Amaretto, Italian for "a little bitter," is an almond-flavored liqueur known for its slightly nutty flavor. While sometimes served plain over ice, the liqueur is more popular as an ingredient in cocktails. As a staple in a well-stocked bar, amaretto comes in handy for making specialty drinks such as a bocce ball, a Cuban breeze, a cafe Caribbean and an Italian Manhattan.
Bocce Ball Basics
The cocktail version of a bocce ball always contains amaretto and orange juice; from there, it's easy to customize to suit your tastes or to try something new.
To make a bocce ball, pour 1 1/2 ounces vodka and 1/2 ounce amaretto into a Collins glass, or a tall, narrow glass that holds approximately 10 ounces. Add 8 ounces orange juice or enough to nearly fill the glass. Top it off with a splash of soda water to add a light, refreshing touch. Garnish with a fresh orange slice.
Make your own variation by using a flavored vodka, or by eliminating the vodka completely, instead using 2 ounces amaretto and ice, then filling the rest of the glass with orange juice and a splash of soda water or club soda.
A Cuban breeze gives you a refreshing taste of summer with a hint of almond. To make a Cuban breeze, add ice to an old-fashioned glass, and then pour in 1 ounce each vodka and amaretto. Top with pineapple juice.
Amaretto works equally well in warm drinks. To make a coffee-based cafe Caribbean, pour 1 ounce rum and 1/2 ounce amaretto into an Irish coffee mug. Fill the mug to just under the brim with hot coffee, and then add a dollop of whipped cream, ideally fresh-made. Sprinkle with shaved almonds for an extra touch of texture and flavor.
This twist on the classic Manhattan incorporates amaretto instead of vermouth for a completely different flavor profile. To make an Italian Manhattan, pour 1 1/2 ounces bourbon and 1/2 ounce amaretto into a cocktail shaker filled most of the way with ice. Add 1/4 ounce maraschino cherry juice from a jar of maraschino cherries. Place the lid on the shaker, and shake vigorously for a few seconds. Strain the drink into a martini glass, or use a rocks glass filled with ice if you prefer your drinks over ice. Garnish with one or two maraschino cherries, and a slice of orange for a touch of citrus.
- Pour reduced amounts of amaretto liqueur -- up to one-third less -- for a similar taste but lower potency.
- Amaretto liqueur may be sweet, but it's still pretty strong -- drink responsibly.