Whiskey Sour Cocktail

After the old-fashioned, the whiskey sour is one of the easiest classic whiskey cocktails to make.

Let’s get something straight right off the bat. There is no way sour mix should be used in a whiskey sour. There are often gray areas in cocktails: bourbon or rye, ½ or ¾ ounce, type of glassware, etc. This is not a gray area. If you own sour mix, throw it in the garbage and repent. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, we can get down to the basics.

The History

A sour cocktail in its simplest form is a spirit, a sweet ingredient, and a sour ingredient. The whiskey sour is another classic whiskey cocktail with a disputed past and an abundance of variations. In David Wondrich’s popular book, Imbibe!, he says the earliest mention of the whiskey sour was found on a menu in a Toronto saloon in 1865.

A quick Google search reveals two main approaches to making a whiskey sour. The earliest recorded way: whiskey, lemon, water and sugar (or modern update: simple syrup). But I think you should take the second approach and add a little something special: an egg white.

The Recipe

  • 2 ounces whiskey (I prefer bourbon)
  • ¾ ounce fresh lemon juice
  • ¾ ounce simple syrup

Add all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice and shake. Strain ingredients into an old-fashioned glass filled with ice. A cherry and orange slice garnish are optional.

Now here’s where you can take it up a notch. Use the same ingredients, but add one egg white. Shake all the ingredients without ice for about a minute to emulsify the egg with the other ingredients. This is called a dry shake. Then add ice and shake again. Strain ingredients into a chilled coupe glass.

The egg white will create a beautiful foam. Garnish (optional) by putting a couple drops of Angostura Bitters in the foam and make a design with the drops, like a circular pattern (a straight line also looks cool).

The addition of an egg white makes the drink frothy and light. It also adds an excellent texture and mouthfeel. And the foam looks awesome.

Now at this point you might be saying, egg white, can't that kill me? The answer is most likely not. Here’s a quick rundown on egg whites in cocktails.

  • Salmonella poisoning can infect eggs (and other foods obviously).
  • However, it’s rare. The chances of an egg having salmonella are roughly 1 in 20,000 eggs, according to the American Egg Board.
  • Clean, cool, fresh eggs are less likely to contain salmonella.
  • Wash your hands and your surfaces/tools. This should be common practice when making any drink.
  • If you’re doctor has told you to stay away from raw eggs, listen to him/her.

For a more thorough explanation of eggs in cocktails, read Michael Dietsch’s blog post, parts one and two.

The Execution

Here are a few tips to help perfect the cocktail:

  • Put the egg white in first. That way if you accidentally get some shell in the shaker, you can clean it out without having to dump the whiskey, which is more expensive.
  • If you don’t want to dry shake, or you want a little better froth, use an electric dairy frother.
  • I like to use a “BlenderBall” found in a Blender Bottle to help emulsify the ingredients on my dry shake. Some people strip the spring off a Hawthorne strainer for the same effect. Remove from strainer before adding ice.
  • During a dry shake, a greater pressure than normal builds inside the shaker. This makes it important to point the top of the shaker away from your guests when shaking. But you should do be doing that anyway, whether it’s a dry shake or not, just to be on the safe side.
  • The ingredients will emulsify much better when they’re room temperature.

Both variations of the whiskey sour are good. But try the egg white version. I think you’ll like it. In fact, I’d be willing to go out on a limb and say it might change your cocktail life.

If you have any questions about the whiskey sour, feel free to comment below, email, or hit us up on social media. No question is too basic!