How to Fix the Amaretto Sour

© Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants

By Justine Sterling Posted November 05, 2015

The best way to make an Amaretto Sour could be by taking out the amaretto. 

You probably don't miss the Amaretto Sour. In fact, you probably haven't even noticed it's been gone. This nutty, tangy, sickly sweet cocktail, which currently lies in the graveyard of sugary drinks that ruled the 1970s and ’80s, is not high on our to-resurrect list. But with a powerful update, it's a fantastic drink for fall.

It's especially popular at Red Star Tavern, a cocktail bar in Portland, Oregon's Hotel Monaco. Its clientele is split between booze-savvy PDX-ers and out-of-towners who, apparently, really like Amaretto Sours. “I don’t know if they don’t know what they want, or are recalling drinks from their memories, but the orders start rolling at the end of the night,” says bartender Brandon Lockman. Though his repertoire includes after-dinner drinks drinks that are more sophisticated and modern, Lockman doesn't try to steer these people elsewhere. Instead, he mixes up a modified Amaretto Sour—one that doesn't use Amaretto at all.

In its classic form, an Amaretto Sour is a simple mix of amaretto (an almond-flavored liqueur) and sour mix (the neon yellow stuff you see in the grocery store). But it made a comeback when The Bar Book author and mixologist Jeffrey Morgenthaler created a recipe that stiffened the drink with whiskey and used egg white for frothy texture. Lockman moves further away from tradition by replacing Disaronno with homemade orgeat (recipe below). The resulting drink has almond-y sweetness, but not the cloying clash of low-quality ingredients. “It’s all the flavor without the garbage,” Lockman says. “It’s funny watching people’s eyes pop. When they drink it, it’s like they’re having a flashback and then there’s a look of surprise.” Below, the improved Amaretto Sour and how to make orgeat.

Amaretto Sour
Makes one drink

1 homemade orgeat (see below)
1 ounce high-proof whiskey
1 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup
1 egg white

Dry shake all of the ingredients without ice to froth up the egg white. Add ice, shake again, then double-strain the cocktail into an old-fashioned glass filled with ice.

Homemade Orgeat

3 cups skin-on almonds, toasted in a dry saucepan until golden brown
2 quarts sugar
2 quarts water
Peel from one orange
1/2 ounce orange flower water
Healthy pinch of salt

Bring all of the ingredients to a bare simmer, then remove from the heat and let sit for one hour on the stove. Pour the mix into an airtight container and let sit unrefrigerated for two days. Strain through a chinois into a bottle or jar and store in the fridge.

Ed note: This post has been updated to acknowledge Jeffrey Morgenthaler's modern Amaretto Sour recipe.

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