My Very First Cocktail, Made Better: Amaretto Sour with Bourbon

(Image credit: Maureen Petrosky)

This past holiday my husband’s co-worker, Janet, gave us a bottle of homemade Amaretto. I was instantly transported back to the memory of my first cocktail. Up to that point in time, the most sophisticated order I called across the bar was for Yuengling…in a bottle. Feeling a little fancy and a bit more mature one night, I strode up to the bar and confidently said, “I’ll have an Amaretto Sour.”

(Image credit: Maureen Petrosky)

I’d seen my mom sipping this once on the deck of cruise ship. It looked delicious in its tall frosty glass with a bright red cherry bobbing on top. Upon delivery, I took a sip and just about gagged. It was syrupy sweet and too sour. I confess that I consumed way too many of these before learning the root of the problem: using a sour mix instead of fresh squeezed citrus and simple syrup makes drinks taste gross.

This week, with my bottle of homemade Amaretto in hand, I was convinced that my O.C. (original cocktail), the Amaretto Sour, could finally be just as delicious as it looked. And I was right.

As I brought a fresh batch of simple syrup to a simmer on the stovetop for this week’s 10-Minute Happy Hour, I asked my hubby what his first cocktail memory was. Without hesitation he said, “Martini, poorly made with equal parts gin and vermouth, served room temperature in my friend’s basement. I drank so many I threw up all night.” He, too, took years before returning to his O.C.

All week long, I’ve heard hilarious tales of woe of first cocktail experiences, from underage stolen sips all the way to very sophisticated choices. Were you a Cosmo girl of the 1990’s or was it “Jack and Coke” you ordered? Always been a whiskey man? I want to know:

What was your first cocktail memory and do you still sip your O.C.?

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)
11 Ratings

Amaretto Sour with Bourbon

Makes1 drink


  • 2 ounces


  • 3/4 ounce


  • 1 ounce

    fresh lemon juice

  • 1 ounce

    simple syrup

  • Lemon peel and maraschino cherry for garnish



  1. In a shaker filled with ice, add all of the ingredients and shake until chilled. Strain into an ice-filled glass. Top with a lemon peel and a cherry.

Recipe Notes

It wasn't hard for fellow cocktail writer Jeff Morgenthaler to convince me that bourbon will work wonders for this drink, especially seeing as I love bourbon. Or that Amaretto and sour mix does not a cocktail make, no matter how many books it's printed in. Jeff claims to make "the best Amaretto Sour in the world," and he's not lying. His is damn good. His "World's Best Amaretto Sour" has egg white and is finished off with brandied cherries. My version has no egg white, though by all means add if you prefer, and I stick with a maraschino cherry garnish, a nod to the traditional drink and that memory of my mom sipping hers. Here's the new and improved version of my O.C.

Maureen C. Petrosky writes what she knows, food, booze and parties. Author of The Wine Club, she appears regularly on The TODAY show to share her vices, and advice with the world. For more info check out or follow her on twitter @maureenpetrosky

(Images: Maureen Petrosky)