Disaronno Originale is an iconic almond-flavored Italian liqueur that’s as easily recognized by its distinctive flavor as it is for its decanter-shaped bottle.
Company ILLVA Saronno
Distillery Saronno, Italy
Proof 56 (28% ABV)
Its rich, bold flavor makes for a creative modifier in cocktails, adding an extra and often unexpected layer of flavor and texture.
It’s the go-to component of the ever-popular Amaretto Sour—and if you remember that drink unfavorably, it’s time to give it another try.
The marzipan aromatics are particular and, at times, polarizing; some love them, some do not.
Color: Rich golden amber
Nose: Notes of almond cookies, nougat, dried cherry, and orange zest
Palate: The texture is unctuous, voluptuous, and mouth-filling. Its flavor evokes biting into a dense piece of marzipan, with its concentrated almond-oil notes, but other layers of flavor are present as well: orange zest, dried cherries and apricots, caramelized sugar, and dates.
Finish: The sweetness and fruitiness lingers, but with a satisfying mildly bitter sensation that keeps it all in check.
Disaronno has developed its own liquid lore that’s perhaps been embellished over time, dating to the 16th century and the town of Saronno, where the famed almond liqueur is still made. Liqueurs, made of all sorts of herbs, roots, fruits, and nuts, are very commonly made throughout Italy. Disaronno links the inspiration for its version to the Renaissance, when, it says, the artist Bernardino Luini was looking for a muse for his commissioned fresco in the Saronno church, Madonna dei Miracoli, in Lombardy, Italy. He asked a local innkeeper if she’d model for the work and, it is said, she was so flattered by the request that she supposedly gave Luini a bottle of her own homemade almond liqueur. What we do know for certain is that the company was founded by Domenico Reina, who opened a shop in Saronno and began making and selling his family recipe of amaretto under the name Amaretto di Saronno. In 2001, to differentiate itself from competition in the market, the company changed the name Disaronno Originale. Even in a modern world where brands feel the pressure to create spin-offs and new products for the market, to date Disaronno Originale has only launched one other in its product line: a cream liqueur version that hit shelves in 2020.
Although the company will not reveal its ingredients, the liqueur’s almond flavor comes from the chemical compound benzaldehyde, found in almonds, apricot kernels, and cherry kernels, among other sources. So while the liquid tastes like almonds, it’s entirely possible there aren’t any actual almonds used in making it. That actually might have originated with the Renaissance-era inspiration for the recipe: Apparently that innkeeper made her liqueur with the leftover kernels of apricots.
Almonds or not, the rich, decadent flavor of the liqueur has become beloved by drinkers the world over, and the product has remained a classic for more than one hundred years. Its inimitable almond flavor is essential in the beloved Amaretto Sour and other classic cocktails and shots, and the bottle has earned a presence on the back bar of nearly every place you can order a drink.
In the 1970s, the Reina family challenged artisans to come up with a new design for the bottle. The winner was a glassmaker from Murano who came up with the light-glinting glass bottle used today.
The Bottom Line
Steeped in tradition and history, this Northern-Italian-made liqueur is a bar classic.