Bottle #10: Disaronno Amaretto

Mar 16, 2023

Bottle #10 is Disarrono Amaretto Originale. The order of those words turned out to matter a lot when I was trying to figure out when this bottle came from.

These days if you buy a bottle of Disarrono, it only mentions the word amaretto on the back. Which is kind of interesting given that this is the company that claims to have invented the whole category of amaretto.

 

Read the rest of the story

Like most of these old European liqueurs, it comes complete with a mythological origin story involving a beautiful woman and something religious. In this case, they claim the recipe goes all the way back to 1525, when an artist named Bernardino Luini was commissioned to paint a fresco in the Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Miracles in Saronno, Italy. His model for the Virgin Mary was a local innkeeper, who gifted him a bottle of liqueur as thanks for the honor. In the 1600s, a member of the Reina family somehow rediscovered this old recipe, and passed it down through the family for hundreds of years before Domenico Reina commercialized it in the early 1900s.

So what is it? Casually, we would describe it as an almond flavored liqueur, but it’s actually more complicated than that. The name amaretto means “little bitter” but it’s not at all bitter. The bitter refers to bitter almonds, which – even more confusingly – are not necessarily almonds either. In the case of Disarrono, the distinctive almond flavor we associate with amaretto actually comes from apricot kernels. If you want to know more about how amaretto is made, check out this amazing blog post from Camper English, who went on a visit to the manufacturing plant.

While Disaronno has existed since 1900, it wasn’t particularly well known in Italy. Where it really takes off is in 1970s and 80s America. Spurned on by the success of Galliano in the 1970’s other Italian liquor importers were looking to get in on the action. Most of what they were drinking in Italy was bitter – think Campari and Fernet Branca – and that wasn’t going to fly in sugared-up America. But then one of them found Amaretto de Saronno, a sweet and easy drinking liqueur that was a perfect match for American palates. It enters the cocktail scene with the Godfather in the early 70s, but in the late 70s and early 80’s it spawns the Amaretto Sour and starts showing up in all kinds of other dubious 1980s drinks with titillating names.

Eventually other companies start advertising and marketing their own amaretto. One of them – Lazzaroni – claims that their liqueur (made from soaking amaretti cookies in alcohol) was actually the original amaretto, with an origin date of 1851. Some of them event start copying Disaronno’s bottle style, which lead to a lawsuit. And all of that is why which words – and which order they appeared in – turned out to matter so much when I was trying to attach a date to this bottle of Disaronno.

The best way to date this bottle turned out to be by looking at old magazine ads. In 1981, the branding is Amaretto di Saronno- three words each on their own line. By 1991, the “di” and “saronno” are on the same line, but still two words. In 1993, the company must be trying to distinguish itself from all those other amarettos, so now Di Saronno comes first, but there’s still a space there. But by 1995, “of Saronno” is gone, having been transformed into the brand Disaronno – although they’re still telling you it’s amaretto in big letters. By 1999 they really want you to know that they are the original, accept-no-substitutes amaretto, because they add the word Originale in big letters under Disaronno, and amaretto appears in smaller letters underneath. And by 2001? It’s just Disaronno with even the “originale,” in small letters, and nothing obvious to indicate that it’s amaretto. Based on the label on this tiny bottle, it’s from sometime between 1995 and 1997.

While I can see what they’re going for here, I’m not sure how well it’s really working for them. When I called for amaretto in my online cocktail classes, lots of people bought other brands, because they didn’t realize that Disaronno was amaretto. This is especially true among younger drinkers who didn’t come of age surrounded by Amaretto Sours.

Watch me taste this bottle with Casey Miller.

 

 

Listen Now

Watch Now

Bottle #10: Disaronno Amaretto

Mar 16, 2023 |

Bottle #10 is Disarrono Amaretto Originale. The order of those words turned out to matter a lot when I was trying to figure out when this bottle came from.

These days if you buy a bottle of Disarrono, it only mentions the word amaretto on the back. Which is kind of interesting given that this is the company that claims to have invented the whole category of amaretto.

Like most of these old European liqueurs, it comes complete with a mythological origin story involving a beautiful woman and something religious. In this case, they claim the recipe goes all the way back to 1525, when an artist named Bernardino Luini was commissioned to paint a fresco in the Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Miracles in Saronno, Italy. His model for the Virgin Mary was a local innkeeper, who gifted him a bottle of liqueur as thanks for the honor. In the 1600s, a member of the Reina family somehow rediscovered this old recipe, and passed it down through the family for hundreds of years before Domenico Reina commercialized it in the early 1900s.

So what is it? Casually, we would describe it as an almond flavored liqueur, but it’s actually more complicated than that. The name amaretto means “little bitter” but it’s not at all bitter. The bitter refers to bitter almonds, which – even more confusingly – are not necessarily almonds either. In the case of Disarrono, the distinctive almond flavor we associate with amaretto actually comes from apricot kernels. If you want to know more about how amaretto is made, check out this amazing blog post from Camper English, who went on a visit to the manufacturing plant.

While Disaronno has existed since 1900, it wasn’t particularly well known in Italy. Where it really takes off is in 1970s and 80s America. Spurned on by the success of Galliano in the 1970’s other Italian liquor importers were looking to get in on the action. Most of what they were drinking in Italy was bitter – think Campari and Fernet Branca – and that wasn’t going to fly in sugared-up America. But then one of them found Amaretto de Saronno, a sweet and easy drinking liqueur that was a perfect match for American palates. It enters the cocktail scene with the Godfather in the early 70s, but in the late 70s and early 80’s it spawns the Amaretto Sour and starts showing up in all kinds of other dubious 1980s drinks with titillating names.

Eventually other companies start advertising and marketing their own amaretto. One of them – Lazzaroni – claims that their liqueur (made from soaking amaretti cookies in alcohol) was actually the original amaretto, with an origin date of 1851. Some of them event start copying Disaronno’s bottle style, which lead to a lawsuit. And all of that is why which words – and which order they appeared in – turned out to matter so much when I was trying to attach a date to this bottle of Disaronno.

The best way to date this bottle turned out to be by looking at old magazine ads. In 1981, the branding is Amaretto di Saronno- three words each on their own line. By 1991, the “di” and “saronno” are on the same line, but still two words. In 1993, the company must be trying to distinguish itself from all those other amarettos, so now Di Saronno comes first, but there’s still a space there. But by 1995, “of Saronno” is gone, having been transformed into the brand Disaronno – although they’re still telling you it’s amaretto in big letters. By 1999 they really want you to know that they are the original, accept-no-substitutes amaretto, because they add the word Originale in big letters under Disaronno, and amaretto appears in smaller letters underneath. And by 2001? It’s just Disaronno with even the “originale,” in small letters, and nothing obvious to indicate that it’s amaretto. Based on the label on this tiny bottle, it’s from sometime between 1995 and 1997.

While I can see what they’re going for here, I’m not sure how well it’s really working for them. When I called for amaretto in my online cocktail classes, lots of people bought other brands, because they didn’t realize that Disaronno was amaretto. This is especially true among younger drinkers who didn’t come of age surrounded by Amaretto Sours.

Watch me taste this bottle with Casey Miller.

 

 

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *