There are three elements that define any cocktail worth its salt: citrus, sugar, and liquor.
Too much of one can ruin your drink, but when measured properly, each ingredient in the glass will swirl together in harmony delivering a perfect cocktail every time.
The Whiskey Sour embodies all three of these key components, so it is no wonder that this classic has been around for as long as it has.
It is well known that sailors in the 1700s and 1800s were prone to adding citrus to their daily ration of grog to prevent scurvy. They were on to something, as this quaff had the makings of what we now know as the Sour, and the cocktails that fall into this category are some of the most popular in the world.
The first written references of Sours did not appear until 1862, when a recipe for a version with brandy and gin were mentioned in Jerry Thomas’ The Bartenders Guide.
A former ship’s steward from Peru named Elliot Staub claimed the recipe for the whiskey adaption in 1872, but to add to the mystery, the cocktail had already been mentioned by name in a Wisconsin newspaper in 1870.
As is often the case with classic drinks, pinpointing the inventor becomes difficult.
Since the Sour is such a versatile cocktail, it is not surprising that have been many variations since its early days.
It has been concocted with a range of spirits, such as gin, rum, pisco, brandy, whiskey, and even amaretto. The Whiskey Sour remains the most popular of the bunch, although it has had its share of changes, not all of them flattering.
It has fallen victim to shortcuts such as prepackaged sour mixes or being drowned in grenadine. Fortunately, a rising trend in craft bartending has brought this cocktail back to its original glory, and mixologists are taking careful measures to ensure that the most quality potions are served.
Choosing a Base Spirit
Some swear by rye and others by bourbon. Both are acceptable choices, that really come down to personal preference.
Bourbon’s rich body will add to the smoothness of the drink and enhance it with honey, caramel, and vanilla notes.
Its spicier cousin rye brings an element that compliments the Sour nicely. You could always add an ounce of each if you want to mix it up a bit.
This is an extremely easy mixer to make, but it should be prepared ahead of time so that it can cool. It is also widely available in stores for your convenience.
If you decide to make your own, you will need the following:
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- A saucepan
Combine the sugar and water in the pan and simmer over a medium heat until dissolved. Stir as needed. Simmer on low for an additional 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.
If an uncooked egg in your drink sounds like something that you would only try on a dare, you are not alone.
Adventurous drinkers will try to convince you of its nutritional value to the Sour, the added benefits of the silky, creamy texture, and eye-catching frothy head.
If you add the egg, the rule of thumb is to wait nine minutes before taking your first sip so that the combination of citrus and alcohol can kill off any potential salmonella.
If you prefer to play it safe, products such as Fee Brothers Fee Foam have a similar effect as the egg without the potential stomach-ache.
How To Make It
- 2 oz bourbon or rye whiskey
- 1/2 oz simple syrup
- 3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
- 2-3 drops Angostura bitters
- 1 oz egg white
- Orange swath for garnish
- Add your spirit of choice to a shaker along with the simple syrup and lemon juice, minus the ice, and shake it like you mean it.
- Add some ice to the mixture and continue to shake until well-chilled.
- Strain into a coupe glass, top with 2-3 drops of the bitters and garnish with your swath.
Sour cocktails make up a whole category in the world of cocktails. There are lots of variations to try on the classic whiskey sour – from substituting different types of whiskey or different flavor additions, to using different base liquors.
Here are some of our favorite variations on the whiskey sour:
- The New York Sour takes the classic whiskey sour and adds a red wine float on top of the drink for a layered appearance and a complexly layered flavor.
- If whiskey isn’t your spirit of choice, a tequila sour offers the same tart flavor but with tequila as your base.
- The Pisco sour is the national drink of Peru, made using Pisco brandy instead of whiskey.
- If you don’t like egg white in your drink or you want something a touch sweeter, The Gold Rush combines bourbon and lemon juice with honey syrup and no egg.
You can also add other fruit juices or cordials to the mix, like cherry, cranberry, or orange to add other flavors to the classic whiskey sour recipe.
What makes up a whiskey sour?
A whiskey sour is made with whiskey (either bourbon or rye), lemon juice, simple syrup, and an egg white.
Why do you put an egg in a whiskey sour?
Adding an egg white to whiskey sour and other egg white cocktails adds a smoother texture and frothy top to the cocktail. Egg whites contain proteins that emulsify when shaken, creating pockets of air that results in a silky texture in a cocktail.
What is the common whiskey in a whiskey sour?
The more popular choice of whiskey today is bourbon, but you can also use rye whiskey for a spicier whiskey sour.
Does a whiskey sour go over ice?
No, a whiskey sour is typically served straight up, not over ice. The cocktail is shaken with ice to chill it before serving.
If you want your whiskey sour served on the rocks, you can always ask your bartender!
Is raw egg in a whiskey sour safe?
It’s never 100% safe to consume raw eggs, but the health risk is minimal. It’s very unlikely, though not totally impossible that you will be exposed to salmonella from the egg white in a cocktail.