almond-flavoured liqueur

Versatile amaretto ('the little bitter one') is a key ingredient not only in amaretti but also in many other desserts and cocktails. Made from apricot bits or almonds, it dates back at least to the 16th century (see Disaranno), invented, or so they say, when Leonardo da Vinci's student Bernardino Luini came to paint the church in Saranno, the traditional Lombard cradle of amaretto. He used an attractive young widow from the town as his model for the Madonna; they became lovers, and she gave him a rare gift: apricot kernels soaked in brandy. Hence amaretto.

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