Throwback Thursday: Apricot Sour, the Disco Drink

Alex Van Buren
Food Features Editor
January 9, 2014

Photo credit: Ebay

Happy National Apricot Day! We don’t know why the classic summer stone fruit has a day named for itself in the middle of frigid January, either, but we do know it has a starring role in one of our favorite retro cocktails, the apricot sour. We reached out to David Wondrich, author of cocktail history books Imbibe! and Punchto get the lowdown on the drink. 

In the 1970s, bartending was “was distinctly not chic,” Wondrich told us. “The culture found other intoxicants much more worthy—you were running around snorting cocaine all the time.” Thus, easy-to-make, easy-to-drink sweet liqueur-based drinks, or ”Disco Drinks,” as Wondrich called them, were born. With its simple mix of apricot liqueur (sometimes called “apricot brandy”) and lemon juice, the apricot sour was most definitely in the Disco Drink category. 

But popular use of apricot liqueur in drinks dates back to the ’40s, said Wondrich, as evidenced in David Embury’s 1948 classic The Fine Art of Mixing DrinksBack then, bartenders had a lighter touch with liqueur and used it simply as an accent for a gin- or vodka-based cocktail. By the ’70s, said Wondrich, “such niceties were lost,” and the American palate had shifted towards sweetness. 

Now that sour cocktails are trending again, we’ve been seeing apricot sours on bar menus more frequently. Has Wondrich had a good one recently?

"Never in my life!" he laughed. "They’re too sweet for me." And why are we seeing this concoction all over the place? "Seventies nostalgia!" he declares. Having sampled a well-made apricot sour ourselves, we’ll take it.

If you’re making it at home, always use fresh lemon juice, says Wondrich (as in this simple recipe), and seek out a French or German apricot liqueur, “because they’re the countries that specialize in it.”

Now excuse us while we locate our best polyester jumpsuits…

Apricot Sour

This recipe is a simplified version of one that appears on Food & Wine.

1 1/2 ounces apricot brandy
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1 ounce fresh lemon juice
1 large egg
3 dashes of orange bitters
1 brandied cherry

Put the brandy, vermouth, lemon juice, egg and bitters in a cocktail shaker and shake well for 10 seconds. Add ice and shake again. Strain into an ice-filled rocks glass. Garnish with the cherry.