Bartesian whiskey sour

A Guide to the Ultimate Whiskey Sour

The whiskey sour is one of the most popular and classic whiskey cocktails. Whiskey lovers will be familiar with the drink, and even those that don’t normally lean toward whiskey will find they still enjoy this drink. 

What makes it such a popular drink and how can anyone make the perfect whiskey sour whenever the craving hits? Read this guide to find out not only how to make a classic, whiskey sour, but also how to make variations with different whiskeys based on your preference.

What is a whiskey sour?

Many drinks are classified as “sours” although it’s not always in the name. To be a sour cocktail, there needs to be a sour component, like lemon or lime. Margaritas, daiquiris, cosmopolitans, and others are also considered sour cocktails. These cocktails are generally built on a base liquor, something sour, and a sweetener.

As whiskey adds warmth and the sour element makes for a refreshing sip, a whiskey sour cocktail can be enjoyed year-round. So what is a whiskey sour? Where did it come from?

We can thank sailors. In the eighteenth century, when sailors would embark on long seaward journeys, they’d rely on unconventional methods to drink. Water and food didn’t keep well for long periods at sea and sailors were constantly at risk of scurvy, caused by a lack of vitamin C. So, with limited drinking water and the risk of scurvy, ships would carry lots of citruses (lemons, limes, oranges) and barrels of rum or whiskey.

With the limited amount of water and these other ingredients, sailors could mix cocktails, effectively getting their vitamin C intake and some hydration. In an attempt to survive long journeys across the sea, we can trace the creation of the whiskey sour cocktail to sailors.

When disembarking the ship at ports, sailors could share their whiskey sour recipes as well as find other methods of cocktail mixing. The first official record of the whiskey sour cocktail was published in Jerry Thomas’ 1862 book, How to Mix Drinks.

Whiskey sour ingredients

Whiskey sour recipes include a type of whiskey, like bourbon (rye and Scotch are also whiskeys), lemon juice, simple syrup, and depending on the drinker’s preferences, egg whites.

Best whiskey for whiskey sours

The best choice in liquor would be a whiskey you’d also drink neat. It doesn’t have to be a top-shelf liquor, but the taste that comes through will be better with a whiskey that can hold its own.

Most whiskey sours use bourbon. Try these bourbon whiskey suggestions until you find your favorite:

  • Old Forester: Soft leather and mint notes to compliment the lemon. A good choice for a bourbon-forward whiskey sour.
  • Woodford Reserve: This bourbon offers bold grain and wood flavors, sweet aromatics, spices, fruit, and floral notes.
  • Elijah Craig Small Batch: Great for whiskey lovers or casual fans, this bourbon has warm spices and a subtle smokey flavor.
  • Basil Hayden’s: This taste will be similar to the original whiskey sour recipe. It’s mostly corn mash with rye, peppermint, honey, peppermint, and citrus.
  • Four Roses: This bourbon is smooth and sweet with a bundle of spices. It has notes of cherry, apple, honey, orange, and lemon, followed by oaky cinnamon.

The whiskey sour cocktail can also be made with rye. Wild Turkey would help bring out more spice in the drink. It’s also warm and smokey with vanilla, caramel, and cinnamon.

Scotch is also an option, although most people would choose bourbon or rye first. For a smokey flavor, try Glenfiddich’s Fire & Cane. The smokey combines with sweet caramel and marshmallow notes.

Lemon juice and simple syrup

A whiskey sour recipe will do best with freshly squeezed lemon juice. Fresh juice creates a better citrus flavor.

The simple syrup adds sweetness to balance the sour. Simple syrup is made by combining water and sugar so the sugar dissolves and creates a sweet syrup. It’s used in many cocktails so it’s helpful to have on hand. One could simply add sugar to a whiskey sour but simple syrup mixes in much smoother.

Eggs: optional

Some people might be hesitant to use raw egg whites in cocktails, but raw eggs can also be found in salad dressing, mayonnaise, eggnog, and more. It’s not as unusual as some might think.

For a whiskey sour, egg whites can be used to add a rich, creamy texture with a layer of foam on top. Egg whites are flavorless so they won’t affect the flavor of the cocktail, just the texture and appearance. It can also cut the acidity of the citrus.

How to make a whiskey sour

To make a whiskey sour the traditional way, you’ll need a lowball glass, a cocktail shaker, and a strainer.


  • 1 ½ ounces bourbon
  • ¾ ounces lemon juice
  • ¾ ounces simple syrup
  • Ice
  • Optional: egg white
  • Optional: maraschino cherry for garnish
  1. Put the ingredients into your cocktail shaker and fill it with ice. Shake for about twenty seconds, or until cold.
  2. Strain the ice through a strainer and pour it into a lowball glass over fresh ice.
  3. Garnish with a maraschino cherry or an orange wheel and serve.

How to make a whiskey sour with the Bartesian Cocktail Maker

Of course, there’s an easier way of making the same delicious whiskey sour cocktail. Use the Bartesian cocktail maker and Whiskey Sour Bartesian capsules. Make sure you have your choice of bourbon, rye, or Scotch in the whiskey reservoir, insert the capsule, and choose your drink strength. Seconds later, watch as the Bartesian pours a premium whiskey sour cocktail for you and your guests to enjoy anytime you’d like.

You won’t need to source and store whiskey sour ingredients. All you’ll need to do is get your favorite whiskey brand, ice, and a glass. The sailors in the eighteenth century paved the way, now it’s time to enjoy the whiskey sour with ease. To get started on this journey of amazing cocktails and efficient cocktail mixing, get the Bartesian cocktail maker today.

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