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.
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.
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What Is A Whiskey Sour?
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.
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
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.
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The Whiskey Sour has evolved over the years with egg white froth 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
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.
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.
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.
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How To Craft A Whiskey Sour Cocktail
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.
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.
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 white 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 or aquafaba to create froth.
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.
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.
Buy a jar of Luxardo cherries from Amazon if you can’t find them at your local liquor store or specialty market.
Whiskey Sour Variations
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:
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Bourbon or Rye, Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice, Simple Syrup, Egg White (optional), Maraschino Cherry (garnish), Orange Wedge or Peel (garnish) and Ice
You should use your favorite bourbon in this cocktail recipe. We typically use Four Roses but any bourbon will work just fine.
The Whiskey Sour is shaken, not stirred.
We like to serve this cocktail in a lowball glass and you should do the same.
Did you craft this cocktail? If so, please rate the recipe below.
Whiskey Sour Recipe
- 2 ounces bourbon
- ¾ ounce lemon juice (freshly squeezed)
- ¾ ounce simple syrup
- 1 egg white (optional)
- 1 maraschino cherry (garnish)
- orange peel (garnish)
- ice cubes (for shaking)
- Combine bourbon, lemon juice,, simple syrup and egg white in a shaker.
- Shake vigorously for 30 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 30 seconds until the drink is properly chilled and blended.
- Strain into a lowball or rocks glass filled with ice.
- Add a maraschino cherry and orange twist as garnish.
- 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
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on their website 2foodtrippers. Since launching the site in 2012, they’ve traveled to over 40 countries in their quest to bring readers a unique taste of the world.
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Original Publication Date: January 13, 2022