Convenient bottling of the ingredients has led to an obscured view of what a whiskey sour should taste like. The name reveals that it is meant to be a lip-puckering drink, but there should also be a sweet side to balance that out. For many drinkers, the sour was their introduction to the wonders of whiskey, hopefully leading them to try it straight.
The History of the Whiskey Sour
Whiskey sours date back over a hundred years, becoming infamous for containing a unique combination of sugar and lemon juice, along with your whiskey of choice. Now while the drink may be intriguing, its past is not nearly as illustrious.
A man by the name of Elliot Stubb is credited with creating the first whiskey sour back in 1872, but the first reference to the drink came two years earlier in a Wisconsin newspaper. It may be unclear how the drink really became mainstream, but after over a century of delighted sourpusses, that point seems moot.
The Classic Whiskey Sour Recipe
- 3 fingers of Bourbon
- 2 fingers of lemon juice
- 1 finger of Gomme syrup
- Sugared rocks glass
- A lemon rind
- A maraschino cherry
- An orange slice
Combine all of the liquid ingredients in a cocktail mixer, add the ice, and shake until well-blended. Strain the mixture into the ice-filled glass and garnish with the lemon rind, maraschino cherry and orange slice.
Variations of the Whiskey Sour
In the over a hundred years the whiskey sour has been around, creative minds have found ways to improve on the original recipe. Some of these variations are simple additions to add depth or flavor to the cocktail, while others make it seem like a completely different drink.
Add a Dash of Egg Whites – Known as the Boston Sour, a dash of egg white will make the cocktail have a little more froth with the bite.
Use Apricot Brandy – Substituting the bourbon for Apricot Brandy makes the drink sweeter, yet stiffer, as does the half ounce of Remy Martin added to the drink. The Baltimore Bang can also be made using Cognac, a nod to the bottle that is left on Edgar Allan Poe’s Baltimore gravesite each year.
Tap Into Maple Syrup – The Maple Rye Sour is almost entirely unique. Maple syrup replaces the Gomme, and rye whiskey replaces the bourbon. A bit of orange juice is added to make the cocktail appear bright and cheerful, while covering up the whiskey bite. You can also add a small amount of Luxardo Amaro Abano liqueur for a luxurious finish.
Go Herbal – The Libertine is slightly complex to make, but well worth the effort. Start by boiling a sprig of rosemary with two ounces of simple syrup. Let it cool before taking the rosemary out and adding the syrup to four ounces of bourbon, two of lemon juice and two teaspoons of orange marmalade. This is transferred to the glass before shaking together a tablespoon of maple syrup with fresh orange juice and one egg white. Spoon that over the cocktail and use a fresh sprig of rosemary to garnish this deliciously herbal cocktail.
Be Bitter – The Scottish Dream uses grapefruit juice, cinnamon syrup, and of course Scotch as the base ingredients, adding a dash of black mission fig bitters for good measure.
Make it a Sherry Sour – Using a dry sherry with the sour mix will add a floral note to the drink. Dubbed Pedro’s Revolver, this cocktail gained fame at the Grey Plume Restaurant in Omaha, Nebraska and uses rye whiskey for the base.
Spice it Up – Substitute Aquavit for the bourbon and add Tawny Port, lemon juice, and cinnamon syrup before pouring the mixture into a wine glass. Now float some red wine on top with a sprinkle of nutmeg and you have accomplished the spicy Otto’s Sour.
Take a Trip to the Big Apple – The New York Sour replaces whiskey with a flavorful VSOP and rich cognac like Remy. These, along with orange juice, lemon juice, and sugar are blended together before being poured into a wine glass. A half ounce of dry red wine is then spooned over the top, resulting in a complex blend of flavors that work marvelously together.
Get Punchy – The award-winning Citrus SAVEUR combines white corn whiskey, grapefruit juice, and mint simple syrup for a cocktail that tastes like it belongs in a laced punch bowl.
Go For Foamy Flavor – When you mix the Boston Sour with Buffalo Trace Bourbon and use fresh lemon, you achieve a cocktail that has a hint of vanilla flavor topped with a rich layer of foam. Bartenders call this concoction the Melisse whiskey sour.
Make it Sweet with Marmalade – One teaspoon of orange marmalade and a couple of drops of Angostura bitters is all it takes to copy this whiskey sour recipe served at Clyde Common Tavern in Portland.
Get Bitten by a Rattlesnake – The Rattlesnake Cocktail is a combination of blended whiskey, absinthe, lemon juice and simple syrup, made frothy with the addition of an egg white. This drink has been around since the 1930s, promising to kill rattlesnakes, cure their bites and even make you see them.
Come Back from Death’s Door – A whiskey sour with a hint of the tropics, White Whiskey Punch relies on a white whiskey like Death’s Door for its refreshing color. Mix it with pineapple juice, fresh lime, and syrup, add a pineapple wedge, and you’ll feel like you’re sitting on the beach in the Caribbean.
Add a Touch of Rouge – For Alexis’ Bordeaux Sour you will need a few extra cherries for muddling along with an ounce of Lillet Rouge. An egg white, orange bitters and a splash of seltzer round out an array of ingredients for a whiskey sour that will make you blush.
Sour drinks are the perfect complement to the biting flavor of whiskey and bourbon. There might be over a dozen ways in which the whiskey sour has been reinvented since its introduction, but each one still has that unique combination that has made it the classic cocktail.