A famous Irish proverb goes – “What whiskey will not cure, there is no cure for”. And so today, we bring to you one of the frontrunners of the modern cocktail world, The Whiskey Sour. It is often called the father of all sours. A simple drink with complex and rich flavors, whiskey sour was invented at the end of the 19th century, around the same time as the Old Fashioned. All you need for this classic sour is whiskey, lemon juice and simple syrup. Three simple ingredients bring you the perfect combination of acidity, sweetness and spiciness. For all those who love whiskey, and even those who don’t, this is a must try!
You know how it is said that sometimes the best of things happen by accident. Well, the whiskey sour was originally created to cover up bad tasting whiskeys. Little did anyone know that it is going to become a classic in the world of cocktails and have a myriad of variations to play with. As we look back today, whiskey sour is one of the starting chapters of the art of mixology.
The National Whiskey Day celebrated on 25th of August in the US is a testimony to the popularity of the cocktail and its importance in the bar culture. The drink carries 162 odd calories and can be consumed every once in a while in moderate quantities. The drink found its first mention in 1862 in Jerry Thomas’ The Bartender’s Guide : How to Mix Drinks. The Whiskey Sour is the prototype of an entire cocktail category called Sours. The sours, such as tequila sour (margarita) or rum sour (daiquiri) or vodka sour, are a mixture of a base spirit, sugar and lemon or lime juice and are one of the most popularly consumed cocktail categories of all. In the case of whiskey sour, we use simple syrup, lemon juice and a good bourbon whiskey as our spirit.
Few cocktails are as enticing as whiskey sour only by their looks. The glass of golden amber whisky with creamy foam as its crown is a real eye catcher! A perfectly made whiskey sour will have a perfect balance of acidity, sweetness and spiciness. The good thing is, all the ingredients being put in your cocktail shaker, only enhance the flavors and peculiarities of your favorite bourbon. You can taste everything: the woody barrel, gentle hints of vanilla and even the heaty portions of rye in case of spicy rye bourbons. A good whiskey sour will not only entice your palate but also reveal new facets and flavors of your favorite whiskey to you, right from the first sip!
Despite being one of the first sour cocktails, a whiskey sour is unbelievably easy to make and equally rich and nuanced in its taste. All you need is:
- 3 ounces of good Bourbon
- 2 ounces of lemon juice
- 1 ounce of simple syrup
- 1 egg white (optional)
- Lemon zest for garnish
Alongside these ingredients, you will need the following tools :
- A cocktail shaker
- Tumbler glasses
- Put all the ingredients in the cocktail shaker with lots of ice cubes and shake until the shaker is cold from outside.
- If using egg white, dry shake the ingredients first, without ice, to form a foam head. Add in some ice and shake again until the shaker is cold from outside.
- Strain the drink in a tumbler glass with one big ice cube.
- Hold the lemon zest with the peel close to the cocktail and bend, then pour into the glass for garnish.
The Simple Syrup: All you need to do is heat the sugar and water in equal parts until sugar is nicely dissolved. Strain the liquid in a sealable container and refrigerate.
Using maple syrup as a sweetener will also work beautifully with this drink, so go ahead and play with it!
Whisky sour turning out too sweet or too sour?
The secret of a perfect whiskey sour lies in the balance of the sweetness, sourness and spiciness. That’s the rule of thumb. We’ve followed the rule of 3:2:1 i.e. 3 parts spirit, 2 parts acid and 1 part sweet. This is the proportion used for many of the sours. If you’re using ingredients in proportions other than this recipe, don’t forget make the required adjustments and always taste before serving.
THE EGG WHITE
You might have noticed the beautiful layer of white foam resting over the golden cocktail. That’s egg white doing its magic. The egg white might seem like the most unconventional ingredient for any cocktail. It is, however, a crucial part of the whiskey sour.
A whiskey sour with an egg white is also called a Boston Sour. While egg white itself is flavorless, it reduces the acidity of the drink and brings an all round consistency to it. It provides a smooth and creamy texture to the cocktail and binds all the flavors together. And not to forget, the beautiful foam floating in your glasses is surely going to catch your guest’s eyes.
While separating egg whites from the yolk itself might seem a task for some, measuring it in fluid ounces isn’t smooth either. So if you find yourself at a spot where you need to prepare whiskey sours for a lot of guests, going for tetra packed egg white will be handy.We have 2 tips for you to ace the protein in your cocktails. First, always dry shake, meaning shake without ice, the egg whites first and add the ice later. Adding the ice first makes it difficult for the protein to form the creamy foam and combine with other ingredients at colder temperature. So, shake first and ice later. Second, shake the shaker really well. We mean really, really well. The stronger the shake, the better the foam will be.
IS THE EGG WHITE NECESSARY?
Not at all. Egg whites are an optional ingredient in this cocktail and can be skipped. It’s not that whiskey sour can’t be made without an egg white, it’s just better with it. If you avoid consuming raw eggs, you may substitute the egg white with pasteurized egg whites. Apart from this, a tablespoon of aquafaba serves as a vegan fix for the egg whites to provide the beautiful creamy foam to your whiskey sour and combine the flavors together. It won’t tame the acidity like an egg white does but will get the job done.
THE LEMON JUICE
Lemons are the zest of life, and any sour cocktail! Freshly squeezed lemon juice is the indispensable part of every sour. It is what provides the acidity to the drink and makes it a “sour”. The freshness of lemon juice is critical to a quality sour. Using packed lemon juice will also do but in fresh lemons, the acidity and sourness are more pronounced.
Bottled lemon juice can be too sour for a cocktail sometimes and therefore, the balance of the drink might be disturbed. It may come out a little too strong. Besides, bottled lemon juice contains lots of preservatives which you sure don’t want in any of your cocktails. Keeping it simple, use fresh lemons and your whiskey sour will ooze freshness and have a richer taste.
When life gives you lemon, you make lemonade. Yes, right! But first, you squeeze the lemon right to get the last drop of juice out to taste. Use the following tips to fully juice your lemons :
- Place the lemons in the freezer before using them. This will rupture the cell walls and make the lemon more squeezable. (Whiskyadvocate)
- Roll the lemons back and forth with your hand on the countertop. You’ll start feeling it loosen up and releasing some of its juice already.
- Slice the lemon lengthwise, not across.
- Squeeze and extract the juice.
- Use a fork or a citrus reamer to extract whatever amount is remaining.
- Strain the juice using a mesh sieve to remove the pulp and seeds.
Can any other citrus be used?
If you’re out of lemons this weekend or your daily vendor is unavailable today all of a sudden,there are always several other citrus fruits,like limes, oranges and grapefruits, available to add the acidity and sourness to your cocktails. It must, however, be kept in mind that different citrus fruits have different levels of acidity. And changing the citrus might require you to tweak a bit with the sugar levels of the cocktail to keep the balance right. If you’re using anything other than lemon juice, be sure to taste your mix first before serving.
For instance, while using grapefruit, reduce the simple syrup to roughly ¼ ounce. With Orange juice as your citrus source, reduce the simple syrup to just ½ tablespoon. You can also use lime juice along with lemon juice in equal parts and it will give a longer lasting zingy taste to your sour.
BEST WHISKEY FOR WHISKEY SOUR
The spirit makes up a large part of the taste of a whiskey sour cocktail. A whiskey sour is written whisky with an ‘e’ because of the spirit that is famously used in it. Widely and popularly whiskey sour is made with bourbon which is produced in America. And American and Irish whiskey is written with an ‘e’ while the same from Scotland is written whisky, without an ‘e’.
You must be wondering why Bourbon? Well, bourbon whiskey is distilled to at least 51% corn and stored in fresh and toasted American oak barrels. The corn gives the bourbon a pleasant basic sweetness which goes perfectly with a sour cocktail. The vanilla and the caramel notes that the bourbon virtually socks out of the oak barrel fit perfectly into this interplay of tastes between sour and sweet.
Your Bourbon Guide
Choosing a bourbon according to your taste is the first step to make a whiskey sour you’ll like. We make the following recommendations:
The Classic Way : 80-90 proof Bourbons
These bourbon whiskeys will add notes of vanilla and oak flavors without overpowering your palate. The 80 proof whiskeys contain 40% alcohol by volume while the 90 proof whiskeys contain 45% alcohol by volume. These are pocket friendly and offer great value for your money. We recommend the following bourbons if you like your whiskey to be subtle and savory :
- Evan Williams Bourbon – $17.50 ; The Kentucky distilled whiskey invites you with its rich vanilla and mint scent. Oak is the dominating flavor in this whiskey with hints of caramel and brown sugar adding a teasing sweetness. The whiskey offers a medium length but satisfying finish and aftertaste.
- Four Roses Bourbon Whiskey – $23.99 ; This is one of the most sought after 80 proof bourbon whiskeys. It’s yellow label and even at a lower proof, it offers strong and sweet flavors with creamy aromas. You’ll find notes of Seville orange marmalade and lemon zest.
- Bulleit Bourbon – $32.99 This one is a 90 proof bourbon containing 45% ABV. It offers a unique blend of corn with barley malt along with special strains of yeast and Kentucky limestone-filtered water. The amber colored whiskey has a strong scent of rye but the flavor remains subtle and not too smokey.The whiskey adds a smooth and mellow tangy flavor which is not too harsh on your throat or for the cocktail either.
- Buffalo Trace Bourbon – $32.99 ; Another 90 proof bourbon offers hints of vanilla, toffee and candied fruit. The whiskey has a smooth finish with rye and oak forward aromas. The fruity and sweet notes offered by this whiskey is robust for its price.
- Eagle Rare 10 year Bourbon – $44.24 ; This whiskey is matured fir a decade before making its way into the bottle. The fragrance of flamed orange peel and maple syrup make for its deep aromas with strong notes of honey, walnuts and buttered bread on your palate. The whiskey leaves you with a decent aftertaste heavy on old leather, vanilla and a little bit of old spice.
- Basil Hayden’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey – $44.99 ; This one is an 80 proof bourbon with rich hints of peppermint, notes of pepper, slight citrus overtones and a spicy, warming finish. The whiskey has strong characteristic herbal aromas and a brief finish in the mouth. Overall, the whiskey is soft and balanced and often appeals to new whiskey drinkers.
The Strong Sours : 100 proof bourbons
Using 100 or even higher proof bourbon whiskeys can provide strong boozy flavor to your whiskey sour. These have 50% or more alcohol by volume. The more alcohol concentrations, the stronger taste on your palate. The following bourbon whiskeys will offer strong notes of flavors and great mouthfeel to your whiskey sour :
- Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon- $25.99 ; This is perhaps one of the most popular 100 proof bourbons because it offers great taste without denting your pockets. Though not the strongest of whiskeys Wild Turkey makes yet offers a lasting mouthfeel and mild flavors. The sweet aromas of toffee and caramel and layers of oak and Butterscotch dominate this whiskey. The bourbon balances the sweet maple and vanilla flavors with the base oakiness and spice with a mild watery finish to it.
- Old Forester 100 proof signature bourbon – $26.99 ; The Old Forester bourbon has a nicely balanced aroma of sweet caramel and cherry with decent oakiness. The whiskey has bold flavors of oak and caramelized maple syrup with briefly lasting pepper and oak finish. It’s unique notes of cocoa and hot chocolate set it apart and the mint and leather complement the lemon and sugar of the cocktail beautifully.
- Old Grand Dad 114 Bourbon Whiskey – $29.99 ; The 114 proof bourbon whiskey contains 57% ABV and immediately hits your senses with it’s strong scent of cinnamon, brown sugar and some rye heat. It has a strong tart flavor to begin with followed by subtle oak and vanilla flavors. There are notes of spicy Big Red Chewing gum and hot rye in this bourbon. This is definitely one of the stronger tasting bourbons out there.
- Wild Turkey Rare Breed – $50.94 ; This is a 116.8 proof bourbon whiskey by Wild Turkey which uses 6-12 years old bourbons. Spicy notes dominate this whiskey with a little sweetness complementing it. The spice comes from rye and seasoned oak while the sweet cane sugar and light caramelized wood and vanilla smoothen your palate with their sweetness afterwards. This is one of the premium quality bourbons from Wild Turkey with strong flavors.
- Noah’s Mill Bourbon – $59.99 ; Noah’s Mill is distilled in Bardstown, Kentucky, which is called the “Bourbon Capital of the world”. The whisky provides strong floral prune and walnut aromas. The bourbon has characteristic notes of spice, lavender and caramel. Overall, this top shelf bourbon will offer a strong flavor and lasting finish on your palate.
- Elija Craig Barrel Proof – $79.99 ; One of the most sought after top shelf bourbon brands, Elija Craig offers 66.4% ABV in this whiskey. The aroma is caramel with toasted oak and the fruity notes of apple and orange. The taste is a combination of sweetness coming from vanilla, caramel and Butterscotch and the spiciness that comes from black pepper and cinnamon at the back of the palate. This bourbon with a long lasting finish can be your next favorite.
- Stagg Jr. Bourbon – $99.99 ; One of the most premium 100 proof whiskeys, Stagg Jr. offers 63.2% ABV. Stagg Jr. claims their whiskeys to be uncut, unfiltered and aged for nearly a decade. The rich and sweet flavors of chocolate and brown sugar are mixed in perfect balance with the heat and spice of rye. The intense aroma of honey, maple and brown sugar lingers in your senses along with the long-lasting finish of the drink.
WHICH OTHER WHISKEYS CAN BE USED?
If you’re wondering whether bourbon is the only spirit with which you can prepare your sour, then the answer is – Not at all. A lot of the whiskey sour experience entails enjoying the whiskey you like in it’s newer facets. So whichever whisky you like, you can try preparing a sour with it. It is also important to remember that the whiskey sour was originally created to cover up the poor tasting spirits. And as the spirits got better, the taste got better too.
Before Prohibition in America, whiskey sour was prepared popularly with Rye whiskey. Rye whiskey gave its distinct power and edge to the cocktail and added to its spice levels while maintaining the basic sweetness. So if you’re one of those who likes his drink a little hot, try out rye whiskeys :
- Wild Turkey Rye 101 – $22.99 ; Not only one of the fastest disappearing rye whiskeys from store shelves but also popular among bartenders, Wild Turkey Rye 101 whiskey offers sweet aroma of caramel and honey with intense flavors of hardy grain and spice with light notes of mint, oatmeal and apple. The long lasting finish has a strong mouthfeel and leaves you with a spicy aftertaste.
- Rittenhouse Rye – $27.99 ; This Bottled-in-bond 100 proof whiskey is one of the popular rye whiskey choices for whiskey sour because it offers rich taste at such an affordable price. The hints of peaches and dry banana mixed with white pepper and a dash of spice give it complex and rich taste profiles. The fruity and grainy aroma of this balanced whisky, which despite being full of rye spice doesn’t have a harsh mouthfeel, offers deep finish and great taste to your sour.
- Old Overholt Bonded Rye – $27.99 ; This whiskey has a citrus orange base with caramel and vanilla aroma. The palate has subtle flavors of leather, cinnamon and orange with a briefly lasting finish. This is one of the oldest brands of whiskey in America and is sure to add rich flavors to your sour cocktail.
- Bulleit Rye – $32.99 ; The straight rys whiskey with its russet color and oak aroma is going to make an impression on you before you even take your first sip. The flavors are boldly centered around oak, brown sugar, spice and molasses. The whiskey leaves an aftertaste on your palate and is sure to remain with you long after you’ve finished your drink.
- Dillon’s Rye – $40.09 ; Watchout diehard rye fans, this Canadian rye whiskey claims to use 100% rye and no corn in their product. The whiskey has a strong scent of dried apricots , banana bread with a little bit of chocolate. The taste is dominated by notes of black pepper,clove and anise. The whiskey lingers on your palate for a while before dissolving off.
Single Malt Scotch Whiskey
Do not underestimate some good quality single malt Scotch Whiskey when it comes to the taste.
- Singleton 12 – $39.99 in your whiskey sour can render a pleasant, soft and tasty whiskey sour. The whisky offers great value for its money and has savory vanilla notes and a soft finish. The Singleton 12 offers notes of black currants, coffee and roasted nuts that are not known from every whiskey.
- Glenfiddich Fire and Cane Singleton Malt Whiskey- $54.99 is your pick if you prefer a smoky scotch infused whiskey sour. The soft peat notes combined with toffee sweetness and a little bit of spice make up for its arina. The oak, toffee and peatt notes leave your palate with a smoky-sweet finish.
- Lagavulin 16 – $104.49 is for the connoisseurs and die hard whiskey fans. Those who might want to experiment a little and want their sours to be smoky and strong. It brings in its characteristic aroma and smokiness to the cocktail. One of the most sought after Islay whiskey offers the taste of dry peat smoke with strong maritime notes complemented by a long, elegant finish.
WHICH GARNISH TO USE?
Any cocktail is first savored with the eyes by the way it looks, then by it’s aromas and finally by it’s taste. This is how you turn a drink into an experience. Therefore, garnish becomes an important part in not just enhancing the presentation but also lifting your drink up and turning it into an experience.
Famously, maraschino cocktail cherries and carved oranges find their way into a glass of whiskey sour. Don’t forget to squeeze the citrus peel over the cocktail before placing it as a garnish so that the flavor seeps into the drink. You can also use lemon wheels as a garnish. Adding some of the lemon zest will bring in an extraordinarily pleasant aroma to the drink and add fresh scent to your glass.
A few dashes of bitters on the silky foam will be a cool garnish for your drink. You may use Angostura Aromatic Bitters or any flavored bitters of your choice. Walnut or orange flavored bitters are also popularly used to garnish whiskey sour cocktails. Go creative with it and draw the patterns you like! Carefully dropping the drops of the foam and swirling it using a toothpick can get you beautiful little hearts in your glass.
IS THE WHISKY SOUR A GIRLY DRINK!
Pop culture has made us believe that there are certain drinks for certain gender. Hard-core liquor has become a symbol of masculinity while fruity cocktails are considered feminine. While the world’s busy in gender stereotyping cocktails, we believe it is totally up to you to choose what you drink, make or consume.
Enjoying a cocktail doesn’t make anyone less of a man. It’s time to drop associating machismo with alcohol altogether. And if you can’t do it, let the cocktails do it for you and widen your horizons!
BEST GLASSES FOR YOUR WHISKEY SOUR!
The choice of the glassware speaks a lot about your drink. It really announces to your guest what’s coming their way. It enhances the presentation and arouses the curiosity of the drinkers way before they can even smell it. Whiskey sour cocktail can be served in quite a few cocktail glasses :
The Whisky Tumbler – Popularly known as the rocks glass or the old fashioned glass, this one is used most famously for serving whisky. Drinks are mostly served on the rocks i.e. with ice in these glasses. It has a simple design with a wide rim for you to taste your classic sour.
Sour Glass – These have rounded cups with a stem and are widely used for citrus drinks such as whiskey sour. The stem of the glass prevents the warmth of your hands from reaching the drink and so, the cocktail remains icy cold.
Martini Glass – A famous cocktail glass, the Martini glass has a v-shaped bowl, a long stem and a circular base. It can be your perfect glass for the beautiful whiskey sour.
Coupè Glasses – These are also stemmed glasses with broader and shallower saucer. Coupe glasses are widely used for consuming the whiskey sour “neat” or without ice.
The recipe we just tried was a Boston Sour i.e. a whiskey sour with an egg white. The whiskey sour without an egg white is called, well, just the classic whiskey sour. If you want to go a little unconventional and are not the one to make safe bets, we offer the following whiskey sour recommendations you can try out :
- Rattlesnake Cocktail is prepared by adding absinthe which is anise flavored liquor to the 3 whiskey sour ingredients. The recipe was found to be first recorded in London’s Savoy Hotel’s bartenders manual where it is described as so “because it will either cure rattlesnake bites, or kill rattlesnakes or let you see them. Use 1 bar spoon of Duplais absinthe with your whiskey, lemon juice and simple syrup. Shake and enjoy the mystical intoxication.
- New York Sour updates the classic whiskey sour cocktail with an enticing and shiny layer of red wine. Despite being one of the most popular variations of the whiskey sour, it is very simple to make. Just shake the classic sour ingredients (whiskey, lemon juice and simple syrup) and strain the whiskey sour into a glass. Now pour 1-2 oz of red wine using a bar spoon to form a beautiful layer.
- The Frisco Sour uses French made Benedictine DOM whose strong and sweet herbal flavors compliment the spicy of a complex rye whiskey. Yes, this one goes well with a rye whiskey! Add your Rye whiskey, lemon juice and Benedictine in a shaker. Since Benedictine is sweet itself, we won’t need simple syrup. Just shake, strain and serve.
- St. Nick Sour is a unique variation to the original whiskey sour recipe. It uses orange juice and orgeat (almond syrup) in place of simple syrup to provide a delicious and eccentric concoction. Mix your whiskey and lemon juice with some orange juice and orgeat. Just shake, strain, serve and enjoy this fresh twist to the sour cocktail.