We’re back this week with another low-proof cocktail! This one’s based on a sweet liqueur, Italian Amaretto. Liqueurs can be a bit tricky to turn into cocktails by themselves, because their intense sweetness can turn the resulting drink into a cloying mess. But we cribbed a recipe from bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler that points towards a solution for this problem and opens up a world of low-proof possibilities. – Andrew
Illustration by Shauna Lynn for Oh So Beautiful Paper
The Amaretto Sour
1 1/2 oz Amaretto
1/2 oz Bourbon
1 oz Lemon Juice
1 tsp Demerara Syrup
1/2 Egg White
2 dashes Aromatic Bitters
Lightly whisk the egg white, then add it and all your other ingredients to an empty cocktail shaker. Give it a quick shake without ice to froth up the egg white (otherwise known as a dry shake). Then add ice to the shaker and shake again (the wet shake). Strain into a chilled rocks glass or tumbler and garnish with citrus peel or a brandied cherry (or both!).
Amaretto is an almond-flavored Italian liqueur (we used Luxardo Amaretto) made with the pits of stone fruit – almonds, of course, but also apricots and bitter herbs. A traditional Amaretto Sour consists of just the sweet liqueur and lemon juice and is wildly, overwhelmingly sweet. This version cuts and fortifies the liqueur with a dash of bourbon (we used Four Roses Small Batch), helping the drink to taste like a real cocktail and not candy, but without adding too much extra alcohol with just half an ounce of full-proof spirits.
I’m on the fence about the Demerara syrup, a simple syrup made from equal parts water and raw or Turbinado sugar, because the drink is already plenty sweet, but it does help balance the bitters I’ve added to the recipe. We went with Havana & Hide bitters by 1821 Bitters, a deeply masculine and savory bitters made by one of my new favorite cocktail ingredient companies. It’s a nice way to add a contrasting complexity to an otherwise straightforward Sour. The egg white is, of course, optional. But it adds a velvety texture and dense foam on top of the drink that are worth trying.
Many low-proof cocktails are based on aromatic fortified wines, like vermouth or sherry (or both, as in the Adonis cocktail we featured last fall, or on bitter Italian amari liqueurs, like Campari. But this recipe shows that it’s not too hard at all to start with a sweet liqueur and temper its sweetness with the right layers of flavor.
(Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram, where we’ve been posting our experiments before they make their way onto this column!)
Photo Credits: Nole Garey for Oh So Beautiful Paper