Continental Sour Cocktail on table

Continental Sour - Delicious twist on a Whiskey Sour

By Timo Torner / Last updated on December 18, 2022

First published on December 22, 2017 

When looking for a Continental Sour recipe, you rarely find detailed information. Even worse, what you can find is often even inaccurate. So let us clear some things up about our favorite twist on a Whiskey Sour.

First and foremost, the Continental Sour is not a New York Sour. You can find this info on many websites, but it's simply incorrect. 

The difference between the two cocktails is that one asks for port wine, the other for dry red wine. And if you're familiar with port wine, you will know that they taste significantly different.

The cause for this confusion is that both cocktails originate from the same drink, which was initially also called Continental Sour.

Ingredients of a Continental Sour

The Continental Sour is a gorgeous composition of:  

  • Whiskey 
  • Fresh lemon juice
  • Port wine
  • Simple syrup 
  • Egg white

Rye or Bourbon Whiskey in a Continental Sour?

Before prohibition, Rye Whiskey was the liquor of choice when creating cocktails. After that, Bourbon Whiskey became more popular and a synonym for American Whiskey. 

So the 19th-century version of a Continental Sour (remember, this refers to the early version with any sort of red wine) was based on Rye Whiskey. That still works quite well with the red wine in a New York Sour.

Today, a Continental Sour is made with Bourbon. The sweet vanilla aroma works exceptionally well with port wine. 

Continental Sour cocktail in coupe glass

Consequently, because this base spirit is somewhat sweet and the float is too, you need to balance this out by using less syrup or more acid. 

Also, as port wine is relatively heavy, it hides the nuances of the Whiskey used in the cocktail. So don't waste your most expensive Bourbon; -A decent mixing-Bourbon like Bulleit does the trick. 

The right Port wine

Sandeman Tawny port

When choosing the ideal port for a Continental Sour, it usually comes down to Ruby or Tawny, and I clearly prefer Tawny port. The sweet notes of caramel and nuts pair much better with Bourbon than the berry-forward flavors in Ruby port.

Sandeman Tawny Port works well and is also quite affordable. Try Sandeman Tawny 20 years or Graham's Tawny Reserve Port if you want a more complex and better-balanced option. 

Egg whites in the recipe

You can create your Continental Sour with egg white and without. It is not even a question of flavor but of texture. I am aware, some people are reluctant to use raw eggs as a cocktail ingredient. But I encourage you to at least try it. 

If you skip the egg white, you'll miss out on this beautiful creamy, frothy texture on top of this fantastic cocktail. It's part of the drink and elevates it from good to outstanding.

If you can't or don't want to add egg whites to the drink, there's a vegan alternative called Aquafaba. It's not my first choice for this cocktail, but, in general, aquafaba is an excellent substitute and creates a nice foamy top.

How to make the port wine float?

To get this pretty float, you first have to mix your drink without the port wine. For this, add Whiskey, lemon juice, syrup, and egg white to your shaker. First, shake without ice (dry shake), then add ice and shake again.

When executed well, the port wine float will create a deep red layer between the foamy egg white top and the golden bottom. But as port is significantly heavier than regular red wine, it's a lot harder to perform a nice-looking float.

Bartender preparing Continental Sour with port wine float and pressed orange zest on bar counter

Once you have strained the drink into your glass, grab a bar spoon. Measure the 0.5 oz with your jigger and pour them carefully over the back of your spoon into your drink.

Hold your spoon close to the foamy top of your Continental Sour. Like that, the port can pass through the egg white without destroying its texture.

Origin of the cocktail

In the 19th century, the Continental Sour was created by adding any red-colored wine into a Whiskey Sour. There was no distinction between red wine and port wine. Everything was all called claret, a traditional term for Bordeaux.

As the drink became more popular, the composition of the recipe also improved, and the name changed. The New York Sour, made by floating dry red wine onto a Whiskey Sour, had been born. 

In return, the Continental Sour vanished. At least until a bar in Berlin brought it back to life. The Stagger Lee Bar, to be precise. 

They made it a delicious Continental cocktail by adding port wine instead of dry red wine and creating the Continental Sour. But that's not the only difference to a NY Sour, which you can see in the recipe.

Continental Sour Cocktail with cherry garnish

Continental Sour

Bourbon-based twist on whiskey sour.
Prep Time: 2 minutes
Cook Time: 3 minutes
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: American
Keyword: bourbon, whiskey
Servings: 1
Calories: 268kcal
Cost: $2.45

Ingredients

  • 2 oz Bourbon
  • 1 oz Lemon juice
  • 0.5 oz Rich simple syrup
  • 1 pcs Egg white
  • 0.5 oz Tawny Port

Instructions

  • Add Bourbon, lemon juice, simple syrup, and egg white to your cocktail shaker. Shake it intensively for about 15 - 20 seconds to create a solid egg white foam.
  • Open the shaker and fill it up with ice. Now shake again for 10 - 15 seconds.
  • Open the shaker and double strain it into a chilled old fashioned glass. 
  • Float it with port wine.
  • Enjoy.

Nutrition

Serving: 5.5oz | Calories: 268kcal | Carbohydrates: 18.2g | Protein: 3.5g | Sodium: 69mg | Potassium: 132.5mg | Sugar: 17.2g | Vitamin C: 13mg | Calcium: 23.5mg | Iron: 0.35mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

More Sour Cocktails

If you like to spice up the simple yet brilliant formula of base spirit, citrus juice, and syrup, you can also try some of the following fancy Sour Cocktails:

And if you want more classics, check out the overview of our 12 favorite Sour Cocktails.

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