Amaretto in a nutshell

But one of the challenges for brands is to persuade bartenders and drinkers alike that amaretto is more than just a one-trick pony.

Walker points to Amaretto Frappé, The Godfather – amaretto with Scotch or bourbon – and a long mix with tonic or ginger ale as easy-to-make alternatives.

Luxardo has been working with bartenders on more adventurous creations such as the Sushi Sour ­– amaretto, lemon juice, Angostura bitters, wasabi paste and fresh ginger – and the Padrino, a rye whisky base with amaretto, oloroso and fino sherries, apricot liqueur and Peychaud bitters.

“In the on-trade our focus has been on the more high-end cocktail bars,” says Luxardo global brand ambassador Gareth Franklin, using amaretto as a “base for cocktails rather than a modifier”.

He adds: “We taste the amaretto in depth and realise there is so much more complexity and that each flavour note can be accentuated with different ingredients.

“Bartenders will use products more, and in more inventive ways, when they have a higher understanding of them.”

In the off-trade, it’s more about simpler serves to make at home all-year round, not just at Christmas. “These serves show off the versatility of amaretto and fit into the categories of aperitivo, palate cleanser and after-dinner drinks,” Franklin adds.

“Italian drinking culture revolves around food and this way we get to show off a slice of Italian living to consumers with a refined palate that love experimenting at home.”

Though steeped in Italy’s drinking culture, non-Italian liqueur companies also have toes in the amaretto market, among them Dutch giants Bols and De Kuyper, for which the drink forms part of an armoury of cocktail-oriented products.

Godelief van Erve, global marketing manager at De Kuyper, says: “Amaretto is known for drinking neat but as cocktails are growing it is more and more being used in cocktails. The Amaretto Sour is a popular and contemporary classic.”

Harry Georgiou, managing director of Amathus Drinks, one of the UK’s leading specialist spirits wholesalers and retailers, says that country’s on-trade is fertile ground for amaretto brands. Amaretto is really happening for us as a drink that consumers and bars have embraced,” says Georgiou.

He adds: “It is a big and important seller for us. Disaronno is the market leader but I feel that consumers are up for alternatives and quality. Surprisingly there aren’t a huge number of producers pushing the leader but the opportunity is definitely there for the taking. Own-label and product from quality liqueur producers such as Cartron provide decent alternatives.”

Jass Patel, owner of Tomoka Spirits Boutique, a specialist store in St Albans in the UK, is more cautious about amaretto’s potential. “Amaretto is not really ever in growth,” he says. “It just holds its position. It is not really a big seller as people all over the world, save for Italy, really don’t know what to with it.

“Amaretto has its own cocktail, the Sour, and its largely due to this drink that people know of amaretto. Although it’s a very accessible drink it relies on bartenders to push it and, as it’s not a particularly discerning cocktail like the Negroni, I feel lots of bartenders choose not to.

“It works in liqueur coffees and I advise our customers in the retail sector to freeze it or pour over ice cream, or sip it as an accompaniment to a dessert.

“It actually has lots of diversity but the knowledge for the consumer is not there.”

Jefferson Boss, of the specialist spirits retailer Jefferson Boss in Sheffield, UK, is a little more bullish. “We’ve seen a steady sales pattern, perhaps with slight growth over the years,” he says. “Although we see a sales spike around Christmas we do sell more bottles throughout the year.”

Jefferson Boss stocks Lazzaroni and the premium offering Bepi Tosilini to provide points of difference from the market leader stocked in most supermarkets, but Boss admits “Disaronno has done and amazing job in educating the public on what amaretto is”.

He adds: “There isn’t much confusion about what to expect when purchasing an amaretto.”

On the brands Jefferson Boss sells, he says: “Having tasting stock to compare side-by-side helps drive sales. The Tosilini is a more refined and less sugary style. “We find Lazzaroni works well with our wholesale customers who are margin-dependant, while the premium offering works better at retail.”