From the rise of made-in-the-U.S.A. bitter liqueurs to the recent publication of Brad Thomas Parsons’ Amaro, America’s new obsession with bitters shows no signs of slowing. And in the subsequent rush that’s followed the Negroni, that gateway cocktail of the bitter world, drinks driven by bitter liqueurs are becoming standard issue at bars across the country—perhaps none easier to toss back than the bitter sour.
Some draw inspiration from the classics, such as the Pedro Suckerpunch from San Francisco’s 15 Romolo, essentially a super-charged Whiskey Sour that sees bourbon and lemon paired with PX sherry for sweetness and Amaro Nonino for that bitter hit. A dash of coffee liqueur as garnish ups the bitter ante once more. Meanwhile, the gin-based Pompelmo Sour hews closely to the traditional combination of spirit, sugar, citrus and egg white, with an added measure of Amaro Montenegro for what cocktail that drinks like a bitter milkshake.
The Bitter Swagger, on the other hand, inverts the Pisco Sour formula, using Amaro Nardini as the base spirit to accompany the usual suspects, with just a splash of pisco to round it out. And at Artusi, in amari-loving Seattle, one of the most popular drinks on the menu is also a testament to bitter liqueur’s rightful place in a shaken drink. The Averna Smash once again takes inspiration from the Whiskey Sour, combining a muddled cherry and orange wheel with Averna and bourbon, shaking it with walnut oil and topping it with bitter lemon soda for an entirely new take on the classic.
Finally, at New York’s Dante, head bartender Stacey Swenson turns to Italian red bitters, proving the family that includes the likes of Aperol and Campari works just as well when soured. Her Canelli Sour—which starts with tequila, grapefruit and lemon—takes the sweet and citrus hallmarks of summer classics like the Paloma and, with a dose of house-made vanilla syrup and Contratto Bitter, dresses them up for fall.