How To Make A Great Whiskey Sour

Posted on 20 May 2014 15:25

The Whiskey Sour is an old-fashioned cocktail but it is a favorite 'man' drink at bars. Sours are themselves a category of drinks that simply combine a spirit with a sweetener and a sour ingredient such as lemon or lime juice. Therefore, you've probably had sours many times without realizing it. As Robert Hess points out in the video below, you can order any type of sour you want at a good bar, by just specifying the liquor you want. You could ask for a bourbon sour, a rye sour, a tequila sour, etc. However, there are common and very popular sours that go by specific names, like the Margarita, Daiquiri, and the Cosmopolitan. When some orange juice is added to a whiskey sour, it is called a stone sour or California Sour. The original sour was a Brandy Sour, which was popular in the 1850's, and still is today. However, the most popular sour that is called by the name of sour is the whiskey sour!

Some of the first commercial "sour mixes" were made when whiskey companies wanted to make it easy for home bartenders to make well-balanced whiskey sours, which were usually made with American blended whiskeys in the old days. The idea was that it was so hard to produce a balanced sour at home, so a pre-mixed ingredient rather than fresh lemon or lime juice should make this easier. The commercial mixes did anything but produce a good drink and it is not that difficult to make a good sour at home. You can learn how to on the great video below. If you're a whiskey drinker like me, the whiskey sour may become your favorite drink when you want something with a little sweet and sour flavor on top of the whiskey. Try it with any type of whiskey you'd like, but bourbon or rye are favorite mixers.


Fresh lemon or lime juice (this recipe used lemon) is essential. Bottled lemon juice from concentrate really does not taste anything like fresh lemon juice and if you've ever compared them side by side you'd easily notice. Bottled lemon juices from concentrate taste harsh and acidic, but without the lemony taste. Lemon oil is often added into the mix, presumably to put the lemon taste back into the product but it doesn't really seem to help. For some reason, concentrating and reconstituting lemon juice just doesn't work very well. Bottled lime juice is even worse. If you plan to use a lot of fresh lemons or limes to make sours and other cocktails, you are going really dread getting all the juice out of them unless you have a press juicer or some other kind of citrus juicer.

Robert uses Maker's Mark bourbon in the video, which is a good choice, but you can use any bourbon you like. I would not tend to use my finest sippin whiskey for a sour or any other mixed drink. You can use a superfine sugar (you can grind regular sugar in a coffee grinder to make it super fine) but it may still not dissolve properly, so that you have a hard time getting the sweetness just right. A simple syrup works best. He also adds a little egg white, which is an addition some bartenders used to use to produce a nice froth on top and produces a silky mouth-feel. Eggs used to be found in all sorts of bar drinks but they slowly fell out of favor when people began to fear raw eggs. They are finding their way back in, however, and, while there is always a risk, you probably do not have to worry about a little raw egg white in your whiskey sour. Pasteurized egg whites from a carton, which pose no salmonella danger, would also work.


Given the use of the egg whites, Robert also does something highly unusual. He shakes the cocktail in the shaker without ice! Most all shaken cocktails use ice in the shaker so that the ice melts into the mix to create just the right balance and to make the drink ice cold. But in this recipe, he aims to make an emulsion. In cooking, the purpose of emulsions are to get oil and liquid, which don't usually mix, to blend together into a stable mixture. There are some oils in the lemon juice and the whiskey, but bartenders often use the term emulsion to refer to a very well blended drink that has the alcohol and liquid ingredients well married, but here, the egg whites will help bind the lemon juice and whiskey into a truly stable mixture, instead of them being somewhat layered and separate. This is easier to achieve when the ingredients are not cold. I've tried this and leaving out the ice for the first shake does make a for a silkier, almost creamy, whiskey sour.

Whiskey Sour Cocktail Video Presentation

Whiskey Sour Recipe


2 oz Bourbon whiskey
1 oz simple syrup
3/4 oz lemon juice
1 tsp egg white


Combine ingredients in cocktail shaker without ice. Shake to emulsify. Add ice and shake until cold (stainless steel shakers will turn ice cold in your hand). Strain into a rocks or Old fashioned glass, or sour glass, with or without ice in the glass.

Whiskey Stone Sour

As mentioned above, the difference between the whiskey sour and the whiskey stone sour, sometimes called a California Sour, is just a splash of orange juice added to the traditional sour. According to Dale DeGroff, this variation came from California, hence the alternate name.

To make a whiskey stone sour, add one ounce of fresh orange juice to the recipe for whiskey sour and omit the egg white. Shake all the ingredients with ice and serve over ice in a Old Fashioned glass (rocks glass). You can use bourbon, rye, or Tennessee whiskey, or whatever kind you prefer. Orange slices and cherry are usually used as garnishes.

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