Amaretto Sour + dry shaking.
A reader recently approached me and asked why I hadn’t written about any sweet cocktails. Errr, because I don’t like them? I’m not in this gig for the money, but solely to force my views on cocktails upon the drinking world. But your fans might like sweet cocktails quoth he. Hmmm. He has a point. Maybe I can square this circle by writing about the 70s sweet mess that was the Amaretto Sour (it wasn’t very sour) that was spectacularly fixed in 2012 by Jeffrey Morganthaler and is increasingly popular these days. Populist enough for ya? Excellent. First up a word about Jeffrey M. If I have a favourite startender it is perhaps he. Irreverent attitude, sense of humour, doesn’t take himself too seriously, deeeeeep understanding of how cocktails work. Yep, all my boxes ticked there. Jeff’s The Bar Book is, in my view, an essential read for all budding cocktailistas. I’ve even made the pilgrimage to his Portland (OR) bar and restaurant Clyde Common although unfortunately he wasn’t home at the time. OK, enough fawning – to the point!
Originally the Amaretto Sour was just a big measure of super-sweet amaretto* (duh), a little lemon juice and some sugar syrup (or worse still some sour mix instead of the last two). If you were lucky you might get a foamy topping or some fruit. Nasty business. While the modern cocktail movement simply throws such recipes into the dustbin of Dark Ages (c.1970 – 2000) cocktail history Morganthaler’s brain doesn’t really work that way and against all logic he saved the unsaveable. It’s a case of re-balancing the Amaretto sour to actually be a sour and giving it a bit more backbone (because amaretto is only about 28%). His trick was to add a little cask strength bourbon – the stronger the better. That’s going to depend what you can get your hands on. I used some Wild Turkey Rare Breed (58.4% ABV) and it was pretty damn fine but I think the minimum requirement here is Wild Turkey 101 (50.5%) which is affordable, excellent and widely available. If you’re in the US you’ll have more choices. If you only have weaker bourbon (40-46%) available you should up it to a full ounce. To fully resour the drink we’ll need a foamy head and we can use either egg white of aquafaba. And this is an excellent opportunity to talk about shaking technique for such endevours.
(Reverse?) Dry Shaking.
Until fairly recently the preferred method of maximising the creamy head on a sour cocktail was the “dry shake” in which the ingredients are shaken without ice to cause the egg whites to foam up and then ice is added and shaken again as normal. It works pretty well. More recently some bartenders have been raving about the “reverse dry shake”. WTF? Do we stand with our back to the guest or what? Nope. The reverse dry shake involves reversing the procedure. Shake your drink the usual way (ie. with ice) but then remove the ice (strain the liquid into a glass, chuck the ice, return booze to shaker) and shake again with all holy fury. This should result in an even more fabulous creamy head. I say “should” because the whole topic is clouded in controversy. Some bartenders swear by the reverse dry shake. Others by the original dry shake. Some forgo both and just shake hard with ice (often using larger cubes). Nobody said this was going to be easy. Me? For now I’m content with the basic dry shake as I think it has a silkier texture but I encourage you to try it both (or all three) ways and draw your own conclusions. In the interests of full disclosure the drink in the picture was reverse dry shaken.
Amaretto Sour (Morganthaler variation).
1.5oz / 45ml Amaretto (disaronno or another brand).
0.75oz / 22ml bourbon 50%+ABV (see text).
1oz / 30ml fresh lemon juice
0.5oz / 15ml egg white (or aquafaba in which case 0.75oz)
1 teaspoon simple syrup (I prefer it without so let’s call it optional).
Dry shake (or reverse dry shake) into chilled large coupé and garnish with lemon peel and a maraschino cherry**.
Toast Jeffrey Morganthaler for making sure we don’t take cocktails too seriously.
*Being an almond flavoured sweet liqueur of which Disaronno is by far the most well known although there are other brands.
**Jeffrey serves it on ice but I feel you can go either way.