An apricot sour is one of a number of classic sour cocktails whose base spirit is apricot brandy. Some type of ingredient is added to the drink to make it “sour,” usually lemon or lime juice, as well as a sweetener like superfine sugar or simple syrup. It’s generally shaken with ice and then strained into a sour glass or a cocktail glass. The conventional garnish for an apricot sour is a half-slice of orange and a maraschino cherry on a toothpick or cocktail skewer.
Sours are a family of pre-dinner drinks that stimulate the salivary glands. They’re intended to whet the appetite, not dull it, and thus shouldn’t be too sweet or syrupy. A sour drink generally contains about eight parts of the base spirit, such as whiskey, gin or apricot brandy, two parts sour ingredient and one part sweetener.
Written recipes, especially for cocktails, aren’t hard-and-fast rules, though. While taverns and restaurants generally require their bartenders to follow basic recipes when preparing drinks, those entertaining at home shouldn’t feel bound by the arbitrary dictates of printed recipes. Instead, they should prepare their sours — and any other cocktails — according to their own tastes and preferences.
In many commercial establishments, instead of lemon juice or lime juice, bartenders will use sour mix, a combination of both juices and simple syrup. Others use lemonade or limeade as their souring and sweetening agent. Some bartenders will mix a little egg white into their sour mix to produce a heavier froth on their sours; others despise this approach. Whatever souring method is preferred, most good bartenders will see to it that gallons of the mixture are prepared and available for use.
The most famous sour is probably the margarita, which is generally more well-known as a party drink than as a pre-dinner cocktail. The whiskey sour and the gin sour are also very well-known. A side-car is a related drink that mixes cognac with lemon juice as a souring agent, but adds a liqueur such as Countreau or Grand Marnier as the sweetening agent.
Purists might argue that the apricot sour stretches the boundaries of what constitutes a sour. This is because brandy, while technically a distilled spirit, is distilled from wine, which itself is made of fermented fruits. Traditional distilled spirits such as whiskey and gin, on the other hand, are distilled from fermented seeds such as wheat or juniper. The average diner who has a cocktail or two before dinner, though, and has come to enjoy the apricot sour, isn’t likely to care much about such intellectual examinations of the pre-dinner cocktail.