While I am truly not a fan of sickly sweet, syrupy liquors, Amaretto has my heart. There's something about the almond depth and complex sweetness of a top-shelf Amaretto that absolutley woos me. I prefer a few shots of this on the rocks to dessert some nights - so comforting and tasty. But make no mistake - it MUST be top-shelf, because the cheap stuff tastes like cough syrup. Oy. Disaronno is the well-known brand, and it is, quite simply, the best.
The origins of the liquor are pretty fascinating. Legend has it that when the painter Bernardino Luini was commissioned in 1525 to paint a fresco of the Madonna for the Santa Maria delle Grazie church in Saronno, Italy, he was housed at the home of a young widow. Her piety and beauty moved him so much, he had a romantic affair with the innkeeper, and hired her to pose for the painting. Wanting to repay the master painter, the woman soaked a few apricot kernels in a brandy, and presented him with the gift. Amaretto, thusly, was born.
Nowadays, almond extracts, along with apricot kernels and seeds, are steeped in brandy to create the final product. Most Amarettos are about 56 proof, or 28% alcohol. The best way to serve this nectar is on the rocks, or shaken cold, ala a martini. Ye olde Amaretto Sour is a popular "girly" drink, but personally, I think the flavor gets lots in the intense sugary layers. If you're really feeling sassy, add a small ribbon of light cream to a 2 oz shot, on ice, and have a sip of heaven.