Aperol’s bittersweet citrus flavors shine in this easy Gin Aperol Sour. While some build this cocktail without the gin, I find the addition of a floral gin adds to the complexity and enjoyment of the cocktail. To balance the cocktail, I added both grapefruit and lavender bitters. While you can make this cocktail without egg white or aquafaba the bed of foam makes for a beautiful presentation of this easy drink.
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What is an Aperol Sour (and What’s Aperol)?
Like any sour, an Aperol sour consists of spirit, sour, and sweet. But for this cocktail, we use Aperol, a Italian red bitter less aggressive than Campari as the main base. Aperol is an orange-red bitter Italian apertif with flavors from oranges, rhubarb, cinchona and gentian. It’s a type of fortified wine with secret ingredients they won’t fully divulge, but it’s popular in summer drinks, especially the Aperol Spritz, topped with soda and prosecco.
I wanted more than just Aperol as the base, though, at 11% alcohol by volume. Aperol generally tastes citrusy and bitter, but not harsh. As a bittersweet liqueur similar to amarii its major notes to me are orange citrus, woody bitterness and a touch of sweet vanilla.
Because of the bright citrus notes in the Aperol, rather than adding vodka or whiskey, I wanted to play with the often floral and herbal taste of gin instead. Gin is often infused with both floral and citrus flavors, either through infusion or with a botanical basket placed atop the column still, it worked well, but I still wanted to increase the floral notes.
While the gin I used, Castle and Key’s Restoration gin, (a rye based distillate infused at the distillery) had some chamomile and rosemary in it, I wanted a bright floral so I added Scrappy’s lavender bitters to the drink. I also decided to add their grapefruit bitters as well. I chose wisely.
How to Make the Cocktail
There are two ways to make a delectable head of foam on the top of a sourn cocktail. The first is a dry shake/reverse shake where you put your cocktail ingredients in a shaker, add one or two small ice cubes and shake vigorously. Next you fill the shaker with ice and shake again for 10-12 seconds to chill the cocktail and double strain into your cocktail glass.
Alternatively, you can use my “cheat” method with a hand-held electric latte whisk. To do that, simply put the recipe ingredients in the cocktail shaker, shake until well chilled, 10-12 seconds, then double strain into another shaker and use the handheld whisk on it for about 20-30 seconds. Then pour into your chilled cocktail glass.
If you want more on the history of the whiskey sour, head over to my article here. While I prefer the whiskey sour in general, there are days when a gin sour is the only thing I want to sip on. Part of it is the beautiful orange-red color, but most of it is sitting down with a smooth, citrusy, slightly bitter sour.
What to Do if You don’t have Aperol
While Aperol is available worldwide (with the ubiquitous Aperol Spritz cocktail) if you’re not a fan of Italian cocktails and spirits, you might not have any at home. The best substitution would be Campari.
Campari’s bitter bite and higher alcohol content will affect the balance, but you can easily fix that by reducing the amount of Campari you use to 1 oz. You’ll probably need to reduce the bitters as well, especially the grapefruit bitters since Campari is much more bitter than Aperol.
How to Make this a Vegan Sour
While egg white foam makes this cocktail silky smooth and delectable, you can absolutely use a vegan-friendly method to get that gorgeous foam and softened flavor. The easiest substitution is to use aquafaba instead of egg white. Aquafaba sounds fancy, but it’s simply the liquid drained from a can of chickpeas (or from cooking chickpeas if you make your own). It’s nearly flavorless and contains the same protein structures that allow egg whites to foam up and sit atop of lovely sour.
If you’d prefer to step away from using aquafaba, try some of the commercially available foaming agents like Fee Brother’s Fee Foam or Ms Better’s Bitters Miraculous Foamer (available in Canada and UK).
Other Cocktails You Might Enjoy
- Rhubarb Aperol Spritz
- Bitter Bourbon Spritz
- Uncle Nearest Cinnamon Sour
- Mandarin Orange Fig Sour
- Perfect Fall Pear Sour
- New York Sour
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Recommended Bar Tools
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You probably already have these, but you may need them, too:
- 1.5 oz Aperol
- 1 oz gin
- 1 oz lemon juice
- 3/4 oz simple syrup
- 2 dashes Scrappy’s grapefruit bitters optional
- 1 dash Scrappy’s lavender bitters optional
- 1 egg white optional, but it makes it pretty
- Garnish: dehydrated orange chip
- Combine Aperol, gin, lemon juice, simple syrup, bitters and egg white in a cocktail shaker and add two cubes of ice. Shake for 30 seconds. Fill with ice and shake for 10-12 more seconds. Double strain into a chilled coupe and garnish with dehydrated orange chip. For an easy hack to better foam see the article above.