Credit: E Michael Wolf

Any bartender worth their salted rim knows that the key ingredient in every cocktail is a good story.

And perhaps no other cocktail – not the Cosmopolitan, nor the Martini – enjoys the reverent art historical credentials that the Disaronno Sour does, specifically the story behind the liqueur from which it takes its name.

Legend has it that at the height of the Renaissance in 1525, the famous Milanese fresco artist Bernardino Luini, whose work was deeply affected by his close relationship with Leonardo da Vinci, was commissioned to paint a series of frescoes depicting moments in the life of Christ and the Virgin Mary for the sanctuary of Santuario Madonna dei Miracoli in Saronno. 

The occasion called for a muse to portray the Madonna, and so Luini enlisted a local innkeeper for the job – no small feat considering the artist was charged in part with restoring the city to its former glory after it was damaged in the Italian Wars of the early 16th century. As a token of her gratitude, the innkeeper (who is described in various iterations of the story as being a combination of the artist’s fair-haired lover and a bereaved widow) is credited with gifting the artist with the first flask of fragrant, amber amaretto made of apricot kernels steeped in brandy.

The rest, as they say, is cocktail history.

Flash forward to the rediscovery of the recipe in the early 17th century, its commercial production in the Disaronno factory (still family-owned and operating in Saronno to this day) in the early 20th and its boom in international popularity towards the tail end of the 1960s and the pendulum of cocktail trends looks as though it has swung back in favour of Disaronno Sours – and not a moment too soon.

Its simplicity ensures a level of replicability that puts the cocktail in good stead with aspiring home mixologists, and its perfect balance of bitter and sweet makes for one of the most refreshing combinations in warmer weather.

With more unbearably hot days forecast for the coming weekend, consider the Disaronno Sour. It’s a damn sight easier than painting a fresco, and just as rewarding.

Produced in association with Disaronno

Motion: E Michael Wolf
Talent: Matteo Fabbris, Disaronno Brand Ambassador
Location: Maybe Frank