Simple Amaretto Sour Cocktail

Simple Amaretto Sour Cocktail

The amaretto sour is a classic cocktail that came out of American bars during the 1970s. No one knows who invented it, but almost everyone agrees that this is a fantastic drink. Made with just a few ingredients, it's also easy to mix up, and there are several tasty variations to explore.

What Exactly Is Amaretto Liqueur?

The star of this cocktail is, of course, amaretto. The almond-flavored liqueur with Italian roots is used in many drink recipes, but it’s rarely the only distilled spirit in a cocktail like it is in an amaretto sour. Since it’s the lone liquor in this cocktail, this cocktail is best with top-shelf brands of amaretto. It’s also an excellent use for homemade amaretto.

The Key Ingredients in a Great Amaretto Sour Cocktail

Aside from amaretto liqueur, here's what you'll need to make the perfect amaretto sour cocktail:

Freshly squeezed lemon juice: The tart taste of lemon juice balances and accents amaretto’s sweet nuttiness. Freshly squeezed lemon juice is essential because the bottled varieties simply won’t make a great sour cocktail.

Simple syrup: This recipe calls for optional rich simple syrup—rich means it’s made with a 2:1 ratio of sugar to water rather than the traditional 1:1 ratio. You can play with the amounts of simple syrup to create a cocktail that has just the right amount of sweetness for you, but be careful not to overdo it. When using a sweeter amaretto, you might want to skip the simple syrup completely.

Maraschino cherries: Rather than commonly found bright red, artificially colored maraschino cherries use real maraschino cherries (e.g., Luxardo brand), which have a better flavor. Or try making spiced brandied cherries to garnish your cocktail.

Orange slices: Orange slices give the cocktail a pretty look and add another sweet-and-sour element to the drink.

How to Shake Up the Perfect Amaretto Sour

To find that delicate balance of sweet and sour that makes this drink special, measure the ingredients carefully using a jigger or shot glass. You may need to adjust the lemon juice or simple syrup as you switch brands of amaretto. After measuring, shake the cocktail over ice for at least 10 seconds, and then strain the drink into an old-fashioned glass.

“The Amaretto Sour is a cocktail I cannot imagine not dominating my young years of bartending. Before the notorious ‘Not Too Sweet’ callout, this cocktail was always in the top five requests and for good reason. It’s easy, tasty, and sweet. If you’re in the mood for something fun and lip-smacking, this recipe will make you smile.” —Sean Johnson

A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 2 ounces amaretto liqueur

  • 1 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice, from 1/2 medium lemon

  • 1 teaspoon rich simple syrup, optional and to taste

  • Maraschino cherries, for garnish

  • 1/2 orange slice, for garnish

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients gathered for an amaretto sour

    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios

  2. In a cocktail shaker, pour the amaretto, lemon juice, and simple syrup. Fill the shaker with ice.

    Amaretto sour ingredients mixed together in a glass with ice

    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios

  3. Shake vigorously for about 10 seconds.

    Amaretto sour cocktail shaken together

    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios

  4. Strain into an old-fashioned glass over fresh ice.

    Amaretto sour strained into an old-fashioned glass next to a strainer over a glass with ice

    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios

  5. Garnish with a few skewered maraschino cherries and an orange slice.

    Amaretto sour garnished with an orange slice and real maraschino cherries

    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios

Tasty Variations on the Simple Amaretto Sour Cocktail

Amaretto sour with egg white: Many sour cocktails are a little more enjoyable when you add egg white to the mix. It’s a simple way to amplify the drink and creates a frothy top that is simply luscious. Be sure to use only the freshest egg and separate the white from the yolk. To mix the egg white amaretto sour, add an egg white to the recipe. Dry shake the ingredients without ice, then fill the shaker with ice cubes and shake vigorously for at least 30 seconds before straining. (Warning: Consuming raw and lightly-cooked eggs poses a risk of food-borne illness.)

Amaretto sour with bourbon: Portland, Oregon bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s version is a favorite in bars and restaurants. It adds 3/4 ounce of cask-strength bourbon to the mix and uses 1 1/2 ounces of amaretto, one teaspoon of rich simple syrup, and 1/2 ounce of egg white.

Extra orangey amaretto sour: Switch to an orange-infused simple syrup to give this drink nice citrus notes and extra dimension.

Amaretto sour with sour mix and soda: One popular version of the amaretto sour uses sour mix and lemon-lime soda (quite often Sprite). Try this one with two ounces of amaretto and one ounce of sour mix; shake or stir with ice, then top the glass with soda. It’s best with homemade sour mix.

Nonalcoholic amaretto sour: The easiest way to make a virgin amaretto sour is to use a nonalcoholic amaretto. Zero-proof liqueurs are becoming more popular, and brands like Lyre’s produce very good replicas of the liqueur.

Virgin pineapple amaretto sour: Another intriguing nonalcoholic amaretto sour uses pineapple and amaretto syrup (a popular coffee sweetener). Try two ounces of pineapple juice and one ounce each of lemon juice and amaretto syrup for this mix. A few dashes of almond extract can replace the amaretto syrup if you use plain simple syrup.

How to Make a Big Batch of Amaretto Sours

The amaretto sour is best when shaken over ice, which mellows and marries the flavors and aerates the cocktail. If you want to fill a pitcher for a party, your best bet is to shake a few cocktails in batches (multiply the recipe for as many drinks as your shaker will hold) then strain them into the pitcher. Pour into ice-filled glasses.

You can stir a full pitcher, but you will need to do so vigorously for at least 30 seconds with a lot of ice. To make a six-serving pitcher, use 1 1/2 cups of amaretto, 3/4 cups of fresh lemon juice, and about 1/8 cup of simple syrup. Taste and adjust the lemon juice and syrup as needed.

How Strong Is an Amaretto Sour?

Though the alcohol content varies slightly, amaretto is, on average, a 17 percent ABV (34 proof) liqueur. That’s a pretty light base for a cocktail when compared to whiskey, vodka, and similar spirits. It also means that the amaretto sour is pleasantly light, weighing in around 9 percent ABV (18 proof) or a little lighter than a glass of wine. An amaretto sour with bourbon will be a bit stronger.


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