Amaretto Sour: Recipe, 9 Variations & 5 Alternatives
If you’re looking for a new cocktail to try that’s sure to hit the spot, why not try your hand at an Amaretto Sour? While you may not have heard of this cocktail before, we think it could just be your new favorite. Read on for the most exciting facts about this drink.
With cocktails, it’s important to know their origin, ingredients, and how to make them the right way if you want to really enjoy them. That’s why we’ll start out with some background about the Amaretto Sour.
Then, once you’ve got the basics down, you can start to play and make this cocktail your own. We’ve given you everything you need to make the best Amaretto Sour ever. Thirsty yet? Let’s dive in.
Introduction to Amaretto Sour
The Amaretto Sour is one of a family of cocktails: the Sours. A sour is any mixed drink that contains lemon or lime juice, as well as a liquor base and a sweetener.
Many sours, including the Amaretto Sour, also contain egg white. The Amaretto Sour isn’t the most common cocktail, but it’s still wildly popular due to its tart, complex taste, and easy drinkability.
What Amaretto Sour Is
So what is the Amaretto Sour all about anyway? In essence, it’s a bourbon-based cocktail that highlights the almond-like flavors of Amaretto liqueur as well as being tart and sweet. It’s sour, complexly flavored, and relatively strong as far as cocktails go. Let’s learn more about this scrumptious drink.
Brief History / Origin
Amaretto itself is a sweet bitter made from apricot kernels, bitter almonds, peach stones, or almonds, that has a fruity and nutty taste and is roughly 25 percent ABV. It originated in Saronno, Italy, likely sometime in the early 1500s.
Legend has it that a famous painter traveled to Saronno to paint one of the churches there, and selected a young widow to be his model for the Virgin Mary.
She was very flattered and wished to give him a gift to show her gratitude, but she was struggling and had no money. So, she steeped apricot kernels in brandy for the painter, inadvertently inventing Amaretto.
While the liqueur was very popular in Italy for centuries, it struggled elsewhere. In the 1970s, the famous Amaretto distiller Disaronno invented the Amaretto Sour, banking on the popularity of other sours to drive sales.
It worked, and Amaretto became a popular spirit in the rest of Europe, the US, and all around the world.
Unfortunately, the rise of convenient sour mix (as opposed to fresh lemon or lime juice and sugar) drove down the popularity of the Amaretto Sour in the 1990s as it made the cocktail either overly sweet or unable to be made with the premix.
Luckily, renewed interest in classic cocktails in recent years has revived the Amaretto Sour to its former glory.
All you need to make the perfect Amaretto Sour is one and a half ounces of Amaretto, three-quarters of an ounce of bourbon whiskey, one ounce of lemon juice, one teaspoon of simple syrup, and a half ounce of egg white.
The Amaretto Sour is also traditionally garnished with a twist of lemon peel, or brandied cherries on a toothpick. It’s important to use high-quality, cask-proof bourbon, a good brand of Amaretto, and freshly squeezed lemon juice for the best-tasting cocktail.
If you don’t like your drinks that sweet, feel free to leave out the simple syrup.
Adding egg whites to cocktails gives them viscous thickness and a nicer mouthfeel, as well as a neat head of creamy, white foam, especially on shaken cocktails.
The health risk from raw egg whites is minimal, but it is safe to use pasteurized eggs that are well within their use-by date. Also, ensure that you and your guests do not have specific sensitivities that would make consuming raw eggs more dangerous.
For instance, while you might be tempted to enjoy a mocktail when pregnant, it’s best to leave out the egg whites as well as the booze.
Best Amaretto Brands for Amaretto Sour
Amaretto is the key ingredient in the Amaretto Sour. As such, it’s important to use a reliable brand of Amaretto. Here are our top picks:
- Disaronno: Since Disaronno invented the Amaretto Sour, they’ve cemented their place at number one on our list. It’s the top Amaretto brand in the world, as well as one of the oldest, dating back to 1525. If you’re looking for authenticity, Disaronno is your best bet.
- Luxardo Amaretto: This Amaretto has distinct vanilla notes and a slight dryness that sets it apart from other brands on the market. As well as being delicious in Amaretto Sours, Luxardo Amaretto goes especially well in desserts or even poured straight over ice cream.
- Lazzaroni Amaretto: This old, family-focused Amaretto brand has been an Italian staple since 1851. This liqueur gets its unique flavor from an infusion of Amaretti del Chiostro di Saronno cookies, a classic almond treat.
- Gozio Amaretto: Unlike many Amarettos, Gozio actually uses almonds to achieve its almond-like flavor. In fact, it uses the best bitter almonds from four different continents to ensure a complex, rich, and smooth palate with a spicy and warm finish.
- Di Amore Amaretto: This affordable Amaretto has a deep almond flavor with notes of crushed, dried apricots. As well as being the perfect base for Amaretto Sours, it goes really well in hot drinks to warm you to your core.
Recipe – How to Make a Amaretto Sour
So, how do you make the perfect Amaretto Sour once you’ve gotten your ingredients down? It’s pretty simple, and the only specialized equipment required is a cocktail shaker. However, you can DIY it if you don’t have your own:
- Dry Shake: Combine your amaretto, bourbon, lemon juice, simple syrup, and egg whites into an empty cocktail shaker, and shake until combined and foamy (roughly fifteen seconds.)
- Shake Again: Then add in ice, and shake again until chilled, generally about seven seconds
- Pour: Strain your cocktail into a chilled rocks glass prefilled with fresh ice. Let the drink settle, and the head separate. You may need to scrape excess foam off of the strainer
- Garnish: Once the drink is settled, garnish by placing a lemon twist gently on top, and the brandied cherry toothpick with each side of the pick resting on the side of the glass, so that it doesn’t sink down
- Serve: It’s time to enjoy your drinks. Make sure your guests have a napkin or plate to dispose of their used toothpicks, or a small glass if you’re using sustainable metal skewers instead.
Time & Occasions for Drinking an Amaretto Sour
While there’s no set time to enjoy an Amaretto Sour, Amaretto itself is generally served as a dessert drink. Therefore, why not enjoy an Amaretto Sour with dessert, or at least after dinner?
This sweet, tart, and refreshing drink is also a perfect nightcap, for an afternoon treat with company, or as a great option for a night out.
When choosing what to pair with your Amaretto Sour, it’s important to remember the primary flavor components: almondy, floral sweetness from the Amaretto, rich woody warmth from the bourbon, and tart freshness from the lemon juice.
This wide variety of flavors makes this cocktail pretty versatile – just try and align with one of these main flavors.
For example, almond pastries, rich creamy desserts, and soft, gooey cheese really complement Amaretto in all of its forms.
However, you can also lean into the tart side and serve your sour with lemon-based desserts, or food that is known to pair well with citrus such as seafood (and even lighter options like chips and salsa).
Finally, the bourbon allows you to lean into the indulgent side of this cocktail, and you can get away with serving it alongside steak, burgers and other hearty meat options.
Best Glass to Serve an Amaretto Sour
The Amaretto Sour is traditionally served in a rocks glass – also known as an old-fashioned glass, whiskey glass, or lowball glass.
These glass typically have a thick, weighty bottom, originally designed to keep the glass steady while muddling ingredients.
However, in the case of the Amaretto sour, the glass serves to prevent your ice from melting too fast and diluting your drink, as well as providing you with room to garnish and enjoy the drink’s aroma.
Variations of Amaretto Sour
If you’re looking to tweak your Amaretto Sour recipe, you’ll be spoilt for choice. From Strong Sours to Black Cherry Sours, there is plenty to choose from. Here are some variations we think you’ll enjoy:
If you’re wanting to enjoy the flavors of an Amaretto Sour, but don’t want the booze, you can achieve a delicious mocktail with a few simple substitutions.
Simply combine three ounces of pineapple juice with one and a half ounces of lemon juice, half an ounce of egg white, and half an ounce of almond syrup (or simple syrup with a few drops of almond extract.) Then, dry shake, shake with ice, garnish, and serve.
If you find your mixture isn’t getting foamy enough, you can always quickly blend it to get the frothiness you desire.
If you just want a drink that’s a little lighter but still has alcohol content in it, you can simply substitute your bourbon for more Amaretto or simply leave the bourbon out.
The drink will taste slightly less sharp and warm, with more almond flavors and viscosity from the liqueur. Make sure to leave out the simple syrup if you try out this variation unless you like your drinks quite sweet.
If you’re looking for a drink with more kick rather than less, drop down your Amaretto by half an ounce and make up the difference with bourbon.
You may also want to increase the amount of simple syrup you use by a dash or two to account for the lost sweetness of the liqueur. Remember to always drink responsibly.
Orange Amaretto Sour
Wanting to switch up the sweetness? Turn your Amaretto Sour into an orange and almond delight by adding in some triple sec or Cointreau, and a little freshly squeezed orange juice.
Garnish with orange peel or dehydrated orange wedge. You can also make this variation with blood orange for a beautiful, deep red cocktail.
Lime Amaretto Sour
If you’re looking for a subtle switch in your sour, a quick substitution is to just switch your lemon juice for lime juice. Make sure to always use freshly squeezed for maximum flavor.
If you want to lean into the Southern or tropical vibes, you can also substitute your bourbon for an equal amount of rum in this variation.
Apple Cider Amaretto Sour
If you’re looking for a cozy, fall-themed version of this drink that’s also a little lighter, try out this variation. To make it, put three ounces of Amaretto, an ounce and a half of lemon juice, and an ounce and a half of apple cider in a cocktail shaker with ice, shake, strain, and serve with an apple slice garnish.
Alternatively, if it’s chilly out, a shot of Amaretto also goes really well into hot apple cider, garnished with a cinnamon stick and/or some whipped cream.
Black Cherry Sour
If you’re looking for a more dark and fruity flavor, try adding some black cherry juice to your Amaretto Sour. You can also use them to garnish. The resulting drink is a little sweeter and a lot more intricate than a standard sour – plus it is gorgeous to look at.
Extra Sour Sour
If you prefer your cocktails with a pucker, lean into the sour potential of this drink. Leave out the simple syrup, and substitute some of the Ameretto for more lemon juice or a sour citrus liqueur. This drink is the ultimate sour and refreshing sip.
Amaretto Sour Jello Shots
Do you want to convert this classic cocktail to a jiggly shot? You can easily make jello shots that are reminiscent of an Amaretto Sour.
To make them, just prepare lime or lemon jello according to packet instructions, let cool slightly, and add in a quarter cup of Amaretto and a tablespoon of lemon juice (per three-ounce box of jello used).
Mix thoroughly, then pour into shot glasses and let set in the fridge, garnishing if you like.
Similar Cocktails You Will Enjoy
Looking for more like the Amaretto sour? Whiskey Sours, Lemon Drop Martinis, and Mai Tais are just a few that are similar in taste. These cocktails are sure to hit the spot.
The whisky sour is a classic sour, and a great choice if you want an Amaretto Sour that tastes, well, less like Amaretto.
To make a whiskey sour, you combine rye whiskey, egg white, Gomme syrup (a thickened simple syrup that’s a cocktail staple), and lemon juice, shake, and serve on the rocks.
If you prefer bourbon to other whiskeys, you can make a simple sour using only bourbon as well. The bourbon sour tends to be a little sweeter and softer than whisky sours, though they are of course quite similar. Try using an orange wedge as a garnish on these drinks.
Lemon Drop Martini
If you loved the tartness of the Amaretto sour, but are looking for something with a cleaner and fresher taste, the lemon drop martini is our go-to sour cocktail that’s not actually a sour.
It’s easy to make as well, simply combine vodka citron, triple sec, and lemon juice, then serve straight up in a cocktail glass. This drink is often served with a salt or sugar rim and a maraschino cherry.
Another simple, classic, tart cocktail is the Tom Collins. To make it, you mix gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup in a tall glass (preferably a Tom Collins glass) with ice, then top to the brim with soda water. This drink is super fizzy, refreshing, and delicious.
Looking for something a little more exotic? The Mai Tai is a well-known “Tiki” themed drink that has the same complex sweet and sour notes as the Amaretto Sour.
To make a Mai Tai, you combine Jamaican rum, Martinique molasses rum, orange curaçao, orgeat syrup, lime juice, and simple syrup into a cocktail shaker, shake, and serve over ice in a highball glass.
This intricate concoction is especially similar to the Amaretto Sour due to the almond notes from the orgeat syrup, as well as the citrus and dark spirits.