As I said before, April 19th is my favorite day for national food holidays, because it’s both Garlic Day and National Amaretto Day, arguably my favorite spice and my favorite liqueur 🙂 An Italian dessert liqueur since the sixteenth century, Amaretto means in Italian “a little bitter,” which is to describe the comparative sweetness of the drink distilled from almonds and apricot pits (two things that are normally very bitter!) As with many liqueurs, it’s a low alcohol-level drink that can be used as an ingredient in a mixer or drank straight. Being a super lightweight, it’s one of the only drinks I can have shots of (Malibu being one of the others, that I can just drink plain!). It always has a place in my kitchen, as it goes with both cold drinks and hot. My favorite things to mix it with are orange juice, sour mix, and hot chocolate 🙂 (But not at the same time!)
Amaretto is also a great addition to foods and desserts, and it serves as a complementary ingredient to many sweet and savory dishes. My mom makes a sweet potato pie every year for Thanksgiving, and she adds some Amaretto to the sweet potato custard to give it a deep almond taste that you just don’t get from almond extract. Amaretto is paired well with chocolate and with ice cream, can be used in almondine sauces for meats, and is one of the key components of the famous Italian dessert, Tiramisu.
Speaking of Amaretto Tiramisu, there’s a perfect place in New York City to get yourself a square to celebrate National Amaretto Day! Cafe Lalo on the Upper West Side is best known for being featured in the Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan movie You’ve Got Mail, but look past the tourist destination to find some of the best pastries and confections in the neighborhood. (Honestly, is there just some huge attraction to restaurants in New York where Meg Ryan has eaten in movies? Must we always have what she’s having?) They make three different types of tiramisu: the typical espresso, strawberry, and amaretto. Even though they have a wide variety of cakes and pastries they offer, they still put a lot of care into their specialty tiramisu, and you can really taste it in the authentic cream and amaretto-soaked cake. This dessert is perfect to get that smooth, almond flavor from the amaretto but still indulge in something sweet to hit your stomach, not your liver.
201 W 83rd St (between Amsterdam Ave & Broadway)
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“When I come, I buy the Tiramisu by the trays. Did you know they sell it that way? I think it’s like $5-$6 a slice but if you buy it by the tray it’s only $36 for 12 slices!! I pop it in the fridge because I like it really cold. When I take it out, it’s so cold that the cream on top melts in your mouth just like ice cream. It’s as close to heaven on earth as I can ask for!”–Yvette W.
“The amaretto tiramisu is un-freaking-believable… it’s hands down the best tiramisu I’ve ever had… it’s creamy, but not too soft, and the taste of amaretto as it hits your mouth is amazing… there is also a bit of crunch from the nutty garnish.”–Rob D.
Speaking of Amaretto desserts, I did say before that the slightly bitter dessert liqueur gets paired well with ice cream, the alcohol helping to cut through a rich, creamy scoop of real dairy ice cream. And it doesn’t get any creamier or more decadent than an amaretto gelato, especially one found at Amorino near NYU. You can get a wide variety of Italian flavors for your gelato here, including amaretto, and have them all arranged on your cone in the shape of a gelato flower. Now that is a flower I would love to receive! You can also get your gelato within a unique gelato sandwich, where fluffy brioche bread substitutes the chocolate cookies of typical ice cream sandwiches. The Amaretto gelato is made fresh with real liqueur, not almond extract or imitation flavoring, so you know you’re getting the closest to authentic Italian gelato you can find this side of the Atlantic. This is definitely the gelato spot to try some new and interesting flavors you won’t find anywhere on Mulberry Street…or even in Italy, for that matter!
60 University Pl (between 10th St & 11th St)
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“I am definitely a big fan of desserts and amorino gelato is a great place to get your fix of gelato and waffles.. the way they shape the gelato as a flower on your cone is very unique, and that in itself warrants a trip out there.. the flavors that i chose for my cone were raspberry, amaretto, and speculoos… they all taste delicious..”–Jessica H.
“I got amaretto, raspberry, passion fruit, and something I couldn’t pronounce (L’inimitabile). All were DELICIOUS, but my favorites were the amaretto and raspberry. This place definitely knows how to make authentic gelatos, and they shape it in a shape of a rose bouquet for you, which is always pretty to look at before it starts melting away.”–Bin H.
But let’s be a little serious here. No one comes to this blog on National Amaretto Day–or any day celebrating an alcoholic drink–in order to find the best tiramisu in the city. I may get myself a scoop of gelato or an amaretto cake this evening, but the real thing I’ll be doing is tipping back a few, filled with my favorite sweet liqueur. Everyone has their “signature” drink that everyone knows you order frequently, and will hit the spot no matter what your mood or your bar location. Mine is always the Amaretto Sour, and you’re damn right I’ll be having one of these (or maybe more) to celebrate the holiday! And I may just stop by Jake’s Dilemma to do it. A beloved dive bar in the Upper West Side, Jake’s Dilemma doesn’t do much in the way of atmosphere and decor to draw in their patrons, but instead focuses on cheap drink specials and college-level shenanigans like beer pong to pull the partygoers in. And with a signature drink that’s so easy to make like the amaretto sour, my only requirement is that it hits pleasantly on the tongue and the wallet. Amaretto sour drink specials? Jake’s Dilemma does know how to get me into the door!
430 Amsterdam Ave (between 80th St & 81st St)
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“I didn’t get food, but I can’t argue with a $2.50 amaretto sour (I don’t drink to get drunk and that’s the yummiest thing ever) at happy hour.”–Haley C.
“What can I say that hasn’t already been said? This place has cheap drinks to begin with, but their happy hour deals are fabulous. I was there one Friday night recently and there were half off drink specials. My amaretto sour was less than three bucks. And the bar has a really nice layout. I will certainly come back.”–Diana M.
Make sure you check out the updated NYC Food Holidays Map to find this most recent holiday!