Whiskey Sour

by sylvan

The Whiskey Sour is a true classic that has somewhat fallen out of favor because it is very difficult to get made well in a bar. Even if your bartender isn’t using commercial sour mix, he or she has to be willing and able to adjust the sweetness to your taste. Much like lemonade, everyone has a slightly different preference between mouth-puckeringly sour and syrupy sweet and so this is really a drink that you need to adjust to you or your customer’s taste, recipes aside. However, as a starting point, I humbly submit mine to be used as a starting point for your own.

A Whiskey SourWhiskey Sour

  • 2 oz whiskey
  • 1/2 oz lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup (1:1)

Stir all ingredients in a rocks glass to dissolve syrup; add ice and stir until cold. OR shake and strain over ice if you like it frothy. If you like it really frothy, shake ‘dry’ with about half an egg white before shaking with ice. I often serve/drink these on the rocks, but they can also be served up in a chilled glass. One popular garnish is a maraschino cherry, but I usually use a lemon twist.

While almost any blended whiskey will work for this drink, I usually go for a straight bourbon. Nothing too fancy, maybe Evan Williams black label, Elijah Craig 12 year, or Buffalo Trace.


The Sour is an eminently versatile drink for substitutions. This drink is kind of a ‘cold toddy’, and indeed, honey as the sweetener is a fine variation. To aid in dissolving the honey, pre-mix a syrup from equal parts honey and water. I also really enjoy using demerara syrup because it always seems to work well with whiskey drinks. And rum ones too, for that matter.

Other base spirits, such as rye whiskey, brandy, rum or even tequila all respond well to this basic template. A rum sour with lime is, of course, a Daiquiri, and a tequila sour with lime and a bit of orange liqueur is a Margarita, and a Cosmopolitan is not far off. Add a little grenadine to the base recipe and you’ve got a Ward 8.

To be honest, the primary reason that I make Whiskey Sours is to use up lemons that have been denuded to make garnish for other drinks! After you’ve made a number of Whiskey Cocktails, it seems a shame to throw out the lemon. However, the Whiskey Sour is a drink that anyone who wants to call themselves a bartender should have in their repertoire because it really is a template for so many drinks, as well as being quite tasty on its own.

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