After a long day of work or travel, homework help or house cleaning, a homemade Whiskey Sour is a fabulous fix.
It’s really one of those drinks that suits if you’re feeling gregarious, having friends over for a poolside hang—or, if you’re having a terrible day, dealing with in-laws or the IRS.
No wonder it’s been around since the mid-1800s.
Depending on how you make it, a Whiskey Sour can be a festive, lighthearted, quaffable tipple for sunshine and swimsuits—or a stiff, bracing, knock-the-cobwebs-off-your-soul type endeavor–best served on a dark, blustery winter’s night.
It’s also easy-as-hell to both create and experiment with. All you need at the baseline is Whiskey (bourbon, rye, straight—take your pick), lemon juice and sugar. An egg white will really get you somewhere, as will fresh herbs, swapped citrus and, of course, a dash of bitters.
If you were to venture over to my place, I’d serve you a Rattlesnake first, which is a Whiskey Sour, with a splash of absinthe.
I most often make them with Herbsaint. Why?
Because my absinthes are expensive. I don’t want to use them up in cocktails, and Herbsaint tastes great at half the price. Also, you may not have absinthe, and that’s totally fine. I don’t feel you need a bottle of absinthe on a home bar, but if you are in New Orleans, Herbsaint is kind of a hometown essential.
Now, to make a Whiskey Sour.
Note: The recipes for Whiskey Sours either call for an egg white or do not.
Egg whites in cocktails are totally safe to consume and they add this great foam at the top of a drink, with a totally luscious, creamy, silky effect to the sip.
To make any drink with an egg white, it must be dry shaken first (that’s hard, and without ice) to properly emulsify it all.
Then, you want an equally zesty second shake, with ice for chilling and dilution.
I like to serve mine in a coupe glass, with a dash of bitters on top.
After I have one egg white Whiskey Sour, I move into making them without.
While I love the froth and formality of one to start, I don’t love drinking them over and over again. An egg white drink isn’t really something that sits around well. It needs to be thoughtfully and purposefully consumed; whereas a regular whiskey sour mellows over ice and time exceptionally. You can leave it lingering by a pool or a fireplace and return to it after you’ve fiddled with a stereo or found a good novel. You can’t do that so easily with an egg white cocktail.
When I make them without egg whites, I serve a Whiskey Sour in a rocks glass, over fresh ice, with a Dirty Sue Whiskey Cherry skewered on rim. Dirty Sue started out as a premium olive juice company—ideal for Martinis—but their expansion into jarred cherries soaked in whiskey has become a staple in my own fridge.
If I’m out of skewers, I just toss that thing sucker in the bottom of the glass.
Now, the items you need to make a proper Whiskey Sour are also, ironically, the ones you always have at home:
Pro-tip: Use a jigger for all Sour-style cocktails. This includes Daiquiris and Margaritas. I use a jigger for everything, even highballs, at home because balance is crucial to a great drink. It’s as important as fresh lemon juice in this one, so don’t eyeball it.
To make the aforementioned Rattlesnake, you can add splash of absinthe, or, alternatively Pernod or Herbsaint if you don’t have proper absinthe.
And, this one is destined to truly be your drink.
Before long, you’ll find yourself experimenting with aromatics and flavored bitters, how much egg white you want and whether it’s a sweeter, corn-based bourbon or a fiery rye.
That’s the fun of a great Whiskey Sour.
"A Whiskey Sour can be a festive, lighthearted, quaffable tipple for sunshine and swimsuits—or a stiff, bracing, knock-the-cobwebs-off-your-soul type endeavor—best served on a dark, blustery winter’s night."
Jenny is a fan of Mexican Firing Squads in summer, Sazeracs in winter and extra pickles on everything, any time of year.