Despite the known history on the introduction and acceptance of almonds into Italian cuisine, newer takes on the meanings and origins have been popularized by the two major brands. Though of sometimes questionable factuality, these tales hold a sentimental place in Saronno culture:
- In 1525, a Saronno church commissioned artist Bernardino Luini, one of Leonardo da Vinci‘s pupils, to paint their sanctuary with frescoes. As the church was dedicated to the Virgin Mary, Luini needed to depict the Madonna, but was in need of a model. He found his inspiration in a young widowed innkeeper, who became his model and (in most versions) lover. Out of gratitude and affection, the woman wished to give him a gift. Her simple means did not permit much, so she steeped apricot kernels in brandy and presented the resulting concoction to a touched Luini.
Amaretto (Italian for “a little bitter”) is a sweet, almond-flavoured, Italian liqueur associated with Saronno, Italy. Various commercial brands are made from a base of apricot pits, almonds, or both.
Amaretto serves a variety of culinary uses, can be drunk by itself, and is added to other beverages to create several popular mixed drinks, as well as to coffee.