Bourbon sours are my fiancée’s favorite drink, so I’ve had plenty of practice making all their possible variations. The challenge with sours is they get too sweet in a hurry. Bourbon is a comparatively sweet whiskey, pre-made “sour” mix isn’t sour in the least, and a rich syrup can leave the drink feeling heavy.
It helps to employ some agent to dry out a sour: a foamy egg white or a float of red wine. A heavy hand with the bitters helps, too. Another strategy I learned recently at Popol Vuh in Northeast Minneapolis: spice works in much the same way.
“It hits all the notes,” says Jami Olson. “It’s savory, sweet, smoky, approachable. It’s just one of those drinks that everyone loves.” Named for chef Jose Alarcon’s home state in Mexico, the Morelos Sour is about the only thing at Popol Vuh that could tear me away from their stunning collection of agave spirits. The drink is juicy and refreshing, with just a tickle of heat on the finish.
Olson uses the Perfect Puree brand of chipotle sour mix, which is available online but expensive. We messed around with making our own; our favorite recipe is below. The sour mix should taste sweet (you’re adding more acid to the drink with the fresh lemon) and feature just a bit of spice at the end (start with only one small chipotle in the blender).
2 ounces Cabin Still bourbon
½ ounce Pierre Ferrand dry curaçao
1½ ounces chipotle sour mix (see below)
½ ounce lemon juice
Shake well with ice, strain into a lowball glass with one large clear ice cube (yes, clear; see this month’s Spirits Close-Up), garnish with an orange wedge. Optional: Sal de Gusano, rimmed on the glass or sprinkled on the orange.
Chipotle Sour Mix
8 ounces simple syrup (1:1)
5 ounces lime juice
3 ounces pineapple juice
2 ounces orange juice
1 chipotle pepper in adobo, seeded
Blend all ingredients well and strain through a fine mesh sieve. Mix should be slightly sweet with a mild heat. Add more peppers to taste.