What Does An Amaretto Sour Actually Taste Like?

A little bitter, subtly sweet, or mouth-puckeringly sour? With so many flavor elements mentioned in its very name, it can be hard to imagine what to expect from an amaretto sour if you've never had the pleasure of tasting the cocktail firsthand. 

Like most mixed drinks in the sour category, the tipple is composed of a base spirit that's balanced by an element of acidity (citrus) and another of sweetness (simple syrup). The wonderful thing about an amaretto sour, however, is that instead of featuring a high-alcohol liquor, it uses amaretto, a sweetly bitter liqueur made from almonds or apricot stones. With significantly lower alcohol by volume, the liqueur makes for relatively easy sipping while also eliminating the need for any sweetener. Yet, despite its extreme drinkability, the cocktail often garners divided opinions — but more on that later.

Ultimately, when it comes to deciding whether or not to bite the bullet and order an amaretto sour the next time you hit the bar, it's best to take a leap of faith. Just don't find yourself too surprised when you discover that an amaretto sour has a pretty unique and unusually complex flavor profile.

A disco drink, reborn

A cocktail that fell from grace only to make a resurgence once again, the amaretto sour is equally as full of history as it is flavor. Although there is some uncertainty about how exactly the drink was first created, there are a few theories. 

According to some, it's thought to have appeared in bars across the U.S. around the '70s, as Italian liqueurs were becoming more accessible and interesting to the masses. Amaretto could easily be worked into drinks as a sour as bartenders had sour mix on hand. However, what is unclear is whether a client or bartender first had the idea. 

In contrast, there's also the theory that the company producing amaretto (Disaronno) was the first to dream up the tipple, as one of the first recipes for the cocktail was written on bottle backs. Yet, given its sweetness for the Italian palate, its plausibility is often debated.

Regardless of how it came to be, it disappeared just as quickly as the amaretto sour appeared. Branded as a lazy, overly sweet, and hangover-inducing cocktail, the original version didn't have the same staying power as other tangy concoctions  — that is, until Portland bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler unveiled their rendition in the early 2010s. Working with freshly-squeezed citrus, a splash of bourbon, and a frothy egg white foam, this spin on the cocktail helped to repopularize the drink and led many to reevaluate the proper building blocks of an amaretto sour.

The making of an amaretto sour

At its purest, an amaretto sour consists of amaretto and a splash of citrus. However, recipes may vary. For instance, it's not uncommon for the drink to be made with amaretto and sour mix, crafted with equal parts simple syrup and citrus. We even like to forgo the sour mix for fresh juice and a spoonful of cherry juice in our recipe

Given that most sour beverages tend to be made with egg whites, many versions will also include an egg white to mellow acidity. As for other modifications, such as Morgenthaler's version, bourbon can be added for structure, while other recipes may even add a dash of Angostura bitters for increased complexity. Regardless of what exactly you put into your amaretto sour, starting with the highest quality ingredients is the key to making a drool-worthy tipple. This means ditching the bottle of pre-squeezed lemon juice or sour mix and instead starting from scratch. Likewise, opting for a fancier cherry garnish like a Luxardo doesn't hurt either. 

As for the process, start by adding all of the ingredients to a shaker. Whether you first give things a dry shake (without ice) or wet shake (with ice) is up to you, but doing both is a must. After vigorously shaking, strain the drink into a chilled, old-fashioned glass. Serve with a garnish of skewered cherry and citrus slices, and voilà, you've made a perfect amaretto sour. Now comes the taste test!

A nutty, yet sweetly tart tipple deserves the proper pairing

A well-made amaretto sour is hard to put into words. Like an elegantly spiked lemonade, the cocktail falls somewhere between saccharine and acidic. However, its distinctive nuttiness makes the cocktail all the more complex. Making a sugary first impression, thanks to the sweet marzipan flavor from the amaretto, this rendition of a sour definitely leans on the sweeter end of the spectrum. But that isn't to say the cocktail doesn't also display refreshing notes of citrus. While egg-free versions can taste especially sour, the inclusion of egg white renders the drink fabulously creamy and irresistible.

Enjoyed anywhere and at any time, an amaretto sour is great for late-night last calls at the bar or easy summer sipping in the sun. Offering the right amount of zing and zest, it makes for a stellar happy hour drink when served with a side of salty apps, just as much as when it's served as a palate-cleansing beverage at a decadent dinner party. The saccharine yet sharp nature of this sour even means it can be quite complementary with subtly sweet treats like cheesecake.

While we could continue to go on about the multidimensional cocktail, the best way for you to form an opinion is by giving the amaretto sour a sip for yourself. Let us be the first to say, "Cheers to new experiences!"