Maybe it’s been awhile since you’ve had a Whiskey Sour cocktail; if so, it’s definitely time to revisit this old-school classic, made only with the freshest ingredients. And the best part, for me? The drink was first mentioned, way back when, in a Wisconsin newspaper.
You read that right! An 1870 issue of the Waukesha Plain Dealer is the earliest sighting of this vintage bourbon cocktail: “‘Amen,’ says the Methodist, as he ordered another Whisky Sour.”
How great is that? Do you realize I'm actually FROM WAUKESHA? Which by the way, we natives pronounce as "WAU-kee-shaw." Or just The 'Sha.
But I digress. It seems the Whisky Sour has been around a long time. And why not?
Even if folks aren’t partial to the taste of whiskey, there’s something appealing about an icy-cold Whiskey Sour that they enjoy, immensely. History proves it.
Making Whiskey Sours for game night? Click and slide the number next to “servings” on the recipe card below to adjust the ingredients to match how many you’re feeding—the recipe does the math for you, it’s that easy.
What is the history of the Whiskey Sour?
Despite the blurb in the Plain Dealer, there’s a lot of back and forth about the cocktail’s real creator. Some research suggests that Elliott Staubb invented the drink, basing it on a Peruvian Pisco Sour, which is made with Pisco, a regional spirit, and citrus.
Pisco Sours also have egg white in the drink for a frothy, velvety texture. Because other versions of a Whiskey Sour can use egg white, this may explain the relation.
No matter who was the inventor, one thing is for sure: generations of imbibers all over the globe enjoy a good Whiskey Sour, Methodist or not!
What are the Whiskey Sour ingredients?
As with all old fashioned cocktails, there are some variations on the theme, but in my book, a Whiskey Sour has to have these three things:
- Whiskey or bourbon: Whatever you like, or whatever you have. You’re mixing it with citrus, so it doesn’t necessarily have to be “top-shelf.”
- Sour mix: A mixture of citrus juices and sugar. In this recipe we make our own, using a simple syrup.
- Cherry (or orange wheel): A good garnish is, literally in this case, the cherry on top. A classic maraschino cherry will do, or spiff it up with an even fancier fruit like Luxardo Maraschino cherries. Cut a thin slice of a fresh orange, too, if you’re feeling extra.
How do you make a Whiskey Sour?
This classic Whiskey Sour recipe relies on simple ingredients that you already have.
- First, fill a cocktail shaker with ice. If you're in the market for a cocktail set, I rely on this one.
- Next, add your bourbon or whiskey, citrus juice, and simple syrup. Put the lid firmly on the shaker and shake vigorously for about 20 seconds.
- Strain the contents of the shaker out into a cocktail glass filled with ice.
- Garnish with a cherry and/or and orange wheel. Cheers!
Why do you shake cocktails?
Cocktails made with fruit juice, egg whites, or dairy will likely need to be shaken. In the case of egg whites, the motion incorporates air into the whites and is responsible for texture.
Other times, it’s simply a matter of making the drink icy cold, while also tempering the strength of the cocktail using the water from the ice. This makes the beverage very drinkable.
What are the Whiskey Sour calories?
By my math, according to my nutritional data, one Whisky Sour is roughly 128 calories. This may very depending on how large your drink is, or how sweet you like things. Whatever you do, enjoy responsibly!
What is the best Whiskey Sour bourbon?
To each their own, but I like Samuel Grant, Woodford Reserve, Bulleit, or Maker's Mark. Use your favorite.
What is gomme syrup? Do you need gomme Syrup to make a Whiskey Sour?
Gomme (or gum) syrup is a drink sweetener that was commonly used instead of simple syrup in many classic cocktail recipes. It’s an ingredient that is enjoying a bit of a revival, but you don’t really need it for this recipe.
What about Whiskey Sour with egg white?
Officially, the spin-off cocktail known as the Boston Sour faithfully uses egg whites in the recipe, shaken until frothy. Despite what some may say, you don’t need egg whites to make a delicious Whiskey Sour! If you decide to use them, make sure you're using pasteurized egg whites, and shake a bit longer before straining everything out into a glass.
How do you make homemade Whiskey sour mix?
Making your own sour mix is a thousand times more delicious than the neon yellow bottles at the store. I make a quick and easy sour mix combining equal parts lemon and lime juice with simple syrup.
- 1/2 cup lime juice
- 1/2 cup lemon juice (1 cup total) with
- 1 cup simple syrup
That’s it! Making simple syrup is as easy as it sounds. Head over to my how-to, if you need to know.
What is the difference between bourbon and whiskey?
This gets pretty technical, and I will try to sum it up as best I can, without getting into the entire (lengthy) bourbon aging process:
- Whiskey is made from a fermented blend of grains, commonly corn, barley, rye, and wheat–that blend is what distillers call a mash. Depending on what ratio of those grains that make up the mash is part of how the resulting liquid is either labeled whiskey or bourbon.
- There are federal regulations in place that differentiate whiskey from bourbon. For a whiskey to call itself bourbon, its mash must contain at least 51% corn.
- Another criteria for bourbon: it has to be made in the U.S.A. Much of the bourbon we buy comes from Kentucky, which is where the name originated from in a certain area called Old Bourbon, now known as Bourbon County.
- The main difference between scotch and whisky is geographic, but also ingredients and spellings. Scotch is whisky made in Scotland, while bourbon is whiskey made in the U.S.A, generally Kentucky. Scotch is made mostly from malted barley, while bourbon is distilled from corn.
Whiskey Sour Cocktail Recipe
- 2 ounces whiskey
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice freshly squeezed
- 1 tablespoon lime juice freshly squeezed
- 2 tablespoons simple syrup (see Notes)
- 1 maraschino cherry
- 1 orange slice optional
- Combine bourbon, lemon juice, lime juice, and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker. Fill shaker with ice, cover, and shake vigorously until outside of shaker is very cold, about 20 seconds.
- Strain cocktail through strainer or slotted spoon into an old-fashioned or rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish with cherry or orange slice, if desired.