As a fan of whiskey, you know how important it is to taste the subtleties and offerings of each glass. However, if you’re out at a bar or hosting friends for a game night, enjoying a quality glass of whiskey served neat in a rocks glass may not be the most feasible thing to do. It’s important to find a beverage that contains whiskey and is easy to make or order. Allow us to introduce you to the whiskey sour.

What is a Whiskey Sour?

A whiskey sour is a drink that has been around since 1870 when it first made an appearance in the Waukesha Plain Dealer, a Wisconsin newspaper. Many believe that Elliott Stubb should be credited with the drink, as it’s thought that he created the drink around that time.

A whiskey sour is similar to other sour cocktails, such as the daiquiri or the margarita. Most bartenders recommend it as a drink to order while out and prefer it to other ones like amaretto sours. If you’re going to do so, be sure the bartender makes it with fresh ingredients as it calls for in any recipe. Drinking well-whiskey and sour mix will turn you off to it quickly.

If you’re accustomed to ordering two-ingredient whiskey sours at a dive bar, you’ve likely never asked yourself, “What is in a whiskey sour?” In actuality, a whiskey sour consists of whiskey, lemon juice, and sugar.

Many people prefer the Boston Sour, or Whiskey Sour Egg White, which adds a small amount of egg white to the drink to give it a creamy, frothy texture. Others prefer the New York Sour, which features a few spoons of red wine added to the beverage. The drink is typically shaken well and served over ice. Many prefer to garnish the drink with a lemon slice, orange slice, or cherry.

A quality whiskey sour should bring out the flavors and aromas of a good whiskey. Most people who enjoy the drink prefer to use bourbon as the primary source of alcohol. But because no two bourbons are the same, different brands may pair better with the other ingredients in the whiskey sour. We recommend trying your favorite whiskey to start but also experimenting with other whiskeys.

Additionally, you can add bitters to the drink for an extra little kick. Because bourbons are often sweet, a whiskey sour becomes the perfect blend of sweet, sour, and spicy. You can also experiment with adding honey syrup for a sweeter variation. It should be easy to play around with the recipe to find a flavorful drink that you enjoy. You can even try different types of cherries, such as moonshine cherries.

The whiskey sour is a great drink of choice because it is good any time of the year. While other sour cocktails are often viewed exclusively as summer drinks, you can enjoy a whiskey sour in both the summer and the winter. The ice and lemon juice can cool you down during warm summer months, while the bourbon can warm you up during winter months.

If you do not consider yourself a big fan of whiskeys, don’t give up yet! The whiskey sour is an excellent introduction. Even those who are not big whiskey fans have found that they love the whiskey sour. It is not nearly as overpowering as drinking bourbon on the rocks and is a great segway into stronger alcohol.  

The Best Whiskeys for a Whiskey Sour

As we previously mentioned, different types of whiskey will make for different types of whiskey sours. We consider these the best whiskeys to use when creating your new beverage.  

For a whiskey sour with a classic taste, try using Basil Hayden’s. Ideally, you’ll want to use a bourbon that is 80-proof and offers hints of vanilla and oak. The bourbon should not overpour the balance of the lemon juice and sugar. If you are not a fan of Basil Hayden’s, any mid-range bourbon should do the trick.

For a whiskey sour with a more powerful taste, consider using Wild Turkey 101. Because the classic whiskey sour recipe calls for 80-proof bourbon, using bourbon that is 100-proof will pack a punch. The drink will have a full flavor, and you certainly be able to taste the whiskey. We don’t recommend this for those starting out with whiskey, but rather for those who have a genuine appreciation for it.

If you’re in search of a classier whiskey sour, perhaps for a special occasion, consider using a whiskey that has aged for a more extended period. Yellow Spot Irish Whiskey, for example, is aged 12 years. While whiskey aficionados would probably scoff at the thought of putting that into a cocktail, it makes for a remarkable drink. This distiller finishes the whiskey in different casks, which is very noticeable.

For those who prefer a smokier finish in their whiskey, you may want to consider using scotch instead of bourbon. Try using a blended scotch such as Famous Grouse, as opposed to using your favorite single malt. You’ll find that even cheaper scotch will add unique, smoky undertones.

If you’re looking for a spicier drink and bitters doesn’t do the trick, consider using a rye whiskey as the base. We recommend using George Dickel Rye to begin, but don’t be afraid to upgrade to Bulleit 90-proof rye. Bulleit’s Rye Whiskey has an ABV that is higher than average. You’ll taste every bit of the 95 percent rye grain found in this whiskey.

Whiskey Sour Recipe

If you’re curious about how to make a whiskey sour, you’re in luck. Below are a few recipes for the drink. Feel free to try your favorite whiskey sour recipe on your own after a long day’s work or the next time you are hosting a party.

The Classic Whiskey Sour Cocktail

The first recipe, courtesy of, is for a classic whiskey sour cocktail. To make the drink, you’ll need

  • 1 ½ ounces Bourbon
  • ¾ ounce Fresh Lemon Juice
  • ¾ Simple Sugar, consisting of 1 part water and 1 part sugar
  • 1 Cherry
  • 1 Lime Wedge for the garnish
  • Rocks Glass

Add the ingredients to a shaker after you have filled it with ice. Shake well until the ingredients are combined. Fill the rocks glass with fresh ice. Pour the shaken mixture through a strainer into the rocks glass. Garnish with the fruit, and enjoy.

The Boston Sour

This recipe, provided by the Kitchn, will allow you to make the Boston Sour.

  • 2 ounces bourbon whiskey
  • 1 ounce lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • ¾ ounce simple syrup
  • 1 egg white
  • Ice

This recipe calls for you to put all of the ingredients into a shaker, except for the ice. Begin by dry-shaking the cocktail for ten seconds. You need to do this step because of the egg white. A dry shake allows the egg white to blend well with the other ingredients. If you shake with the ice first, you likely won’t get the foamy layer on the top of your cocktail.

After the dry shake, add ice to your cocktail shaker and vigorously shake again for ten seconds. Then, pour over a strainer into a coupe glass filled with ice. This recipe calls for you to use a Hawthorne strainer, which allows you to “double-strain” the drink so that pulp and ice shard do not make their way into your drink. Complete the drink with a garnish and serve.

New York Whiskey Sour

This recipe, which combines two different types of alcohol, is provided by Bon Appetit. The magazine picked the drink as “Comeback Cocktail of the Year” in 2013. We’ll also note that the recipe calls for either rye or bourbon whiskey. The one that you choose will significantly impact how your drink will taste, mainly because there is wine in the cocktail. Consider trying both variations.

  • 2 ounces whiskey
  • ½ ounce red wine. Try fruity versions like a Malbec
  • 1 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 1 ounce simple syrup

Begin by shaking the whiskey, lemon juice, and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake for approximately 30 seconds, or until the outside of the shaker is frosty. Pour over a rocks glass into a strainer. Then, pour the wine into the glass. You want the wine to float up on top so that the drink is two different colors, so be sure to pour it over the back of a spoon.

Cinnamon Maple Whiskey Sour

This fun recipe from Cookie + Kate is more suited for winter. The recipe calls for maple syrup instead of simple syrup, which proves to be a bit more flavorful.

  • 1 ½ ounces bourbon
  • 1 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 3 teaspoons maple syrup
  • Ground Cinnamon

Combine the ingredients except for the cinnamon in a cocktail shaker. If you don’t have a cocktail shaker, a mason jar is a suitable substitute. Shake well, and then pour through a strainer into a cocktail glass filled with ice. Garnish with cinnamon and enjoy! An apple wedge could also make for a suitable garnish.

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