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Whiskey Sour Recipe

The Whiskey Sour ranks as one of the most popular drinks in the world. It’s a pleasure to drink and a breeze to craft at home. Follow our Whiskey Sour recipe and join the happy crowd of Whiskey Sour fans.

Sipping a Whiskey Sour

The Whiskey Sour is a bit of an anomaly.

It’s a sour drink that’s not too sour. It’s also a pre-prohibition cocktail that tastes fresh and modern.

However, one thing about this classic cocktail is abundantly clear. Even for novice mixologists, it’s as easy to craft a Whiskey Sour as it is to drink one.

What Is a Whiskey Sour?

Whiskey Sour with Red Background from Above
Living up to its name, the Whiskey Sour is a sour cocktail made with either bourbon or rye.

The Whiskey Sour fits into the classic cocktail category like a glove.

Popular around the world, the tart bourbon-based drink doesn’t involve any special tools or obscure ingredients. Dating back to the 19th century and possibly further, it’s proven the test of time and gets more popular with every passing decade.

Disclosure
This drink is so easy to both craft and drink that it could become a habit. Although we’re okay with this situation, we figured we’d warn you accordingly.

History of the Whiskey Sour

Whiskey Sour with Yellow Background from Above
The Whiskey Sour tastes fresh despite its mature status.

We’d love to tell you a story about the dashing young bartender who invented the Whiskey Sour but that would be pure fantasy.

What we can tell you is that the Whiskey Sour dates back to at least the mid-19th century when Jerry Thomas included the sour whiskey cocktail in his iconic guide – The Bon Vivant’s Companion. However, cocktail historians (yes, that’s a thing) suspect that the Whiskey Sour’s history goes back further when sailors would drink liquor to stay both happy and hydrated during long voyages.

Whiskey Sour Next to Four Roses Bourbon Bottle
Whiskey Sours are easy to find in Hollywood and at local bars around the world.

The Whiskey Sour has evolved over the years with an egg white added to the mix years after Thomas published his book. It’s also appeared in movies like The Seven Year Itch back in 1955 and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood more recently in 2019.

Right now, it’s playing a starring role in our home bar.

Whiskey Sour Ingredients

Whiskey Sour Ingredients
Our Whiskey Sour ingredient list is both short and sweet with just the handful of ingredients pictured here plus ice. This list includes bourbon or rye, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup, an optional egg white, a maraschino cherry and an orange twist.

While you could craft a Whiskey Sour with Whiskey Sour mix, we say don’t do it.

Not only do commercial mixes tastes bad, there’s really no need considering the simple roster of ingredients required to craft a Whiskey Sour from scratch. These are the classic cocktail’s ingredients:

  • Bourbon or Rye
  • Fresh Lemon Juice
  • Simple Syrup
  • Egg White (optional)
  • Maraschino Cherry (garnish)
  • Orange Wedge or Peel (garnish)
  • Ice Cubes

While you can use either bourbon or rye to craft a Whiskey Sour, we use bourbon whiskey in our recipe. And, in our home, we specifically use Four Roses bourbon.

Partially Full Four Roses Bottle
Four Roses bourbon is our favorite bourbon for crafting 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. If you do, you’re practically guaranteed to love your Whiskey Sour cocktail.

How To Craft a Whiskey Sour Cocktail

Crafted Whiskey Sour Up Close
We crafted this Whiskey Sour cocktail in just five minutes. Hooray!

As we mentioned above, you don’t need any special tools or equipment to craft a Whiskey Sour cocktail at home. We use the following tools when we craft Whiskey Sours 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 a tool or two.

Discover 10 necessary bar tools for lazy mixologists.

Measuring Bourbon for a Whiskey Sour
It’s go time once you measure the bourbon. We measure ours with a Japanese jigger.

When crafting a Whiskey Sour at home, the first step 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.

Click here to 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 by hand for maximum freshness.

Pro Tip
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.

Pouring Bourbon into a Whiskey Sour
It makes sense to pour each measured ingredient directly into the shaker which is what we do in this and other recipes.

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 the raw egg white is an optional step that creates a frothy finish not to mention a bit of protein.

Pro Tip
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.

Shaking a Whiskey Sour in a Boston Shaker
Shaking the Whiskey Sour is when the mixology magic happens.

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 30 seconds. Dry shaking will allow the egg white to emulsify and transform to egg white foam. Next, add ice and shake for another half minute 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.

Click here to purchase a Boston Shaker if you don’t have a shaker or want an inexpensive upgrade.

Straining a Whiskey Sour
Once you strain the cocktail into a your glass, it’s drink time.

The final step is to strain the bourbon cocktail into a glass and garnish.

We like to drink our Whiskey Sours on the rocks with a toasted orange twist and Luxardo cherry garnishes. These garnishes look great. Plus, there’s nothing better than eating that cherry after it soaks up some of the cocktail.

Click here to buy a jar of Luxardo cherries if you can’t find them at your local liquor store or specialty market.

Whiskey Sour Variations

Whiskey Sour with Green Background
The classic Whiskey Sour is a cocktail classic.

We’re going to go on a limb and suggest that there’s no need to modify the classic Whiskey Sour recipe. It’s that good. However, we fully support you crafting it to your personal taste. Here are some experimentation ideas to consider:

  • Craft a more sour Whiskey Sour by adding extra lemon juice.
  • Craft a sweeter Whiskey Sour by adding extra simple syrup.
  • Replace the simple syrup with maple syrup for a richer flavor.
  • Add club soda to craft a John Collins cocktail.
  • Add red wine to craft a New York Sour cocktail.
  • Replace the bourbon with another liquor to craft your personal favorite sour cocktail.

Whiskey Sour Recipe

Whiskey Sour with White Background

Whiskey Sour

Yield: 1
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes

Learn how to craft an addictively delicious Whiskey Sour at home in just five minutes.

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces bourbon
  • 3/4 ounce lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 3/4 ounce simple syrup
  • 1 egg white (optional)
  • 1 maraschino cherry
  • orange peel
  • ice cubes

Instructions

  1. Combine bourbon, lemon juice,, simple syrup and egg white in a shaker.
  2. Shake vigorously for 30 seconds without ice so that the egg white emulsifies. (Skip this step if you omit the egg white.)
  3. Add ice and shake vigorously for an additional 30 seconds until the drink is properly chilled and blended.
  4. Strain into a lowball or rocks glass filled with ice.
  5. Add a maraschino cherry and orange twist as garnish.

Notes

  • You can use a coupe or martini glass if you prefer sipping this cocktail without ice.
  • The egg white can be omitted if you're a vegan or you're uncomfortable with ingesting raw eggs.

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About the Authors

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.

Disclosure

We update our articles regularly. Some updates are major while others are minor link changes and spelling corrections. Let us know if you see anything that needs to be updated in this article.

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