The Whiskey Sour is the star of the Sour Cocktails. It is the most famous representative of this cocktail category.
And the key to a perfect Sour recipe is balancing the three ingredients: spirit, lemon juice, and sugar.
If you get this right, the result is a rich, tart, and sweet cocktail. -One that people have enjoyed for more than 150 years already.
Ingredients of the Whiskey Sour
The three components of a Whiskey Sour are Whiskey, simple syrup, and lemon juice.
A classic choice of Whiskey is Bourbon. Although, you will find many recipes that ask for other types of Whiskey.
The spirit should be of decent mid-shelf quality, but you don't need to look out for top-shelf products for your Whiskey Sour. Those would be wasted in a mixed drink.
If you look for a recommendation, check out these best Whiskeys for a Whiskey Sour.
The lemon juice has to be freshly squeezed. Also, you can consider aging it for a few hours before mixing your cocktail.
Please don't use bottled lemon juice as it has some slightly artificial notes that will definitely spoil your drink.
Don't worry, it's no problem to squeeze the fresh lemons a few hours before you will mix the drinks to make the whole procedure more efficient.
Store-bought simply syrup for your Whiskey Sour, however, is alright. On the other hand, you can easily make it at home as all you need is water and sugar.
Should you want to make your own syrup, here's the recipe for simple syrup.
Garnish of the Whiskey Sour
The classic garnish for the Whiskey Sour is an orange twist. And, if you have them handy, also Maraschino cherries are not to miss.
One of the sweet cherries and a slice or peel of lemon or orange is the typical garnish for this classic cocktail.
If you use egg white, Angostura drops are a beautiful addition and improve the visuals of your Whiskey Sour nicely.
History of the Whiskey Sour
The Whiskey Sour has been around for a long time already. The recipe dates back to the 19th century when Jerry Thomas published his book The bartender's guide.
Yet, the idea of Sour Cocktails goes back way further. To a time when sailors often suffered from scurvy.
More or less by accident, the British Navy discovered that mixing citrus into spirits won't only improve its taste but also prevents the disease.
Initially, it had been Rum and lemon: To prevent sailors from getting sick, ships had lots of lemon and lime on board. Those were to be mixed with the daily Rum rations. Et voilà, the sour template was born.
The formula has been refined and optimized over time and applied to other spirits.
In England, for instance, this mainly led to a variant based on Gin - the Gin Sour. In the US, Whiskey was the preferred choice and led to what we now know as Whiskey Sour.
Important Whiskey Sour Variations
Today there are countless Whiskey Sour variations.
Some use a split base where Whiskey combines with another spirit. Others replace or enhance the sweet part of the drink.
There are endless possibilities to twist this classic. But, apart from the original recipe, there is just one more in the official IBA (International Bartender Association) list of cocktails - the New York Sour.
Other famous variations are the Boston Sour, Continental Sour, and Paris Sour.
If you add an egg white or Aquafaba to the classic Whiskey Sour recipe, you'll get a Boston Sour.
While some find the idea of raw egg in a drink irritating, the egg white helps the cocktail to taste even rounder and better. It smoothens the alcoholic bite and creates a better mouthfeel.
Not to forget the change of appearance: The delicate foam on top and a few drops of Angostura bitters make this variation more alluring than the classic version.
New York Sour
In addition to the egg white needed to make a Boston Sour, the New York Sour includes a red wine float.
Those few drops of red wine elevate the classic recipe to a whole new level.
Together with the Continental Sour, this is my favorite variation. The wine adds a complex note to an already delicious cocktail.
Thought to be invented in Berlin, this evolution of the New York Sour is one of our absolute favorites.
By substituting red wine with red port wine, the drink becomes an entirely new drinking experience.
The port adds much more sweetness than dry red wine. Consequently, you will need less syrup to get the balance right.
Adding Dubonnet to the original recipe, the Paris Sour was invented in 2005 at Match Bar in London.
Dubonnet is a French aperitif wine similar to Vermouth. The drink is easy to mix and very satisfying. It's a worthy variant you should try.
Here's an overview of the most influential Whiskey Sour variations. Like the classic Whiskey Sour, all variants are shaken and not stirred.
If you use egg white, don't forget to dry shake. Meaning, shake without ice first (for 15 seconds). Then add ice and shake again. That will make for a better egg white foam.
Classic Whiskey Sour recipe
The original Whiskey Sour is made with Bourbon Whiskey and without egg white. But egg white can easily be incorporated into the recipe. Just remember to dry shake for the perfect foamy top.
- 1 Cocktail Shaker
- 1 Hawthorne Strainer
- 1 Jigger
- 1.5 oz Bourbon Whiskey
- 0.75 oz Fresh lemon juice
- 0.75 oz Sugar syrup
- 1 egg white - optional
- Add the Bourbon, lemon juice, and syrup to your cocktail shaker.
- Add ice and shake for about 15 seconds. If you use egg white, shake first without ice, then add ice and shake again.
- Strain over ice into a chilled sour glass.
- Garnish with orange slice and Maraschino cherry