Amaro vs Amaretto: What Is the Difference?

Amaro vs Amaretto: What Is the Difference?

Amaro and Amaretto – they might sound similar, but they’re like distant cousins in the world of spirits.

Amaro is an herbal liqueur that’s all about the bittersweet aroma. It’s like a botanical garden in a bottle, with roots, herbs, and bark giving it that earthy vibe. Perfect for sipping after a meal to settle the belly.

Amaretto, on the other hand, is the sweet talker. This drink is all about that warm, nutty flavor with a hint of sweet almonds, even though it’s usually made from apricot pits. It’s like dessert in a glass, and it’s got this velvety smoothness that makes it a hit in cocktails or as a neat little nightcap.

These are, at least, the basics. Now, to truly explain the distinction between these two, I’ll have to go into detail. Stick around to find out more, as there’s lots to talk about.

Amaro VS Amaretto Infographic


italian Amaro

Derived from the Italian word for “bitter,” Amaro represents a traditional Italian herbal liqueur famous for its complex and bitter-sweet flavors. Its origins can be traced back to ancient times when herbal remedies were prepared to aid digestion.

Over the centuries, this beverage has evolved into a popular after-dinner drink and a famous part of Italian culture. Its production involves a combination of various herbs, roots, barks, and botanicals, which contribute to its rich flavor profile.



Amaretto is a liqueur known for its distinct almond flavor. Contrary to popular belief, the liqueur does not contain almonds but is made from a base of apricot pits or almonds themselves.

The origins of this liquor can be traced back to the Renaissance period, when it gained popularity as a specialty liqueur in Saronno, Italy. The evolution of this drink has led to the development of different styles and variations, each with its own unique twist on the classic almond taste.

Flavor Profile Comparison

Amaro and Amaretto Flavor Profile Comparison
This Image Is Generated by Midjourney

I find that Amaro presents a wide range of flavors, from herbal and earthy to citrusy and floral, often accompanied by a distinct bitterness. Its taste notes can include hints of anise, gentian root, citrus peels, and various other botanicals.

On the other hand, Amaretto has a more pronounced sweetness with its almond-forward profile. The nutty, marzipan-like flavor of this one is often accompanied by undertones of vanilla, caramel, and spices.

I enjoy the former neat or on the rocks as a digestif, but I sometimes add it to cocktails.

Classic cocktails like the Negroni and Boulevardier are great when you add Amaro for that extra “depth.” When I pair Amaro with food, I usually do it with rich and savory dishes, as well as dark chocolate desserts. Amaretto, with its sweet and nutty profile, is my go-to choice for cocktails and desserts.

The iconic Amaretto Sour, with its tangy sweetness, is one of my favorite cocktail additions. Its versatility shines in desserts like tiramisu and almond-flavored cakes. It also pairs beautifully with coffee and can be used to elevate hot chocolate or espresso-based cocktails.

Serving and Presentation

The Classic Godfather

To get the most out of Amaro, I serve it neat or on the rocks in a tulip-shaped glass. The narrow opening of the glass concentrates the aromas while allowing room for swirling and gentle aeration. I also sometimes add garnishes like citrus peels or fresh herbs to enhance the aromatics. The little things such as this can go a long way.

Amaretto, on the other hand, I serve in a rock glass or a tumbler over ice. I also use it as an ingredient in cocktails, such as the Amaretto Sour or the classic Godfather. When I serve it neat, a small snifter or a shot glass is all I need. For that extra garnishing, I include a lemon or a sprinkle of grated nutmeg for an extra touch of flavor.

Popular Brands and Varieties

Amaro is a drink that spans numerous popular brands, each with its distinct character. I’d recommend brands like Averna, Fernet-Branca, and Montenegro, which are all known for their unique recipes and regional influences.

Averna has that herbal complexity, and I would recommend it to those who are new to Amaro, while Fernet-Branca offers a more assertive and intense flavor profile and is a drink for more seasoned enjoyers. Montenegro is the brand that strikes a balance between bitter and sweet, so it’s a highly versatile choice.

Amaretto brands also offer a diverse range of options. DiSaronno is perhaps my favorite, famous for its smooth and recognizable almond taste. Luxardo Amaretto and Lazzaroni Amaretto are other notable choices, each bringing its twist to the classic almond liqueur.

Final Words

Amaro vs Amaretto

And now, let’s break it down. Amaro is the brooding one, all about that herbal, earthy bitterness that’s perfect for sipping slowly after a meal.

On the flip side, Amaretto is a sweet and smooth drink, with an almond or apricot pit base that gives it a nutty, vanilla essence. If you’re looking for a Frangelico substitute with a similarly delicate profile, Amaretto offers a natural and subtle alternative that complements desserts and cocktails alike.

The bottom line is that Amaro is like that intriguing, mysterious character you want to get to know better, while Amaretto is the life of the party, bringing the sweet charm. Both have their place on the shelf, and it’s all about what you’re in the mood for. Bitter or sweet, herbal or nutty, they’ve got you covered.

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