The Whiskey Sour is a timeless cocktail, enjoyable anywhere from your favorite cocktail lounge to your home bar.

Whiskey Sour Cocktail

History of the Whiskey Sour

Like many cocktails, the origin of the Whiskey Sour can be traced to wilder (and more unsanitary) times. Sailors on long voyages would mix the juice of lemons or limes with their rum to prevent scurvy. After adding a little sugar to make the mix more palatable, the first sour cocktails were born. We assume the first cocktail cruises followed shortly afterward.

This tradition of mixing citrus with booze was eventually taken ashore where other liquors were substituted. Upon reaching America, whiskey made its way into the cocktail, where it was consequently refined and published for the first time in Jerry Thomas’ book The Bartender’s Guide: How To Mix Drinks in 1862. That means the official Whiskey Sour is older than fifteen of the United States for you history nerds.

Whiskey Sour Tasting Notes

Ironically, the simplicity of the ingredients can also make this cocktail easy to mess up. Properly made the Whiskey Sour blends tart citrus with pleasant sweetness, accentuating the rich fullness of the whiskey. The key is balance.

Whiskey Sour Ingredients


  • 2 oz Whiskey: An affordable to mid-range whiskey will do. We prefer Knob Creek.
  • ¾ oz Simple syrup: Equal parts sugar and water—easy peasy.
  • ¾ oz Lemon juice: Freshly squeezed is always best. Pro tip: when choosing lemons or limes, heavier fruits with thinner skins that give a little when squeezed will yield more juice.
  • Orange slice: As a garnish
  • Cherry: As a garnish

How to Make a Whiskey Sour

  1. Fill a mixing glass with ice
  2. Pour 2 oz Whiskey
  3. Pour ¾ oz Simple syrup
  4. Pour ¾ oz Lemon juice
  5. Shake 10 – 15 seconds
  6. Strain contents of the shaker into a rocks or Old Fashioned glass filled with ice
  7. Garnish with the orange slice and cherry

Whiskey Sour Variations

The simplicity of the Whisky Sour lends itself well to experimentation.

  • Shaking the cocktail with egg whites adds a thick froth, providing a pleasantly creamy feel. If nervous about drinking raw egg whites, cartons of pasteurized whites are available at most grocery stores.
  • For a more elegant presentation, shake and strain the cocktail into a chilled coupe glass. This is especially pretty with the egg white variation above.
  • Booze-soaked cherries used as garnishes add a pleasant accompaniment. Options include soaking in whiskey, brandy, or Maraschino liqueur.
  • Top the cocktail with a ½ oz of sweeter red wine for a New York Sour
  • Add gently muddled mint for a fragrant herbal note.

Whiskey Sour Substitutions

A wide variety of substitutions are available for Whiskey Sour’s main ingredients.

  • Try different whiskeys for different flavor profiles. For example, bourbon can impart caramel, vanilla, and oak flavors, while rye can add a spicy, peppery kick.
  • Use grenadine instead of simple syrup for a sweet, slightly tropical flavor and pretty pink color
  • Replace lemon juice with freshly squeezed orange juice for a fuller, fruitier flavor. (Combined with the grenadine substitution above, this makes a Ward 8)
  • If squeezing lemons is impractical for your purposes, consider using high-quality juices from Cocktail Artist.
  • Flavored or infused syrups can add new dimensions of flavor, such as infusions of citrus, honey, or mint.

When to Serve a Whiskey Sour

Easy to make and easy to drink, the Whiskey Sour is versatile enough for any occasion, but especially when looking for something refreshing.

  • Warm weather / outdoor activities: Whether golfing, boating, grilling, or just sitting on the porch, the Whiskey Sour has you covered.
  • Cocktail parties: Impress your friends by dramatically shaking cocktails!

What to Serve with a Whiskey Sour

The Whiskey Sour is full enough to set off medium-bodied foods, yet acidic enough to complement lighter fare.

  • Barbecue, especially pork and chicken.
  • Desserts: The Whiskey Sour complements the acidity of fruit pies but can also lend pleasant contrast to richer desserts like pecan pie or peach cobbler.

Always remember to drink responsibly!

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