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  • Writer's pictureDane

Drinks with Dane | Week 3

From the South Pacific to South America this week’s cocktail is a globetrotter that will either trigger or tame your wanderlust.

Hello Friends, This week, we start our cocktail journey in the Philippines with calamansi - a small citrus fruit native to the islands. It’s believed to be of Chinese origin with kumquat parentage. Calamansi is distinct and tart (often compared to lime crossed with orange) which makes it perfect for this week’s featured cocktail category: Sours.


Sours: A Bitter Sweet Symphony

According to Difford’s Guide, the first record for a Sour appears in 1856 alongside that for a Fix (which I’ll save for another newsletter). It was part of the hand-written list of the 107 mixed drinks that were offered at Mart Ackermann’s Saloon in Toronto, Canada. The first known written recipe for a Sour appeared six years later in Jerry Thomas’ 1862 book The Bartender’s Guide which includes recipes for Sours featuring brandy, gin, and rum.

Whiskey sours don’t appear for eight more years and when they do pop up, they’re a few degrees further West and South in the Waukesha Plain Dealer, a Wisconsin Newspaper that mentions it with an anecdote about a Methodist ordering another whiskey sour in 1870. For the next 100 years, Sours, particularly whiskey sours, dominated the American cocktail scene.

A sour is simple. Three ingredients: base spirit, citrus, and sweetener, plus ice. In addition to chilling your beverage, the ice adds water for essential dilution. The dilution from the ice in a good cocktail is a carefully considered part of the recipe ratio. Ideally, you want to aim for 15-25% of the finished drink. Shaking, stirring, or directly adding water to your final product are all ways to create dilution. Too little dilution and your cocktail won’t be as flavorful and will be “tighter” or “stiffer”. Too much dilution will create weak or watered down flavors and won’t allow the cocktail’s aromas to fully open up as you’re drinking it. Like with most things, balance is key.

Now that we’ve visited Asia and North America, we’re headed to South America, specifically to Peru and Chile to draw inspiration from another famous Sour: the Pisco Sour. Generally agreed to have been invented in Peru in the early 1900’s with some argument over exact attribution date, a Pisco Sour is frothy from egg white, sweetened with fine sugar, dotted with bitters, and the spirit is Pisco - a brandy made from wine grapes in the winemaking regions of Peru and Chile. Pisco is light and very drinkable compared to other harsher spirits and the extra sweetness is a feature we’re taking advantage of with the tart calamansi pairing.


Cocktail of the Week: The Manila Sour

Trader Vic had a series of sours on his menus from the 1950s through the 1970s. Often sours were the only whiskey or brandy based drinks on the menu.

Vic's recipes generally had additional or alternative juices compared to more conventional sours, but they fit the tropical vibe.

While doing R&D for this cocktail, I'll admit that I was having some trouble balancing the calamansi flavor, however, using Vic's recipes as a template, I found that calamansi works best as an orange juice substitute. The Manila Sour is a tropical riff off of a traditional sour, but equally easy and delicious.


What you’ll need:

  • Pisco or an Immature Grape Brandy

  • Calamansi Juice Note: I used a brand called "Mansi" which came somewhat sweetened, so if you're using fresh you may have to adjust the sugar. You should be able to pick up calamansi juice at H-Mart or your local Asian market.

  • Lemons

  • Orgeat Note: Orgeat is a fresh almond syrup with orange flower water. Orgeat is heavily used in tiki cocktails.

  • Shaker Tins

  • Strainer

  • Citrus Juicer

  • Luxardo Cherries

Pro Tip Think of this week’s recipe as a technique or template more than a recipe. Substituting lime instead of lemon (or calamansi) gives you the classic daiquiri. Alternatively, you can add grapefruit juice and substitute Maraschino liqueur for simple syrup which gives you a Hemingway Daiquiri (Hemingway actually preferred his without sweetener).

Introducing egg whites into the mix brings out a fantastic foam texture, often preferred for the whiskey sours and Pisco sours. The ratios I’ve included promise something delicious and drinkable, so start there and then make your own magic.

The Manila Sour serves 1 2 oz Frisco Immature Brandy (sub Pisco)

2 ½ oz ‘Mansi’ or Preferred Brand of Calamansi Juice

3/4 oz Fresh Lemon Juice

½ oz Orgeat (suggested Liber and Co. or BG Reynolds)

Combine all ingredients into a cocktail shaker. Fill the shaker with ice and shake until the tin is good and frosty. Strain into a double old fashioned glass filled with a large ice cube or fresh ice. Garnish with a lemon twist and Luxardo cherry if you're feeling fancy. Salute!

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