Homemade amaretto liqueur made with only 3 ingredients: apricot pits, vodka, and sugar. It’s a quick and fuss-free recipe for amaretto: Let the pits steep in vodka, add sugar and that’s it.
The addictive marzipan-almond flavored liqueur is perfect to drizzle over ice cream, to add to desserts, cakes, cookies, and pancakes, or to drink as a digestif – I’m sure you’ll love it. This DIY amaretto makes a great gift too.
Last summer, I made a looooot of apricot jam to find the perfect recipe for my cookbook. Hence, I had a lot of apricot pits that I would usually toss. But then, I love repurposing ingredients that are otherwise discarded, like watermelon rind pickles or apricot pits. So I was tempted to try this homemade amaretto. And guess what? It tastes so good, that I would actually recommend making some apricot jam just for the sake of getting the pits.
Oh, and by the way: You could use pits from other stone fruit to make amaretto too, like plum pits or cherry pits. The taste may vary slightly but the outcome will be a delicious liqueur as well.
Advantages of homemade amaretto
You can tailor homemade amaretto perfectly to your preference. You love Amaretto with a hint of vanilla? Add a vanilla bean. Is the flavor too intense for you? ‚Thin‘ it with a little more vodka. You don’t like it overly sweet? Reduce the sugar. The biggest advantage of the homemade version is probably that you know exactly how much sugar goes in. There is no artificial color needed, nor are preservatives.
What is Amaretto?
Amaretto is an almond-flavored liqueur, which hails from Italy. The word amaro means bitter in Italian, amaretto means a little bitter. The subtle bitterness refers to the distinctive flavor derived from bitter almonds the liqueur was originally made from. Modern versions use regular almonds or drupe stone like apricot pits to imitate that distinctive flavor. Often times knock-offs (‚creme de almond‘) are made from extracts or almond oil.
However, the liqueur tastes somehow like marzipan and is rather sweet than bitter due to the added sugar. That is why Amaretto is a popular drink on its own, especially as an after dinner drink. It is a great mixer as well. Amaretto usually has an alcohol content of around 25 %.
How to make homemade amaretto?
When making apricot jam or a cake, I collect the pits instead of tossing them. I put the pits in a sealable jar and let them steep in vodka for 2 months. The alcohol will gradually darken to an amber color and intensify its flavor. After steeping, I strain the pits and add a little sugar. Done.
How to prepare apricot pits for liqueur
In short: Wash the pits, dry them, and use them.
The long version: First of all, collect the apricot pits. You will need roughly 4-6 lb (2-3 kg) of small apricots to get 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups of pits. This depends largely on the kind of apricots – some have smaller stones, some varieties have larger ones. If I don’t make apricot jam, which requires a large amount of apricots, I usually collect the pits over weeks to get the amount needed.
After pitting the apricots, I will run them under water and rub off any fruit parts, since those can get moldy. You can use a vegetable brush or a sponge, but I usually just scrub them clean with my hands. This takes a matter of seconds per pit.
After cleaning the stones, I let them dry on a paper towel. If you have enough pits already, you can make the amaretto now. If not, collect some more pits. In the meantime, I transfer the dry pits from the paper towel to a small plate and cover them with a cloth – a light tea towel or even paper towels work fine. I do this to protect them from dust and to keep them airy. This way, I collect more and more pits over the following weeks. As soon as I have enough, I start making the amaretto.
I am using apricot pits as a whole for this recipe. No need to crack them open to get the kernel inside.
Are apricot kernels poisonous?
Many traditional liqueurs like amaretto are made with stone fruit kernels. These recipes often date back hundreds of years, especially in Europe.
But: Stone fruit kernels, which you can find within the wooden pits of apricots, nectarines, peaches, cherries, bitter almonds (yes, this is a stone fruit as well), and plums contain small amounts of amygdalin. Amygdalin is a precursor to cyanide. Even apple seeds contain amygdalin. That’s why I am using whole apricot pits and not the kernels inside. I do not crack them open since this releases more amygdalin.
Our body can deal with small amounts of amygdalin but a high dose could be poisonous. Therefore, you have to decide for yourself if you consider making and drinking this amaretto is safe enough for you. If you are planning on drinking it on its own, I’d recommend you enjoy it within reason and do not get wasted on this liqueur. As we all know: The dose makes the poison.
How to use amaretto?
- Drizzle it over ice cream
- Add it to desserts (think tiramisu), creams, and frostings
- Add it to cake and cookie batters (like these amaretti cookies), waffle or pancake batters as an alternative to vanilla or almond extract
- Sip it on its own as a digestif (dessert drink) after dinner
- Make a boozy gift for someone special