The Amaretto Sour belongs to a family of mixed drinks known as “sours.” This category of cocktail recipes always has a combination of at least one spirit, lemon or lime juice, and a sweetener.
What makes a sour?
The “sours” family of cocktails include classics like the Whiskey Sour, the Margarita, and the Sidecar. They’re never overwhelmingly sour because there’s always a sweet ingredient to balance the flavor.
The sours are tart yet sweet drinks, and that’s what makes them refreshing and delicious. And the smooth, sweet taste of an Amaretto Sour makes it ideal for occasional drinkers as well as more dedicated cocktail fans.
There may be someone out there who doesn’t like the taste of amaretto, but we haven’t run into them yet. Most people love the flavor, and when you add lemon juice to provide contrast, it gets even better.
If you’ve never had amaretto, the taste of it is mostly almond with a hint of cherry. It’s made from either almonds or apricot pits, or both. Almonds, apricots, and cherries are all from the same plant family, which apparently is supposed to explain why a liqueur made from first two would taste a little like the third.
Matching the Amaretto Sour with food
The flavor of amaretto dominates this drink, so the Amaretto Sour can clash with some recipes. You can definitely enjoy this drink all by itself.
Dumping the sour mix
Some versions of this recipe call for sour mix instead of lemon juice and sugar. But there’s a trick to making a fresher tasting substitute for sour mix in any cocktail: you just use instead equal parts lemon juice and a touch of simple syrup.
In the case of this cocktail, you don’t need as much syrup as lemon juice. That’s because the amaretto adds so much sweetness on its own.
But if you have a sweeter tooth, you can always add more of the syrup. And if you prefer tart flavors, you might actually prefer to leave the syrup out altogether.
The first time you make an Amaretto Sour for yourself, I recommend you start with maybe just half a teaspoon of syrup. Add more as needed. Because it’s syrup, it’s easy to add to your drink after you’ve already mixed it.
There are some other variations on this drink. Some recipes, like the recipes for the Whiskey Sour, call for egg white. You just add half an ounce of beaten egg white into your shaker, and you get a lovely foam on top of the drink.
There are also versions of this recipe that call for including some bourbon. That makes it a stronger drink, but the amaretto flavor still dominates.
And yet, you may find that makes it too much like a Whiskey Sour, and then what’s the point? But by all means, try it at least once. Add in about half an ounce to three-quarters of an ounce of bourbon to the recipe.
The first time I ever heard of this drink was when a friend ordered it at a bar. Since then I’ve had several friends who considered this their go-to drink at bars.
There are at least three reasons for this. One is that it just because it tastes so good. Another is that this is a drink that’s hard to get wrong. And third, it’s light on the alcohol, which is sometimes preferable to a more intense cocktail.
If you’re at an unfamiliar bar and unsure of the level of bartending skills or quality of drinks, the Amaretto Sour is a safe bet. It’s hard for even the least inspired bartender to make this one taste bad.
For a special touch, garnish this one with Woodford Reserve Bourbon Cherries. They have a light bourbon taste and aren’t too sweet. They go really well with the Amaretto Sour.
You can also use Luxardo maraschino cherries. They’re simple maraschino cherries, but a big upgrade compared to the cherries you get for 99 cents at the grocery store. They have a rich, complex taste.
Seriously, I never liked maraschino cherries, but these taste almost like a fresh picked cherry, rather than one that’s been sitting in syrup for ages. If you’ve never been a fan of regular maraschino cherries, it’s worth getting a bottle and giving them a try.
For the amaretto, I recommend the classic brand, Disaronno. I enjoy other amarettos, but always come back to Disaronno. It has a little more complex and bold taste than some other brands I’ve tried.
It’s also not cloyingly sweet, and that’s important with amaretto. Whichever brand you use, make sure it’s one you could drink all by itself.
If you enjoy this drink, you should check out some of the other “sours”, like the classic Whiskey Sour. There’s also the Italian Amaretto Margarita, which blends amaretto with frozen margarita ingredients.
Or if it’s mainly just the amaretto flavor you love, try the Nilla Wafer Martini, which features amaretto along with vanilla vodka. It doesn’t taste exactly like a Nilla Wafer, but you might find it actually tastes better.