-up on the booze. After all, why not? Now that you’ve got your knockoff tiki drink in hand, you’re practically on island time.
Like many of the simple mixed drinks on this list, there are plenty of ways to jazz up an amaretto and orange juice. You can riff on the beautiful colors of a Tequila Sunrise by adding a floater (or, more aptly, a sinker) of grenadine, toss in some vodka to booze it up, or even include a sour to add a little extra zing to the thing. But even without those additions, the amaretto and orange juice is a delicious, citrus-forward drink that showcases the two beverages’ complementary flavors, minus the fuss.
The tang of citrus juice works really well with amaretto’s bitter-sweet notes, making this a more flavorful take on the classic Screwdriver cocktail (vodka and OJ). The amaretto adds nuance that vodka — being a neutral spirit — simply lacks. And the beauty of this? It can be drunk at any time of the day. Move over, mimosas — there’s a new drink in town.
All right, we confess: Amaretto and lemon juice alone are not enough for an amaretto sour. For that, you need a sugar component as well to sweeten some of the pucker that straight citrus delivers. But if you’ve got simple syrup kicking around (or the couple minutes it takes to make some of your own), you can build a basic amaretto sour with not much more than booze, citrus, and sugar, shaken well and poured over ice.
Of course, if you’re sticking to two-ingredient drinks only, offsetting straight amaretto with an ounce or so of lemon juice and a few ice cubes is a great way to brighten up the liqueur. Be careful not to go too heavy on the lemon, though. It can quickly overpower the amaretto and taste like a bitter batch of nutty lemonade. Start small and build from there until you find a ratio that works for you.
Soda water is a perennial cheat code for at-home mixologists. Whether you’re looking to add a little fizz to your cocktail or just hoping to dilute your next drink, soda water is a tried and true addition that’ll cut your booze without wrecking its flavor.
If you’re craving an amaretto, soda water is a zero-calorie option that keeps your drink light on its feet and adds just enough texture to make it interesting. The nuttiness is still there, though somewhat muted by the dilution of the soda. Garnishing with a fresh piece of citrus will add that little extra pop you need to coax some of the secondary and tertiary flavors of the liqueur to the surface.
Except for coffee and other carbonated beverages, most of the other mixers on this list could also benefit from a splash of soda. And it’s never a bad idea to keep your bar stocked with the stuff — you never know when you might need it.
Riffing on the classics is always a great way to push boundaries and expand your horizons. If a rum (or whiskey) and coke is your thing, try swapping out the harder spirits for the almond stuff next time. The low-alcohol amaretto amplifies the sweetness of the coke and introduces a toasted, nutty component that feels more at home with cola than the harsher notes of a spiced rum or high-proof whiskey.
You can garnish this drink with lemon or lime, and the ratio is, again, up to you. We recommend starting with two ounces of amaretto in a highball glass and filling up the rest with coke, then adjusting from there. With low-ABV liqueurs, it’s alright to get a little heavy-handed with your pours. And if you’re feeling squirrelly and have the components on hand, drop a little grenadine and cherry in the drink for a "grown-up" Roy Rogers.