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Issue 116 - Bullet proof

Whisky Magazine Issue 116
December 2013


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The importance of strength when creating cocktails

I make the best Amaretto Sour in the world”, proclaims celebrated bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler, as I sit at his wonderful bar, Clyde Common, in Portland, Oregon. It's a bold statement and as an experienced bartender myself, of all the drinks I could choose or lay claim to making the ‘best' on planet earth, the Amaretto Sour would certainly not make it near the top of the list. Not even close.

The secret, Morgenthaler continues to espouse, is the addition of a little over proof Bourbon (he likes to use Booker's) as it gives the drink more character and let's be real here people, it also gives this maligned drink a whiff of much needed credibility. I'm not sure Fred Noe – the jovial face of Jim Beam (who make Booker's) – would agree.

But as someone who truly despises amaretto as a rule, I am pleasantly surprised, even shocked, at the sublime balance of Morgenthaler's version.

“One thing a lot of people don't realise is that there's a lot more to balancing cocktails than simply making sure the drink is sour or sweet enough”, he says. “Another important element is the strength of the drink, and just as a cocktail is unpleasant when it's too strong, a drink can also be out of balance if it's too weak. In order to bolster our Amaretto Sour, which is a traditionally weak drink to begin with, we use cask strength Bourbon to bring it up to a point where it is in balance.” I think about proof a lot when creating new cocktails and I certainly appreciate it when a ba...

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