There are of course many other Sours, but the Whiskey Sour really is the classic sour, the grandaddy of them all. Sours all follow a generic formula: Spirit + Sour + Sweet, in this case, Whiskey, Lemon, and Simple Syrup.
The Classic Whiskey Sour has been on my drink shortlist from childhood. My father had a friend whose mom would make whiskey sours when guests came over, as opposed to the milk and cookies my grandmother would offer. Needless to say, the friend’s place was a more popular hangout. (Grandma Gladys’s cookies might have been part of the problem – aside from her secretly non-kosher meatloaf, she wasn’t known as a great cook.) In addition to being a great illustration of parenting approaches from the 50’s, it also sparked my imagination and made the sour the first drink I ever ordered (at New Haven’s Anchor Bar). The Anchor’s sour was probably straight from a mix but it was as delicious as the drink my dad’s story conjured in my imagination.
How to Make the Classic Whiskey Sour
All citrus-based cocktails are shaken – this is the first axiom of mixology. Get your glass and garnishes ready, and load your shaker up with ice – about 8 cubes worth. Add the liquid ingredients, starting with what’s least precious – generally the simple syrup (but if you’re low on it, maybe it’s more valuable in the moment than Bourbon?). As to the choice of Bourbon, you want to steer a middle course. I once tried to economize with Wild Turkey, and could definitely taste the difference, but you don’t want to use a sipping bourbon. For a change, a blended scotch adds a nice smoky taste. Fresh juice is essential. If you make it with egg white it’s technically a Boston sour – but I generally don’t bother. Certainly don’t go for sour mix or one of those alarming powders! Shake for 15 seconds and strain into an Old-Fashioned glass with rocks. Garnish with a cherry and orange slice.
- 2 oz bourbon
- 1 oz lemon juice freshly squeezed
- 0.75 oz simple syrup
- 1 cherry
- Shake liquid ingredients
- Pour into rocks glass with ice
- Garnish with cherry, orange slice, or both
Modifications to explore
I often float a little port in this drink, slowing pouring it onto the back of a bar spoon over the drink. It adds a nice visual touch and flavor note, assuming you don’t spatter the port everywhere. I sometimes call this a “bloody sour” for Halloween parties.
Other ways to mix it up include using scotch, honey syrup, or an egg white (dry shake first if you go that route – see the recipe for Clover Club).
Cousins: The Gimlet is basically the same drink, with lime and Gin instead of Bourbon and lemon, but is usually served up.