Cocktail Recipe: The Sage & Sour

You can’t beat the classics: the Beatles, Sean Connery’s 007, MK1 Ford Escorts. At some point in your life, cutting edge dulls, leading to you cancelling your Tidal subscription, crate-digging for Skip James, and rocking your Chuck Taylor’s. All in the name of authenticity. The allure of the classic hasn’t bypassed the mixologist either: as gastronomical wizardry and molecular fandangos take over the culinary scene, the classics are being rediscovered. Partly because vintage is cool, darling. And partly because alcohol is so much nicer these days. Take the recent surge in popularity of the humble sour – perhaps the most classic of all cocktail concoctions. Hailing from the mid-19th century, the sour’s time-honoured status is due in no small part to how easy the tipple is to make. Formed with whisky, gin, Pisco – whatever you fancy – a traditional sour contains liquor, lemon juice, sugar and an optional dash of egg white to round it off. Joseph Johnson, chief alchemist at Zaha Hadid-designed The Magazine restaurant at Serpentine Sackler Gallery, however, has more complex plans for this simple summer drink. “The addition of lavender bitters and fresh sage create a deeper, richer, grown-up version of the sour,” he says. “It’s a balance of savoury, sweet and sour flavours, with an earthy mouthfeel. Perfect for drinking al fresco.” Earthy mouthfeel indeed. And if that doesn’t sound grown-up enough for you, Johnson has made sure his version is as potent as can be, with the addition of not just one type of hard liquor, but two. “It’s a real thirst-quencher,” he says. “Subtle apple notes from the apple brandy add the perfect kick to a cocktail while not overpowering the elegant flavours that Hendricks gin provides.”

The Sage & Sour Cocktail

Sage & Sour (Serves 2)


90ml Hendricks gin 30ml apple brandy 30ml fresh lemon juice 30ml homemade vanilla syrup 4 sage leaves 6 dashes of lavender bitters 1 tbsp egg white

Vanilla Syrup

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise 225g demerara sugar 120ml water

To Serve

Chilled coupette glass Ice cubes 2 sage leaves, to garnish

Shopping List

“Hendricks botanicals include rose and cucumber which combine perfectly with the herbaceous peppery sage. We also like Williams gin’s elegant apple notes which also balance well with sage. “Ten-year-old Somerset Apple Brandy works well in this cocktail.”


  1. Start by making the vanilla syrup. Add the vanilla bean, sugar and water to a pan and place on a medium heat. Whisk occasionally until the sugar has dissolved and the syrup begun to thicken. Allow to cool completely, then pour into a sealable kilner jar and keep aside until needed.
  2. Add the gin, apple brandy, lemon juice, vanilla syrup, sage leaves, bitters and egg white and shake well until completely combined.
  3. Add ice to the shaker and shake again, vigorously.
  4. Using both hands, strain the drink through a Hawthorne strainer (held flush with the opening of the shaker) and a small fine sieve positioned over your glass.
  5. Garnish each glass with a sage leaf.

From Delicious To Stratospheric

“We like our vanilla syrup with a natural flavour, using just one vanilla bean. However, for a stronger vanilla flavour, add 1tsp vanilla extract. Also, if you’re looking for real decadence, top with some fizz.”

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