The Whiskey Sour

Whiskey sour with maraschino cherries
The Spruce
  • Total: 3 mins
  • Prep: 3 mins
  • Cook: 0 mins
  • Serving: 1 serving
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
180 Calories
0g Fat
19g Carbs
1g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 1
Amount per serving
Calories 180
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 14mg 1%
Total Carbohydrate 19g 7%
Dietary Fiber 1g 4%
Protein 1g
Calcium 17mg 1%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

The whiskey sour is one of the best classic cocktails. It's easy to make, and the recipe is the base for the entire family of sour drinks. There are also a variety of adjustments you can make to ensure it suits your taste perfectly.

As the name suggests, this cocktail is sour. The flavor is balanced and complemented by the sweetness of the whiskey and simple syrup, so it's not as tart as you might think. Try it with the ratio suggested in the recipe, give it a taste, then adjust your next drink as needed.

The whiskey sour is such a popular drink recipe that it has its own holiday. If you need a reason to mix one up, National Whiskey Sour Day is August 25.

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Ingredients

  • Ice
  • 2 ounces ​whiskey
  • 3/4 ounce ​lemon juice (fresh)
  • 1/2 to 3/4 ounce ​simple syrup (to taste)
  • Garnish: ​​maraschino cherry or lemon peel

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for making a whiskey sour
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  2. In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, pour the whiskey, lemon juice, and simple syrup.

    Adding ingredients to a whiskey sour in cocktail shaker
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  3. Shake well.

    Ready to shake the whiskey sour in a cocktail shaker
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  4. Strain into a chilled sour glass or over fresh ice in an old-fashioned glass.

    Straining the whiskey sour into a glass; lemon and maraschino cherries at the ready
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  5. Garnish with a cherry or lemon peel.

    Whiskey sour with maraschino cherries
    The Spruce
  6. Enjoy.

Tips

  • When using a rich (2:1) simple syrup, you'll likely want to use a little less in the whiskey sour. If you have a standard syrup made with equal parts of sugar and water, pour the full 3/4 ounce.
  • Fresh lemon juice is the key to a great whiskey sour. Bottled lemon juices are either too sweet or too tart and will significantly affect the quality of your drink.
  • Every new style or brand of whiskey you choose will give the cocktail a unique flavor profile. Most drinkers prefer bourbon, though a good rye whiskey makes an excellent sour as well.
  • As you switch from one whiskey to another, you may need to adjust the sweet and sour elements.

Add an Egg White

A traditional recipe for a whiskey sour includes an egg white. It tends to tame the tartness and make the drink a bit smoother. The use of raw egg is a matter of personal choice, though. Many drinkers pass on the ingredient because there is a potential for salmonella, while others believe that the risks are minimal.

When using egg, dry shake all of the ingredients without ice, then add ice and shake for at least 30 seconds to ensure it's properly mixed. It's also generally preferred to serve the drink on the rocks.

Raw Egg Warning

Consuming raw and lightly-cooked eggs poses a risk of food-borne illness.

Recipe Variations

  • Sour mix (sometimes called sweet and sour mix) is a popular shortcut that combines the sweet and sour components into one mixer. It is an easy option, and many sour recipes suggest it, though you lose control of the final taste. If you opt for this, make a fresh sour mix for the best flavor.
  • When you add soda to this drink (or any sour), you have a collins cocktail. The whiskey version is the John Collins.
  • If you choose Scotch whisky, you have a scotch sour. It often skips the sweetener entirely.
  • The Frisco sour is a popular variation. Benedictine is the sweetener, and the recipe employs both lemon and lime for the sour. 
  • The Canadian Club sour picks up the citrus aspect when using Canadian whisky.
  • The old thyme sour is a complex variation, pairing Irish whiskey with elderberry liqueur, Green Chartreuse, cinnamon, and thyme.
  • The whiskey sour 101 uses grapefruit and lime along with honey and a honey liqueur.
  • A variety of distilled spirits shine in the sour formula. Switch from whiskey to gin, rum, tequila, or vodka and adjust the sweet and sour to suit the new liquor and your taste.
  • For brandy, flavored brandies like apricot are popular in sours. The pisco sour is another brandy version that almost always includes the egg white.
  • Liqueurs have potential as well, and it's often best to reduce or eliminate the sweetener because they're already sweetened. The most popular for sour drinks are amaretto, citrus liqueur, coffee liqueur, and melon liqueur.

History of the Whiskey Sour

The whiskey sour made its official debut in Jerry Thomas' 1862 "The Bon Vivant's Companion" (or "How to Mix Drinks"), which was the first published bartending guide. However, you can trace the cocktail's roots to a century before that.

In general, sour drinks were initially created to fight off scurvy among British Navy sailors during the 1700s. Most often, this meant adding lime to the rum rations (inspiring drinks like the Navy grog). Not only did it ward off disease, the rum or gin (and sometimes whiskey) helped preserve the perishable fruit juice on long voyages.

From there, the addition of a little sugar enhanced the citrus-liquor combination. The result was a more drinkable beverage that was quite tasty. These eventually became known as the sour family of drinks, which have remained popular throughout the generations. The whiskey sour happens to be the most notable.

How Strong Is a Whiskey Sour?

Assuming that you pour an 80-proof whiskey into a whiskey sour, it is a relatively mild drink. Its alcohol content falls in the range of 14 percent alcohol by volume (28 proof). That's about half the strength of a Manhattan and similar to a glass of wine.