A better Amaretto Sour

I’m pretty sure I was introduced to the amaretto sour in college by my roommate’s girlfriend. I liked it—because I like amaretto—but I had the vague notion that it was kind of a simple, overly-sweet drink even back then, and they mostly fell off my radar. After I got introduced to craft cocktails in the 2000s, sours didn’t exactly come roaring back. Sour mix is probably responsible for more meh cocktails than anything else behind the bar at your favorite chain restaurant. It’s Country Time lemonade as a syrup. And liqueurs are great with dessert, but not so great as cocktail foundations.

But nothing demands the Amaretto Sour must suck. You just need to make it stronger and less sweet, and dump the sour mix. My recipe is mostly Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s without the egg white, because I am not a professional bartender and I do not keep egg whites around for cocktails.

Amaretto Sour

1½ oz. amaretto
¾ oz. high proof bourbon
1 oz. lemon juice
½ oz. simple syrup

Shake up with ice, then strain into an old-fashioned glass with fresh ice. Garnish with a cherry.

I use Baker’s bourbon (107 proof) and Knight Gabriello amaretto, which I think has a better flavor than DiSaronno and is a couple bucks less. I’ve upped the simple syrup a little because I’m not using “rich” (2:1 sugar:water) syrup, but that’s an “adjust to taste” thing.

I also remember, back in college and just after, having a few Midori sours. I suspect we can apply the same principle, with a different base spirit—Navy strength gin, perhaps?—but I haven’t tried. Yet.

Two Painkillers

The Painkiller is a semi-classic tiki drink. I say semi- because one glance will tell you it’s a pretty close relative of the Piña Colada. With all respect to Rupert Holmes of “Escape” fame, the Piña Colada is kind of loathed by tiki aficionados. (From what I gather, it’s loathed by Holmes, too, who sadly quipped, “No matter what else I do, my tombstone will be a giant pineapple.”) But for some reason, the tiki gods have smiled on the Painkiller.

So, curiously, have the trademark lawyers: Pusser’s, a sort of funky “British navy style” rum from the Virgin Islands, has trademarked Painkiller and insists that it must be made with their rum. (Never mind that the original recipe from the Soggy Dollar Bar actually predates Pusser’s.) Here’s their recipe:


1 oz. coconut cream
1 oz. orange juice
4 oz. pineapple juice
2–4 oz. Pusser’s rum

Shake with crushed ice and pour unstrained into a sufficiently large glass. Garnish with grated nutmeg and a cinnamon stick.

So: stop pretending it isn’t a piña colada with orange juice. A relatively funky, dry navy rum brings a different flavor profile to the party than low-end Bacardi, but this is not a “spirit-forward” drink. (Unless you double the rum and make a “Painkiller 4,” which is an idea of dubious wisdom.) Also, despite Pusser’s attempted rewrite of pop culture history here, it wasn’t used in the original recipe, which was—as far as I’ve been able to tell—a mix of dark rums from Barbados and Jamaica.

As it turns out, though, screwing with the recipe is harder than it looks. I wanted to cut back on the pineapple juice to reduce the inherent Colada-ness, but cutting back on the sweetness too much took it too far from its roots. After a few attempts, I decided the simplest route was the best: slice the pineapple juice content in half, leaving the coconut cream and orange juice at their original levels. This makes the drink more like a refined cousin of its orange-free relative.

Also, why not get back to the original rum mix? It’d be more authentic, blending rums is fun, and screw Pusser’s trademark. So. In my version, I’ve gone with R. L. Seale’s 10 Year for the Barbados. For the Jamaican, I chose Smith & Cross: like Pusser’s, it’s “navy style,” meaning it’s a bit funky. (It’s also a rather formidable 57% ABV; the Seale’s is a respectable 43%. I’m just saying, do not do a “Painkiller 4” version of mine unless you want to make friends with the floor.) At my local Total Wine & More, the Seale’s was $24 and the Smith & Cross was $27; if you’d like a cheaper pairing, go with Mount Gay Eclipse and Appleton Estate Signature Blend.

Don’t skimp on the juices—get the freshest you can get. This is good advice for all drinks. I used Coco Lopez for the coconut cream, which seems to be the one most tiki bars use; I don’t know how much of a difference other brands make, but don’t use coconut milk. They’re not the same thing.

Coyote Painkiller

1 oz. coconut cream
1 oz. fresh orange juice
2 oz. pineapple juice (not from concentrate)
1 oz. R. L. Seale’s 10 Year rum
1 oz. Smith & Cross rum

Shake with cracked ice and pour unstrained into a double Old Fashioned glass. Add more ice if necessary, stir, and garnish with grated nutmeg and cinnamon.