The Cocktail Sour

A group of people having cocktails in Alcapulco, 1952. (Photo by Slim Aarons via Everyday I Show)

A jolly group listening to guitar serenades and drinking cocktails in Alcapulco, 1952. (Photo by Slim Aarons via Everyday I Show)

Sours are the taste of languid summer days: margaritas, daiquiris and pucker-y limed-up liquors. Lydia Reissmueller, who dreams up incredible cocktails and runs Tender Bar out of Portland, Oregon, gives us a few recipes to help you turn your favorite flavors into damn good sour cocktails.

The sour is a rich, timeless drink, dashing to the point that no one notices how arrogant it is, how plainly it brandishes its power of returning the drinker to sultry August nights, regardless of the actual time of year. For now, at least, summer is our happy tyrant, and the sour is her lush, her drunk-ish genius waiting to make us smile.

As cocktails go, sours are straightforward, punchy, uncomplicated. They’re some of the oldest traditional cocktails around. You can make a million variations, but the basics of a sour are: a base liquor, citrus juice, egg white and a sweetener. (If you’ve ever had a margarita or a whiskey sour then you already know that the egg white has become a pretty optional ingredient in recent decades.)

A group of people at a bar during Prohibition. (Image via The Lush Chef)

Pour it on thick: cocktail enthusiasts during Prohibition. (Image via The Lush Chef)

Hemingway took a shine to daiquiris — the rum version of the sour — both on and off the coast of Cuba. The frosty, citrus, aromatic drink goes hand-in-hand with sun and sea and is just like his prose: quick, clean and full of liquor. For a perfect cocktail, be sure to measure, but the beauty of these recipes is that you can change the flavors to what you want or what you have on hand. Scroll all the way down for links to two books that are packed with cocktail recipes.

Here’s Lydia’s recipe for a real daiquiri — not a jug of mixer in sight.

Strawberry Daiquiri
2 oz Ron Zacapa 23-year or the more aggressively flavored Smith & Cross
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
3/4 oz Demerara Syrup or simple syrup (see recipe below)
2 or 3 fresh, ripe strawberries
Muddle the strawberries together with the lime juice. Add remaining ingredients and shake with ice for about 15 seconds and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a strawberry slice or a mint leaf (clap the leaves in your hand first to release the fragrant oils).

No need to restrict yourself to strawberries — this is a good base recipe. For lavender daiquiris use lavender buds instead of strawberries…or substitute with any number of fruits you feel like drinking up. Go with what’s in season.

Ernest Hemingway enjoying a cocktail surrounded by cats. (Image via Mermaids of the Lake)

Ernest Hemingway surrounded by a drink, a beautiful woman and polydactyl cats, 1950s. (Image via Mermaids of the Lake)

Demerara Syrup
Mix 2 parts Demerara sugar (by volume) to 1 part boiling water and stir well until it’s dissolved completely. Let cool, and then store in the fridge for up to 2 months. Raw Demerara sugar has more nutrients and a richer flavor, but the daiquiri will still be good if you only have white sugar.

For a woodsy cocktail, go with the Bramble Sour. Made with gin:

Bramble Sour
2 oz Gin
3/4 oz lemon juice
3/4 oz blackberry honey syrup (recipe below)
1 egg white (optional for texture and a lovely dry finish — highly recommended)

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker, and shake without ice to emulsify the egg white. Add ice and shake for about 10 seconds, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Throw in a berry as a little surprise at the bottom of the glass.

Vintage Ronrico ad from 1965. (Photo via Vintage Ad Browser)

Sultry woman seduces with a drink, 1965. (Photo via Vintage Ad Browser)

Blackberry Honey Syrup*
1 part fresh blackberries (chopped fairly small)
1 part boiling water
1 part honey

It helps to muddle to berries a bit before combining them with the water and sweetener. Combine all ingredients in a pot and stir well until sweetener is fully dissolved. Strain well, using a strainer small enough to remove unpleasant looking particles. For true clarity, strain through a piece of porous cloth. Bottle, label with the date and keep in the fridge for up to 1 month.

*Use this a base recipe for sweet syrups by substituting other berries, fruits or herbs for the blackberries. Think your anise hyssop might taste better with maple syrup? No problem. The world is your oyster. The proportions stay the same, but substitute the sweetener with raw sugar, palm sugar, agave nectar, maple syrup.

A bartender shakes a cocktail. (Image via The Daily Green)

A bartender shakes it. The self-satisfied look on his face must mean there’s an egg white in that cocktail. (Image via The Daily Green)

FURTHER READING
- Published in 1900: Modern American Drinks by George J. Kappeler, Google Books
How to Mix Drinks, or: The Bon Vivant’s Companion by Jerry Thomas. Google Books.
- Lydia Reismueller’s cocktail catering website: Tender Bar

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