In “The Eloise Sidecar: A Version of the Classic Cocktail” (find the post here), I wrote that one of the first three “grownup” cocktails that I can remember enjoying was the Apricot Sour. Since the rising temperatures indicate that, in this part of Texas, we’ve already begun our steep descent into the Seventh Circle of Hell—forgive me, I meant to say, “another delightful summer”—I’ve been having a craving for refreshing cocktails, and for an Apricot Sour in particular. Lately, though, thanks to all the moving-in, unpacking and angst-ing, by the time the cocktail hour rolls around I’m usually too tired to go to the bother of all the measuring, squeezing and shaking. Especially the shaking, because it better be vigorous. So I’ve decided that the only way I’m going to get an Apricot Sour, clearly, is to force myself to make one for the blog. Anything for my readers! (I might even make two. Just to, you know . . . be sure that I get a good photograph.)
For decades I held a special fondness for Apricot Sours without ever attempting to mix one myself. Sours in general always seemed mysterious—something only skilled bartenders knew how to make. I’d had so many insipid, disappointing Apricot Sours made by paid “professionals” that I was certain sours must be tricky, and downright hopeless for the casual home bartender. Three or four years ago, I had the bright idea to buy a large glass jug of “sour mix” from the liquor store. This, I thought, must surely be what the pros used. I’ll never know, though, because I couldn’t bring myself to open it. It was a nasty poison-green, and the longer I looked at that jug in the liquor cabinet, the more I was reminded of scum-slicked drainage ditches. When we moved, I poured it out.
Now I’m inclined to think that’s what those bad Apricot Sours were made with. Because it turns out, of course, that such props aren’t necessary. In the summer of 2015, thanks to the tutoring of cocktail enthusiast/best-daughter-in-the-world Katie, I learned how to make sours of all sorts. First she gave me a recipe for a delicious Whiskey Sour. Then she revealed a secret formula known only to initiates—or probably to anyone who googles it—that changed forever my options for the cocktail hour: the basic ingredients and proportions for a sour. For one drink, you need:
• 3 oz. liquor
• 2 oz. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
• 1 oz. simple syrup (1:1)
• 1 Tbs. egg white
Where had this arcane knowledge been all my life??
Within 48 hours, I’d made my very first Apricot Sour with these ingredients:
(The squeeze bottle holds the simple syrup.)
At the first sip, I knew I’d struck gold. So I present to you:
THE APRICOT SOUR
In a cocktail shaker, put:
3 oz. apricot flavored brandy
2 oz. fresh-squeezed lemon juice (not bottled shelf-stable juice)
1 oz. (2 Tbs.) simple syrup (1:1)
1 T. egg white (to be on the safe side, pasteurized, from a carton)
Add ice to the shaker and shake vigorously for 30 seconds. You want that egg white nice and foamy.
Pour it, ice and all, into a glass. Add more ice. Makes 1.
• Some people garnish the drink with an orange slice, a maraschino cherry, or both. No, thank you.
• Some people serve the drink straight up. I like it with ice.
• There are two brands of apricot flavored brandy readily available in my area: Hiram Walker (pictured above) and De Kuyper. Hiram Walker, to me, is a little sweeter, with a more pronounced apricot taste. Either one makes a good drink.
• The flavor profile is easy to tweak by adding more or less simple syrup, and/or more or less lemon juice. And if you prefer a discreet white cap rather than a bountiful, foaming head, use a little less egg white.
• I like to serve it in a tumbler that’s taller than a rocks glass, but wider across the top (to accommodate the egg white) than a highball glass. And of course I left the perfect glass back at the farmhouse, so I used a goblet (which didn’t work too badly, I guess) for the photo.
• For some reason, this is my favorite cocktail to drink with spicy food. Cajun, Szechuan, Indian . . . It seems to tame the heat and complement exotic flavors simultaneously.
Sours don’t have to be complicated; they just have to be made with good ingredients and thoroughly shaken. Sours certainly are not a matter of throwing in disgusting-looking green concoctions made with substances best left unexamined. They’re just, at their easiest, a relaxed combination of good alcohol, fresh lemon juice and homemade simple syrup, with a snowy egg white head. This recipe consistently produces the best Apricot Sours I’ve ever had.
Although there was one terrific Apricot Sour I drank while spending a long-ago summer afternoon in a dark bar on the outskirts of Lake Charles, Louisiana . . .
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