Cocktail Spotlight - The Whiskey Sour Cocktail With Variations & History

(Cover photo courtesy of my friends at Liquor.com)

National Whiskey Sour Day was August 25th, but the reality is that the Whiskey Sour is a great drink that can be enjoyed all year long if made properly. With all the quality of bourbons, small-batch bourbons, and other whiskies on the market today, it is no wonder that it has stood the test of time and endures as one of the country’s most popular sour cocktail.

 It is sour, yes, but the sweetness of some whiskeys and the use of fresh sugar or simple syrup offsets the sourness and complements the tartness well. Fresh lemon juice is a key as well. Bourbon is the whiskey used most often in this classic drink and rightfully so. In my opinion, bourbon is a better complement to the citrus and sweet components of the drink.

The whiskey sour has a long history in the world of cocktails, making an appearance in the first published cocktail book by Jerry Thomas “The Bon Vivant's Companion or How to Mix Drinks”.

The sour evolved from the practice of adding lime juice to rum rations to prevent scurvy among sailors in the British Navy in the 1700s. As fresh fruit was perishable, the juice would be a buffer for the rum, gin, or later whiskey in order to preserve the juice as well as to ensure the health of the sailors. It didn't take long to figure out that citrus and spirits were enhanced by a bit of sugar making a rather palatable and delicious cocktail.

Making the Best Whiskey Sour

The only allowable option for making a Whiskey Sour is to use a homemade fresh lemon sour batch or add the sugar syrup and fresh lemon juice individually. I would opt for using these ingredients individually for each drink you prepare for a cocktail party or at home. In serving a group of people, it is more practical to prepare it as lemon sour batch.

I can attest whole-heartedly to using fresh ingredients. In a blind taste, Whiskey Sour drinkers sampled store-bought or processed sour mix, collins mix, margarita mix (all pretty much the same) and homemade fresh lemon sour made that day. 10/10 times the drinker chose the fresh lemon sour over the highly preserved, concentrated sour mix in a bottle.

As some whiskey sour enthusiasts have stated over time, a more traditional recipe for a Whiskey Sour includes egg white. The addition of egg white tames the sourness of the drink and makes it a bit smoother, and provides a rich, frothy texture. The use of egg products has turned away many drinkers given the potential for salmonella, which is minimal and overstated. When using egg white, it is generally preferred to serve the drink on the rocks, although I think all whiskey sours should be on the rocks, but some prefer it straight up. If you add soda water to this drink (or any sour drink for that matter), you will end up with a Collins drink.

If you really like whiskey sours, try some of my versions below for the fall and winter months. All are very easy to make at home and will not break the bank. Remember to always use fresh ingredients. Bourbon or whiskey choices are to up to you.

 

Classic Whiskey Sour

  • 1 ½ oz Whiskey, preferable bourbon, like Bulleit or Lexington (Jack Daniels, a sour mash bourbon,  adds a unique flavor to this drink because of its charcoal-filtering)
  • 1 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 1 oz sugar or simple syrup (1:1)
  • Egg white (optional)
  • Garnish – lemon and cherry
  • Glass – Rocks, highball, or sour glass

 

Prep – Add all ingredients to a shaker with ice and shake well. Strain contents into a glass of your choice with fresh ice. Garnish

 

Low-Calorie Whiskey Sour

Photo courtesy of HGTV

  • 1 ½ oz whiskey, preferable bourbon
  • 1 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp Splenda, preferred for cold beverages, or other sugar substitute
  • Garnish - maraschino cherry
  • Glass – Rocks, highball, or sour glass

 

Other Sour Recipes

You can switch the base spirit of the recipe above for a different sour flavor. Common variations include, Amaretto Sour, Apricot Sour, Brandy Sour, Gin Sour, Midori Sour, Rum Sour, Scotch Sour, Stone Sour, and Vodka Sour.

 

Photo courtesy of Yummly

Stone Sour

  • 1 ½ oz Bourbon
  • ¾ oz fresh lemon juice
  • 1 oz sugar or simple syrup
  • 1 oz pulp-free orange juice
  • Garnish – orange wheel and cherry
  • Glass – Rocks, highball, or sour glass

 

Prep – Add all ingredients to a shaker with ice and shake well. Strain contents into a glass of your choice with fresh ice. Garnish.

 

Forbidden Sour (served often and popular among my clients/perfect for fall and winter)

Photo courtesy of my friends at Liquor.com

  • 1 oz Bourbon, preferably Wild Turkey
  • 1 oz PAMA Pomegranate Liqueur
  • 1 oz fresh lemon juice
  • ½ oz sugar or simple syrup
  • Garnish – orange wheel and cherry
  • Glass – Rocks, highball, or sour glass

 

Prep – Add all ingredients to a shaker with ice and shake well. Strain contents into a glass of your choice with fresh ice. Garnish.

 

Irish Sour (perfect for fall and winter)

Photo courtesy of Liquor.com

  • 1 ½ oz Irish Whiskey, preferably Teeling’s Small Batch
  • ¾ oz Dry vermouth
  • ½ oz fresh lemon juice
  • ½ oz white grapefruit juice
  • ¾ oz Simple syrup
  • 1 ½ oz Club soda
  • 1 dash Orange bitters
  • Garnish – lemon twist
  • Glass - Collins

Prep – Add all ingredients to a shaker with ice and shake well. Strain contents into a collins glass with fresh ice. Garnish.

 

Winter Sour

  • 1 tablespoon honey (or honey 1:1 honey to water simmered)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons warm water
  • 3 orange slices, quartered, plus 1 orange wheel, for garnish
  • 1 oz tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 ½ oz bourbon, preferably Knob Creek
  • Garnish – orange wheel
  • Glass – Large rocks or old-fashioned

Prep - In a cocktail shaker, stir the honey and water until the honey is dissolved or make honey syrup. Add the orange slices and muddle. Fill the shaker with ice and add the lemon juice and bourbon. Shake well and strain into a large rocks glass with fresh ice. Garnish orange wheel.

 

Cheers!!! Enjoy!!!

 

 

 

 

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