The New York Sour takes the classic Whiskey Sour to a new level by adding a red wine float. This ruby layer provides a fruity zing plus a stripe of elegance.
We did a double take when we first encountered a New York Sour cocktail.
Our first thought was “This cocktail looks really cool!” after looking at the red layer which lines the top of the drink. That top layer consists of wine. Wine? Yes, wine.
Once we recognized the drink’s oenological layer, our next thought was that this sour cocktail, which combines red wine and whiskey, surely couldn’t taste good. Then we tasted it and found that we liked it.
Finally, we suspected that this layered bourbon whiskey cocktail must be difficult to craft. We were wrong about that too.
What Is a New York Sour?
The New York Sour is basically a Whiskey Sour with red wine floated on top. Some people (like us) add an egg white layer but that white layer is entirely optional.
It’s an odd drink that sounds super trendy. However, this pre-prohibition cocktail actually dates back to the 19th century. And, in a twist that’s as odd as the drink’s red wine layer, its roots aren’t in New York City.
History of the New York Sour Cocktail
As is the case with many classic cocktails, nobody knows for sure who invented the New York Sour. But we do know that Jerry Thomas included the recipe in his 1862 book How to Mix Drinks along with the more popular Whiskey Sour. So it’s at least that old and probably older.
We also know that the New York Sour made an appearance in HBO’s Boardwalk Empire in 2013 but that’s about it. Sometimes a little mystery is a good thing. The same goes for a little bit of red wine.
New York Sour Ingredients
If you have the ingredients for crafting a Whiskey Sour and a bottle of red wine, then you have everything you need to craft a New York Sour. These are all of the necessary ingredients:
While you can use either bourbon or rye to craft a NY Sour, we chose bourbon for our recipe. In our home, we often use Four Roses bourbon to craft cocktails.
Four Roses is a great cocktail bourbon since its flavors are relatively mild with hints of both vanilla and caramel. It’s also one of the more affordable bourbons produced in Kentucky and has a 40% ABV, the lowest possible ABV for Kentucky bourbon.
Feel free to use whatever bourbon or rye is your favorite and open a drinkable bottle of red from your wine cellar or pantry. Not only is this approach both easy and cost effective, but it’s also a recipe for success.
While many recipes call for varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon, Côtes du Rhône, Malbec or Shiraz. However, almost any red wine will work in this recipe.
How To Craft a New York Sour Cocktail
Despite its fancy appearance, you don’t need any fancy tools to craft a New York Sour at home. We use the following tools when we craft the bourbon cocktail in our home:
None of these tools is expensive or hard to find. And, in a pinch, you can improvise with kitchen tools if you’re missing one or two. For example, you can use a miniature angled measuring cup instead of the Japanese jigger. You can also squeeze the lemon with your hands.
Discover 10 necessary bar tools for lazy mixologists.
The first step in crafting a New York Sour is to gather and measure the bourbon, freshly squeezed lemon juice and simple syrup. We use a Japanese jigger to get accurate measurements and easy pours for all three of these liquids.
Purchase a Japanese Jigger if you don’t have a jigger or want an inexpensive upgrade.
We typically prepare simple syrup in advance so that it has time to cool. However, we squeeze the lemon juice on the spot for maximum freshness.
Save money by making simple syrup from scratch. It’s as easy as boiling water and sugar in a 1:1 ratio until the sugar dissolves. Make sure you stir frequently so that the sugar doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan and burn. Let the syrup cool before covering and storing in an airtight container.
Pour the bourbon, lemon juice and simple syrup directly into a shaker as you measure each. Next, pour an egg white into the shaker.
Adding raw egg whites is an optional step that creates a frothy finish not to mention a bit of protein.
Feel free to omit the egg white if you follow a vegan diet or are concerned about salmonella. Another option is to use a pasteurized egg white product.
The next step is to shake the cocktail. However, if you’re including the egg white, this is a two-part step.
First, do a dry shake without ice for 10 to 20 seconds. Dry shaking allows the egg white to emulsify and transform to egg white foam. Next, add ice and shake for another 20 to 30 seconds until the drink is fully chilled and blended.
We use a Boston Shaker to craft this and other cocktails and we love it. It’s so easy to use and doesn’t make a mess. Our previous shakers often leaked and the lid would stick to the base between uses.
Purchase a Boston Shaker if you don’t have a shaker or want an inexpensive upgrade.
You’ll want to add ice to a lowball or rocks glass before you strain the drink. We like to use jumbo ice cubes in this and other cocktails. Not only do jumbo ice cubes look cool, but they also displace more liquid, keeping our drinks colder for a longer period of time. A large cube also melts more slowly which prevents our cocktails from getting watery.
Purchase a jumbo ice cube tray if you want to create jumbo ice cubes at home.
Now it’s time to strain the bourbon cocktail into the glass. You’ll want to use a cocktail strainer for this step.
If you chose to add an egg white, a white layer will naturally from at the top of the cocktail.
The final step is to add dry red wine. This step seems like it might be complicated but it’s not.
Simply place a mixing spoon above the glass and slowly pour the red wine over the back of the spoon. The spoon will act as a buffer, allowing the wine to disperse and form a layer.
New York Sour Variations
We recommend that you follow our recipe the first time to see how you like the drink’s flavor. You may find it sweet, too tart or just right.
Here are some ideas if you want to experiment without going too crazy:
New York Sour Recipe
- 2 ounces bourbon
- 1 ounce lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- 1 ounce simple syrup
- 1 egg white (optional)
- 3/4 ounce red wine
- 1 jumbo ice cube
- Additional ice cubes
- Combine bourbon, lemon juice,, simple syrup and egg white in a shaker.
- Shake vigorously for 10 to 20 seconds without ice so that the egg white emulsifies. (Skip this step if you omit the egg white.)
- Add ice and shake vigorously for an additional 20 to 30 seconds until the drink is properly chilled and blended.
- Place a large ice cube into a lowball or rocks glass and strain the drink into the glass
- Pour red wine into the glass. Use the back side of a cocktail spoon as a buffer so that the red wine can gently form a layer.
- The egg white can be omitted if you're a vegan or if you're uncomfortable with ingesting raw eggs.
- Recommended wine varietals include Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Shiraz and Zinfandel. However, almost any red wine will work in this recipe.
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About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.
Original Publication Date: May 7, 2022