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The Possible 1970s Origins Of The Amaretto Sour

Amaretto Sour cocktail
Amaretto Sour cocktail - viennetta/Shutterstock

The classic amaretto sour is widely considered a cocktail of the 1980s -- the era during which other punch-like "sour" cocktails (water, sugar, and citrus married over a spirit base) gained their foothold. A recipe for the cocktail appears in Mark Torre's seminal handbook "The Bartender's Cherry," which was published in the '80s. But, that might not be the beginning of the story for this vibrant-yet-balanced sipper.

Per the lore, the amaretto sour was created in 1974 as an industry plant by Amaretto di Saronno, an Italian amaretto brand that was (and remains) a popular import to the U.S. Disaronno began its U.S. expansion in the 1960s, which happily coincided with the rise of first wave cocktail culture in America. Bartenders were getting more creative with their ingredients and experimenting with different flavor profiles, and Italian liqueurs broke onto the U.S. market with fury during the 1970s.

When Amaretto di Saronno dropped the amaretto sour recipe shortly thereafter, it was perfect timing (Ocean Spray cranberry juice did the same thing with the "Cape Codder" highball.) The amaretto sour found a ready audience for its almond and marzipan tasting notes followed by deep cherry, apricot, lemony tang, and a slightly nutty finish. Cocktail fans were digging it ... until the '80s low-key ruined it (sorry, Harvey Wallbanger fans).


Read more: 23 Cocktails To Try If You Like Drinking Gin

Skip The Sour Mix, Modern Mixologists Beg

Amaretto Sour cocktail
Amaretto Sour cocktail - Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

At first, the now-luxurious drink was a simple two-parter using only Amaretto and fresh lemon juice. As artificial, pre-made sour mix became a dominating hallmark of '80s cocktail culture, the ingredients swapped places. Nowadays, modern bartenders typically use lemon juice over sour mix in their assemblies, but by all means, ask if you're curious. The Amaretto Sour remained tragically written off as a "disco drink" until recent years, when the fancy-feeling drink enjoyed a well-deserved comeback. The charming, elegant Sour has since appeared onscreen in "Mad Men" and "The Great Gatsby," further cementing its position and relevance.

A modern amaretto sour combines Amaretto, fresh lemon juice, Angostura bitters, and pasteurized egg white or aquafaba, all vigorously shaken over ice. It's strained back into the shaker, hit with another dry shake (not a wet shake), and then strained into an ice-filled old fashioned or rocks glass to serve. Garnish with a Luxardo cherry and lemon sail or orange twist.

The tangy, dessert-like flavor balances sweet, sour, and frothy with a silky body. If super-sweetness isn't your style, many modern mixologists follow the Jeffrey Morgenthaler revival recipe and add a splash of overproof bourbon to counterbalance that sugary mouthfeel. "Accessibility" is the name of the game through and through with the Amaretto Sour. Some historians speculate that the drink might have first been marketed as a less-intense version of the Whiskey Sour, and indeed, it's relatively low-proof by cocktail standards, clocking in at 12.97% ABV.

Read the original article on Tasting Table