What is a Whiskey Sour?

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  • Written By: Cathy Rogers
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 17 October 2019
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By strict definition, a whiskey sour is a mixed drink containing whiskey, lemon juice, and sugar. To many, though, a whiskey sour is one of a family of old-fashioned cocktails reminiscent of the mid 20th century. In fact, the U.S. Bartenders Guide chose the citrus-flavored cocktail as representative of the 1960-70 decade.

A standard whiskey sour recipe contains 2 ounces (59 ml) of blended whiskey, the juice of half a lemon, 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) of powdered sugar. Add ice and shake to blend all ingredients. Strain into a chilled sour glass and garnish with a half-slice of lemon and a cherry. The addition of 1 teaspoon (5 ml) egg white before shaking adds a frothy top to the drink.

The sour recipe is the basis for many similar drinks. By substituting various liquors in place of whiskey, you can mix an amaretto, vodka or tequila sour. Other drinks in the sour family include margaritas, daiquiris and sidecars. Daiquiris contain rum, lime juice, and syrup and are usually served without ice in a cocktail glass. The sidecar combines one part lemon juice, one part triple sec liqueur with one part brandy. The margarita is created with tequila, triple sec and lemon or lime juice.


Other variations include additional ingredients such as sugar syrup, maraschino cherry juice, olive juice, an orange slice and/or bitters. Sour mixes are also readily available and some recipes substitute Seven-Up in place of the sour mix. Most whiskey sour recipes use bourbon whiskey, but some suggest brandy or Tennessee whiskey as acceptable substitutes.

The proper whiskey sour glass is a smallish stemmed glass that is widest at the top. With a capacity of 5-8 ounces (150-240 ml), a sour glass is similar to a small champagne flute. The sour glass is also known as a delmonico glass. A whiskey sour can be enjoyed from any type glass, but other popular choices include a footed high ball glass or an old-fashioned glass.

This retro cocktail is one of many drinks that have experienced a resurgence in popularity. Its longevity is likely attributed to its simplicity in both preparation and ingredients. The taste can be compared to lemonade.

Another version of the sour cocktail is the Pisco Sour. This drink, popular in Peru and Chile, features a specific regional brandy known as pisco, lime or lemon juice, simple syrup, an egg white and a dash of bitters.


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Post 3

I think an important garnish for the whiskey sour is a sugar-rimmed glass. To create a sugar rim, simply dip the rim of whatever glass you choose in a bit of water. Then, press the dampened rim on a plate full of crystallized sugar. The sugar rim adds a touch of sparkle and decadence. Also, the sweetness of the sugar makes for an excellent contrast to the sour flavor of the drink.

Post 2

The oldest mention of a whiskey sour dates back to the 19th century. It was mentioned in a Wisconsin newspaper published sometime during 1870.

Post 1

To cut calories and still be able to enjoy a delicious whiskey sour, you can use a sugar substitute such as Splenda brand sweetener or Equal. Since these calorie-free options are sometimes sweeter than real sugar, use to your taste by sampling the beverage before serving it to others.

I have also heard of people using sugarfree lemonade mix (such as Minutemaid brand) as an alternative mixer to traditional sugar-loaded sour mix.

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