For those wishing to explore bitter cocktails, or to play with bitter ingredients, Aperol offers a great starting point. Only slightly bitter, Aperol remains a touch fruity with ingredients including orange and rhubarb that combine into a vibrant crimson color. With a lower ABV of 11%, it makes a great addition to cocktails without overwhelming them.
The uncommon pairing of Aperol, bourbon, and lemon juice creates a refreshing cocktail reminiscent of the classic sours. Described on drink menus as “eminently drinkable,” the Amber Road provides a nice cocktail option throughout the day while remaining sophisticated enough for parties.
The Maple Syrup
After making this drink a number of times, it became clear that maple syrup provides the key to uniting the disparate flavors combined in this recipe. High-quality maple syrup does just that, while cheaper mass-market products absolutely ruin the cocktail. As an experiment, we conducted blind taste tests between the two. All taste-testers immediately picked up the inferior product describing it as “artificial and chemically.” So pretty please, with sugar on top, do not cheap out on the maple syrup when making the Amber Road.
Another note on maple syrup. Due to its extreme viscosity, add the maple syrup first using your jigger and use the other ingredients to wash the balance left behind into the mixing tin.
Various mash bills in bourbon impact the drink’s taste. Our version uses Buffalo Trace Bourbon who’s deep amber color and aromas of caramel, molasses, and mint present nicely with the drink’s other ingredients. With a mellow finish, Buffalo Trace represents a great option for the potentially troublesome marriage between bourbon and Aperol.
Aperol’s sweetness provides balance to the drink, switching to a more bitter citrus apéritif like Campari necessitates the adjustment of maple syrup. Additionally, most recipes for the Amber Road call for topping the recipe with two to three ounces of club soda. After extensive research, we found most people preferred the version presented below with very little club soda–around one ounce. However, if you want to lower the drink’s overall ABV, simply add more club soda. If you wish to lower the ABV and sweeten up the Amber Road simultaneously, top it with Sprite or 7UP.
- Mixing tin
- Japanese jigger
- Bar tweezers
- Tall thin straw
- Collins glass
- 1 ½ oz Buffalo Trace Bourbon
- 1 oz Aperol
- ½ oz lemon juice
- ¼ oz maple syrup
- 1-2 dashes of Angostura Bitters
- soda water
- 1 lemon wheel
- mint sprigs
- King's ice cube
- Use bar tweezers to place King's ice cube into tall Collins glass.
- Add maple syrup (goes first because of viscosity), lemon juice, bitters, bourbon, and Aperol into a mixing tin.
- Top with ice and vigorously shake for ten seconds.
- Strain into Collins glass and top with soda water.
- Gently slap a mint sprig in your hands and rub the outside of the rim of the glass with the mint.
- Garnish with a lemon wheel, mint sprig, and tall thin straw.