Continental Sour Cocktail

Continental Sour - Delicious twist on a Whiskey Sour

By Timo Torner / Last updated on October 16, 2022 

First published on December 22, 2017 

When looking for a Continental Sour recipe, you probably won't find much information. Even worse, what you find is often inaccurate. So I want to clear things up about my 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 not correct. 

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 unfortunately also called Continental Sour.

Origin of the Continental Sour

Back 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, was 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.

Ingredients of a Continental Sour

The Continental Sour is a gorgeous composition of Whiskey, lemon, port wine, sugar syrup, and egg white. To make the drink perfect, you should pay attention to detail, though.

That means using freshly squeezed lemon juice only. But there are also some things to keep in mind regarding the other components.

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 fine, contemporary Continental Sour contains Bourbon. The sweet vanilla aroma works exceptionally well with port wine.

Whiskey continental sour 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. Instead, you can consider adding a high-quality port wine.

The right Port wine

Sandeman Tawny port

The Continental Sour needs a port float. When choosing the right type of port, it's usually between ruby and tawny. I strongly recommend a tawny port - my favorite for this cocktail is the Sandeman Tawny Port

It tastes exquisite, is not too expensive, easy to get, and you can enjoy it neat, out of the fridge, as well. However, be warned. Once you start drinking port, you might end up wanting more. It's so delicious.

Use egg whites in a Continental Sour?

You can create your Continental Sour with egg white and without, and it is not exactly a question of flavor. I know, 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, there's a vegan alternative called Aquafaba. It's not my first choice for this cocktail. But generally, aquafaba is an excellent substitute and creates a nice foamy top.

How to make the port wine float?

When executed right, the port wine float will create a deep red layer between the foamy egg white top and the golden bottom. 

To get a 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.

Continental Sour with port wine float and pressed orange zest

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.

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.

Continental Sour Recipe

With this recipe, you can create the most beautiful Port Whiskey Cocktail. The floating needs a bit of practice, but don't despair if it's not working out the first time. The cocktail will still taste amazing.

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


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


  • 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.


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!

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