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Whiskey Sour

Add lemon juice, water and sugar to the serving glass. Stir to dissolve. Add spirit and ice. Stir once more. Rub a lemon peel on the rim of the glass and toss in.

Prep Time 1 minute
Servings 1
Category Sour
Tags 1840-1880 (Cocktails Arrive), 1880-1919 (Golden Age), 1919-1933 (Prohibition), 1933-1969 (Tiki to Martinis), Classic, Elegant
Proof 38.7
Strength 1.3 standard drinks
Glass Old Fashioned or Rocks Glass
Temp Cold
Whiskey Sour
Whiskey Sour

From my rumblings through Imbibe!: From Absinthe Cocktail to Whiskey Smash (and there have been a great many), I have found that the Sour has gone through a metamorphosis over the last 170 years or so.  It started as a simple drink that was easy to prepare.  Let's call this version the Mid-Century Whiskey Sour (as it was popular in the mid-19th Century).  You will find it in the recipe above.

As the century progressed, the Whiskey Sour acquired a dash or so of Curacao (similar to what happened to the Fix) and some additional ornamentation beyond the lemon peel (berries or other fruit).  Also Mr. Wondrich informs us that bartenders of the period started to serve these Sours up in stemmed glasses that were both larger and heavier than cocktail glasses (thus the Whiskey Sour glass).  I am somewhat partial to keeping it on the rocks, so here is how I make this evolution of the Whiskey Sour.

Late Century Whiskey Sour 

  • 2 oz whiskey
  • 1 tsp Curacao
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz water
  • 1 tsp gum syrup (2:1 strength)

Shake all ingredients with ice cubes.  Strain onto new ice in a glass.  Lemon twist and you can ornament with other fruit if you wish.

At this point I should mention a moderately famous variation on the Whiskey Sour.  Make either Sour variation above but use rye for your whiskey.  Then float about 1/2 oz of dry red wine onto the top of the sour.  This is called a New York Sour and the float is called a Claret Snap (claret being a British term for nearly any red wine).  You can use the claret snap on bourbon sours or other drinks but when used on a rye-based sour, you have a New York Sour.  What kind of red wine do you use?  If you go with one definition of Claret, you want Bordeaux or a Cab-blend.  I tend to prefer any full-bodied red wine that can stand up to the rest of the drink.  Think Rhone, a zippy Garnacha or an inky Monastrell.

Now on to our third iteration of the sour.  During Prohibition a bit of egg white began to show up in whiskey sours.  Mr. Wondrich tells us that this is due to the influence of the "European school" of sour making which includes egg white in the recipe.  This version of the whiskey sour crossed the Atlantic before World War II and became the de facto recipe for many years in the U.S.

Make sure your egg white comes from a not huge egg.  Large eggs or smaller.  If you get into jumbo territory the egg white will wall off the flavors of the drink.  Also, I omit the water as the egg white is providing some moisture and we want a more concentrated citric profile that is softened somewhat by the egg white.

Prohibition Era Whiskey Sour (European School)

  • 2 oz whiskey
  • 1 tsp Curacao
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • 1 tsp gum syrup (2:1 strength)
  • 1 egg white

Shake with ice cubes.  Strain onto new ice in a rocks glass.  Lemon twist and you can ornament with other fruit if you wish.

Rating (Liquor & Drink)

92

New York Sour (late 19th Century) with Rittenhouse bonded rye, Gran Gala Curacao, lemon juice, homemade gum syrup and Borsao garnacha wine. 7/5/2012

91

Prohibition era Whiskey Sour with Knob Creek bourbon, Gran Gala Curacao, lemon juice, homemade gum syrup and 1/4 oz egg white. 7/5/2012

Ingredient Profile

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Drinks served in the same glass