Cocktail Recipes/Whiskey Sour

Whiskey Sour

The Whiskey Sour is one of the oldest cocktails around, and has a pleasant, sweet and citrusy taste that makes a stout bourbon go down even smoother. Making one is more of an art than a science, but once you get it right, there are few bourbon cocktails more refreshing than this one.

What Is a Whiskey Sour?

A Whiskey Sour is a sweet and sour cocktail, typically made with bourbon, flavored with citrus, and sweetened with simple syrup. It’s mixed in a cocktail shaker, and usually served over ice in a lowball glass.

Whiskey Sour Recipe

Serving size: 1 drink

Drink strength: 27% ABV

Prep time: <15 minutes

Equipment needed:

  • A lowball glass
  • Cocktail shaker
  • Hawthorne strainer

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ oz bourbon
  • ¾ oz lemon juice
  • ¾ oz simple syrup
  • Ice
  • Optional: Maraschino cherry for garnish

Directions:

  1. Put all of the ingredients into your cocktail shaker and fill it with ice. Shake for about 20 seconds, or until cold.
  2. Strain the ice through a Hawthorne strainer and pour into a lowball glass over ice.
  3. Garnish with a maraschino cherry or an orange wheel and serve.

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The History of the Whiskey Sour

The Whiskey Sour is one of the oldest cocktails around, the original Whiskey Sour recipe dates back to the 1860s, when it was published in The Bartender’s Guide: How To Mix Drinks, by Jerry Thomas. That recipe is the one we have listed here, except you no longer have to dissolve sugar granules in water — simple syrup for the win.

In spite of this drink’s early origins, versions of the Whiskey Sour pre-date even the recipe’s original publication in Jerry Thomas’s book. British navy sailors drank lemon rum cocktails to fight off bouts of scurvy (and arguably, to help to pass the time) on long ocean voyages. It was due to the habit of consuming these citrus whiskey beverages that British sailors earned the nickname “limeys.” The popular drink was known as sailor’s grog, and was a staple of British naval sailors due to the abundance of rum in the Caribbean region.

Rum, which is made with sugar cane molasses, was widely available in the Caribbean, but not a staple drink in the United States as of yet. It’s possible that this grog became the whiskey sour simply due to the abundance of whiskey in the Americas.

Whiskey Sour Ingredients

The original Whiskey Sour recipe contains 1 ½ ounces of bourbon whiskey, ¾ ounce of freshly squeezed lemon juice, and ¾ ounce of simple syrup. It’s generally served over ice in a lowball glass, and often garnished with either maraschino cherries or a lemon slice.

What’s the Difference Between Bourbon, Whiskey, and Rye?

There’s usually a lot of confusion about the differences between whiskey and bourbon, and even rye. The type of grain and the type of barrel that a whiskey is aged in usually determines what kind of whiskey it is.

A lot of people use bourbon, whiskey, and rye interchangeably in their cocktail recipes. In certain instances where the flavor differences are still complemented by the other ingredients in the cocktail, this is fine. However, there are notable differences between the three that every home mixologist in the making should be aware of:

Whiskey is a category, and also a spirit. Bourbon and rye are both technically whiskeys. Whiskey is an alcohol made from fermented grain mash, and is typically aged in wooden barrels. All bourbons are whiskeys, but not all whiskeys are bourbons.

Bourbon is a type of whiskey. Bourbon is made from at least 51% corn, and is aged in new charred oak barrels. It’s a general rule that bourbon cannot contain any additives or colorings, and must contain at least 40% alcohol by volume (ABV) at the time of its bottling. Though most bourbon is made in Kentucky, this is not a prerequisite for qualifying as a bourbon. Bourbon is known for having a smoother, rounder taste, with notes of vanilla, oak, and caramel.

Rye is a type of whiskey. Much like bourbon, rye whiskey has certain constraints on what it is made from and how it is aged. To be considered a rye whiskey, a spirit must be distilled from a mash that is at least 51% rye, and be aged at least two years in new oak charred barrels. Rye whiskey has a bolder finish than bourbon, with a note of spice and hardness to it. 

Scotch is a type of whiskey, too. Scotch is made in Scotland, typically from a fermented barley mash. It’s heated over a peat fire, and aged in oak barrels for no less than three years. Unlike bourbon, true Scotch is only made in Scotland.

The Best Bourbon for a Whiskey Sour

The best bourbon for a whiskey sour is always going to be one that has a smooth, rich flavor with notes of vanilla in it. Here are a few bourbons across the price spectrum that fit the bill:

  • Woodford Reserve Bourbon Whiskey
  • Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey
  • Four Roses Bourbon

Whiskey Sour Recipe Variations You Can Try

The Whiskey Sour has been endlessly modified with a wide range of comfort-seeking ingredients, from raw egg whites, to maple syrup and other natural sweeteners. Here are a few spins on the classic Whiskey Sour recipe:

Whiskey Sour with egg white: Serving a whiskey sour recipe with egg in it is fairly common practice, though the addition of an egg white is seen as optional in the drink. Just separate the white from the yolk and put it into the shaker with the rest of the ingredients. This adds a foamy top to your drink, and a pleasant, silky texture.

Ina Garten Whiskey Sour recipe: Ina adds lemon and lime juice to her Whiskey Sour recipe in this popular version of the original.

Amaretto Whiskey Sour: An Amaretto sour is somewhat similar to a whiskey sour with egg white. In this version, you add 1 ½ ounces of amaretto liqueur, in addition to the other ingredients. The preferred garnish in the Amaretto Sour is usually a couple of skewered maraschino cherries, or a lemon twist.

Maple Whiskey Sour: This version of the whiskey sour usually includes an egg white and ¾ ounce of maple syrup. Optionally, you can also add a few dashes of citrus bitters to help offset some of the sweetness of this cocktail.

Honey lemon Whiskey Sour: In this version of the original whiskey sour recipe, you just replace the simple syrup in the recipe with an equal amount of local honey. An egg white can be added to this recipe as well.

How to Make a Whiskey Sour

To make the original Whiskey Sour recipe without an egg white, you’ll need a couple of bar tools. Make sure that if you don’t already have premade simple syrup on hand, that you allow for ample cooling time before using any from your homemade batch in this recipe.

To get started, you’ll need:

  • A lowball glass
  • Cocktail shaker
  • Hawthorne strainer
  • 1 ½ oz bourbon
  • ¾ oz lemon juice
  • ¾ oz simple syrup
  • Ice
  • Optional: Maraschino cherry for garnish
    1. Put all of the ingredients into your cocktail shaker and fill it with ice. Shake for about 20 seconds, or until cold.
    2. Strain the ice through a Hawthorne strainer and pour into a lowball glass over ice.
    3. Garnish with a maraschino cherry or an orange wheel and serve.

Enjoy promptly.

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If you like this drink, try:

Old fashioned recipe

Mint julep recipe

Manhattan recipe

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