Spirit, lemon juice, and sugar are the base for all sour cocktails. The Whiskey Sour is one of them, maybe even the most famous representative of this cocktail category. The key to a good Whiskey Sour recipe is balancing the three ingredients. If you get this right, the result is a rich, tart, and sweet cocktail that is enjoyed for more than 150 years already.
The Whiskey sour is there for a long time already. The recipe dates back to the 19th century when Jerry Thomas published his book The bartender's guide. But the base recipe has been there over a hundred years before. Back when sailors often suffered from scurvy.
To prevent from getting ill they had lots of lemon and lime on board. The citrus fruits mixed with watered-down Rum was a drink to keep them healthy.. Et voilà, the sour recipe was born. The formula has been refined and optimized over time. In England, this mainly led to a variant based on Gin - the Gin Sour. In the US, Whiskey was the base to create what we now know as Whiskey Sour.
Important Whiskey Sour Variations
Today there are hundreds of 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 other than the original recipe, there is just one other of them 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.
New York Sour
This variant usually includes some drops of egg white and a red wine float. The addition of red wine elevates 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.
If you add an egg white or Aquafaba to the classic Whiskey Sour recipe you'll get a Boston Sour. While some find it gross, the egg white helps the cocktail to taste even rounder and better. It helps smoothen the harsh alcohol taste 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 glamorous than the classic version.
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 gets an entirely new structure. The port adds much more sweetness than dry red wine, so this has to be balanced out by using less syrup.
By adding Dubonnet to the original recipe, the Paris Sour was invented in 2005 at Match Bar in London. Easy to mix and very satisfying it's a worthy variant you should have tried yourself.
We created this sleek overview of the most well-known whiskey sour variations. It includes all variations mentioned above with exact measurements. Like the classic whiskey sour, all variants shaken and not stirred. If you use egg white, shake it without ice first (for 15 seconds). Then add ice and shake again. That will make for a better egg white foam.
If you want to garnish your whiskey sour correctly, Luxardo Maraschino cherries are not to miss. One cherry and a slice of lemon or orange is the unofficial garnish for this classic cocktail.
Classic Whiskey Sour recipe
An original whiskey sour is made with Bourbon whiskey and without egg white. Today there are many variations with different whiskey as a base and some using egg white. But like mentioned above, those are all variants of the original recipe.
- 1.5 oz Bourbon Whiskey
- 0.75 oz Fresh lemon juice
- 0.75 oz Sugar syrup
- Add the Bourbon, lemon juice, and syrup to your cocktail shaker.
- Add ice and shake for about 15 seconds.
- Strain over ice into a chilled sour glass.
- Garnish with orange slice and Maraschino cherry