Whiskey Sour: A Two Part Recipe
If you type the words “whiskey sour” into your YouTube search bar, you might come across various clips touting titles such as, “The Best Whiskey Sour,”¹ “Everything You Think You Know About Whiskey Sours is Wrong,”² and my personal favorite, “Top Ten Cocktails for Men.”³ Nine out of the first ten videos in this search feature at least one male narrator, professional bartender or not, and if he’s not alone, he's hanging out with other males, makin’ cocktails and just being guys! (Insert muscle flex emoji.) It's not that this frustrates me per se, I simply find it ironic that while cocktails (especially sweet ones) are a thing typically written off as “just things girls do,” almost all of the instructions out there are written by men. I think this is where my fascination with the subject comes from; I like to learn as much as I can about male-dominated areas in the hopes of sneaking in and messing their shit up. It's just a thing girls do.
The first time I had a whiskey sour was on a particularly eventful night, my senior year at university. The South is home to bourbon, and I am particularly glad my first encounter with it not only occurred here, but occurred right. Like Champagne, bourbon is a great love of mine, and like Champagne, it has its lore and regulations.
While whiskey is technically defined as “an alcoholic spirit distilled from a fermented grain mash,” one cannot legally call itself bourbon if it is not made in the United States, containing at least 51 percent corn, and aged in brand-spanking-new oak barrels.† If you're like me and love sustainability you'll appreciate knowing the responsible places will reuse barrels to age other spirits and wines, infusing these with even more depth and character.
In that vein, the whiskey sour has always instilled in me a deeper sense of nostalgia. Perhaps it's because I discovered it at a specific time, perhaps because Southern drinking has long now been a culture upon its own, “a region dominated by Baptists, [where] drinking carried, at best, the tinge of scandal and at worst, the risk of eternal damnation,”† or perhaps it's because I discovered the two at once.
Like any addition of depth and character, memories tinged with drops of bourbon have always come back to me just bit more mystical, more sensuous and tangible than other spirit-infused moments of my early twenties. Like The South, you could say they have a bit of more magic in them. One sip and I'm running through dimly lit squares in wispy black dresses in the middle of the night, dancing in basement bars with old friends, and falling asleep in living rooms with balcony windows left open, the cool air relieving us all of our dewy humidity and finals-induced exhaustion.
Those years have left me, and it seems so too, has the whiskey sour. One I can accept to live without; the other, I cannot. A tragedy of modern bartending, ready made Sour Mix is something I will never purchase. If you're lucky, your local establishment will also make no such compromise. If not, one of the below recipes should suffice:
(A QUICK NOTE: I should probably say the reason the whiskey sour left my drink rotation is that it seemed to disappear in the traditional fashion I drank it from my locally preferred bars, and so I've approached both methods. I wanted to see if my nostalgia had got the better of me, or, if I could truly enjoy one as they are made more commonly these days, without that pesky risk. That's right, I'm talking about egg whites. You didn't take me for that kind of girl, did ya? Depth and character, baby, depth and character.)
Whiskey Sour No. 1 (Adapted from a Barefoot Contessa recipe, because who do you take me for.)
90 ml / 3 oz Bourbon or Whiskey of your choice (I like Bulleit, or if you’re lucky enough to be in the South and able to get your hands on it, 13th Colony is the one.)
60 ml / 2 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
30 ml / 1 oz fresh squeezed lime juice
60 ml / 2 oz simple sugar syrup‡
Combine ingredients in a shaker over ice, and shake well. Strain into a chilled rocks glass with a few fresh cubes.
Garnish as you please. (Tradition calls for an orange wedge and maraschino cherry, and while I appreciate both, I don’t get upset if I don’t have them around.)
Whiskey Sour No. 2 (The addition of egg white is said to add a layer of heft by some, additional sweetness by others... I personally find it adds a velvet-like smoothness, and a slight meringue aftertaste that makes me okay with skipping dessert.)
90 ml / 3 oz Bourbon or Whiskey 6
0 ml / 2 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
45 ml / 1.5 oz simple sugar syrup‡
1 medium egg white
Place the egg white in a shaker alone, shake lightly for about ten seconds. Add the rest of the ingredients, follow with ice, and shake again, well, 15-20 seconds.
Strain into a cocktail glass, or like me, the rocks glass from your freshly finished No. 1, and add ice or garnish as you please.
Makes two small or one large.
I won't give you a verdict on that nostalgia, but should you try the “riskier” choice, may it infuse you with whatever magic you may need.
¹ A men’s magazine.
² Some dudes with a blog.
³ I don't even know, honestly. I refused to watch that one.
‡ Simple syrup: mix equal parts granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan and heat until melted and clear, be careful not to burn it! I like to keep a jar of it in the refrigerator, but in a pinch 1/4 cup of each will render enough for two drinks, and like anything else, the amount of syrup can be upped or downed as you please.
† DiBenedetto, David, editor. The Southerner’s Handbook. First Ed., New York, NY, HarperCollins, 2013.