Amaretto from 1525

Is this the face of the woman who introduced Amaretto to the world?

Portrait of a Lady by Bernardino Luini

According to legend, In 1525, Bernardino Luini, one of Leonardo da Vinci’s pupils, was commissioned to paint the sanctuary of a church in Saronno, Italy and needed a model to portray the Madonna, the patron saint of the church. He eventually happened upon a young widowed innkeeper, who became his inspiration (and perhaps even more…) To show her gratitude, the woman wanted to give Luini a gift but lacked the money, so she steeped apricot kernels in brandy and presented him the resulting liqueur.

At least that is what the Disaronno family claims the truth behind their recipe to be. Who am I to judge? There are many other mentions during the Renaissance of brandy-based liqueur made by steeping apricot or cherries and their kernels then adding sugar. So let’s go with the 1525 legend, shall we?

If you are the least bit concerned with the possibility of cyanide poisoning see the article on dosing in the sources below.

National Amaretto day is April 19, IJS.


3 cups  vodka

1/4 cup almond extract

1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract

2 cups sugar

1 cup brown sugar

2 cups water

  1. Bring the sugars and water to a boil in a saucepan until the sugar is dissolved. This is your simple syrup.
  2. Remove from the heat and allow the mix to cool.
  3. Add the infused vodka and simple syrup, stirring until well mixed.
  4. Pour through a funnel into a bottle and seal.


  • 4 cups  vodka
  • 2 cups brandy
  • 1/2 cup organic dark cherries (whole)
  • 1 cup dried apricots
  • 1/2 cup bitter apricot kernels
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 cups unsalted almonds
  • 2 cups water
  1. In a gallon sized glass container (with lid) soak the chopped apricots in the water to rehydrate.
  2. Chop almonds and apricot kernels and sift, discarding as much dust as possible.
  3. Drain apricots.
  4. Add all the ingredients together.
  5. Cover and shake to combine.
  6. Store for 4 weeks in a cool, dark place, shaking once a week.

To finish the liqueur in 4 weeks you will need:

  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup cane sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups brandy
  • 2 tbsp almond extract
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • fine cheesecloth
  • mesh strainer
  • coffee filters
  • 4 pint-sized glass bottles for filling (at least)
  1. Bring the sugars and water to a boil in a saucepan until the sugar is dissolved (approximately 5 minutes). This is your simple syrup.
  2. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Set aside.
  3. Set cheesecloth in the bottom of strainer over a large bowl and pour out your infused liquid amaretto mix that has been sitting for 4 weeks. Press out as much from the solids as possible.
  4. Stack a coffee filter in the strainer over a new bowl and filter the liquid amaretto through them.
  5. Discard the filter and repeat at least one more time (I filtred mine three times)
  6. Add the filtered amaretto, extract, vodka and about half of the simple syrup, stirring until well mixed.
  7. Taste and add more simple syrup to sweeten to your liking.
  8. Pour through a funnel into a bottle (or bottles) and seal.
  9. Enjoy 🙂

reading and drinking tea

Want another recipe for Italian herbal liqueur? Try this one from The Spruce


O’Neil, Darcy. “Cyanide in Apricot & Cherry Pits”. Art of Drink website.

Priebe, Gregory. “An Excuse to Drink – National Amaretto Day”. A History of Drinking website.


10 thoughts on “Amaretto from 1525

  1. In the Disorrono inspired redaction, the ingredient list is missing almonds. Step 2 of the instructions calls for chopping them with the apricot kernels. How much almond did you use?

  2. Hi really interesting but I’m puzzeled as far I know vanilla was introduced in europe around 1700’s so how come ar recipie from 1500’s would have vanilla added to it ?

      1. I’m curious about what your source on this information is. I’m not trying to start an argument 🙂 I’m genuinely curious. Many New World foodstuffs took awhile to be accepted in Europe. My researches have been more interested in chocolate than vanilla, so I haven’t tracked that one down yet. Thanks.

  3. Help … the instructions say “Chop almonds and apricot kernels” but the list of ingredients doesn’t include almonds ???

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