Have you tasted a great whiskey sour? One made with fresh-squeezed lemon juice and quality whiskey? They’re bold yet balanced, with a lovely lemony flavor.
Whiskey sours are one of my favorite drinks to order at swanky cocktail bars. If you have sworn off the whiskey sours of your college days, the ones made with cheap whiskey and fake sour mix, I assure you that legitimate whiskey sours are worth your while.
Whiskey sours are also fun to make at home. Serve them during the holidays, on game days, or for date nights in. If you have already enjoyed my Cinnamon Maple Whiskey Sour or New York Sour, I have no doubt you’ll love the original.
To make a whiskey sour, you’ll need just a few basic ingredients—good whiskey, fresh lemons, a little sweetener, and an optional egg white. Fancy cocktail cherries, such as Luxardo, are a worthwhile investment and keep for quite a while in a dark cabinet.
Whether you like your whiskey sour with no foam, extra foam, up or on the rocks, you’ll find all the details you need to craft your ideal whiskey sour in the recipe below. Gather your ingredients and your cocktail shaker!
How to Make a Whiskey Sour (Two Ways)
Before you make a whiskey sour, first decide how you want to serve it. You have two options.
Do you want a foamy top and smooth flavor?
If so, you’ll incorporate an egg white and a “dry shake” in the cocktail shaker. This version of a whiskey sour is technically called a “Boston sour,” but it’s generally billed as a whiskey sour on fancy bar menus. It’s best served up in a coupe glass, as pouring it over ice cubes breaks up the foam.
Safety note: Even when mixed with alcohol, there is always a slight risk of salmonella poisoning with raw egg (one in 20,000). To mitigate this risk, you can buy pasteurized eggs at the store, or pasteurize your own eggs before making this recipe. Here’s the CDC’s information on egg safety. Aquafaba, which is the liquid surrounding cooked chickpeas, is often recommended as an alternative to egg whites in cocktails, but I tried it in this recipe and did not enjoy the flavor (it also foamed about half as much).
Or a bold whiskey sour on the rocks?
If so, skip the egg white and the extra shaking step. Your choice of whiskey really shines in this version. At home, I like to make perfect cubes of ice with this ice cube tray.
Watch How to Make a Whiskey Sour
Whiskey Sour Variations
Whiskey sours have two well-known variations, one for each coast. The New York Sour features a float of red wine on top. New York Sours are so pretty and festive for the holidays.
The second, The Brown Derby, is two variations removed from the classic recipe. Instead of lemon juice, it calls for grapefruit juice, and instead of plain simple syrup, it calls for honey simple syrup. I love this drink and its subtle pink hue so much that I included it in my cookbook, Love Real Food, on page 132.
Simple Flavor Adjustments
You can easily adjust the flavor of your whiskey sour with your choice of sweetener. Plain simple syrup is the classic choice, but imparts sweetness alone.
I love to replace plain simple syrup with maple syrup, which blends right into the drink and offers subtle maple flavor. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—maple syrup and whiskey were made for each other.
Honey lovers, you should try honey simple syrup, which is also complementary in flavor. Straight honey doesn’t mix into cold drinks well, so that’s why we’ll turn it into a simple syrup by mixing it with equal parts hot water (learn more here).
You can also add a dash of cinnamon to your drink, as I’ve done in my Cinnamon Maple Whiskey Sour. If you’re serving your drink on the rocks, you might like a cinnamon stick garnish.
The Best Whiskey for Whiskey Sours
If you dare, choose a 90-proof whiskey for some extra kick that balances the sweetness of the drink and stands out against the strong lemon flavor. I recommend Bulleit, Buffalo Trace or Weller, which are all 90 proof. These are all bourbon whiskeys (all bourbons are whiskey), so it’s safe to say that bourbon is particularly well-suited for whiskey sours.
For a more mellow whiskey flavor, choose a Canadian whiskey like Crown Royal.
More Whiskey Cocktails to Try
Please let me know how your whiskey sour turns out in the comments! I love hearing from you.
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Total Time: 5 minutes
- Yield: 1 drink 1x
- Category: Cocktail
- Method: Shaken
- Cuisine: American
Make the best whiskey sour with this recipe! Fresh lemon juice is key. Serve your whiskey sour up with foamy egg white or on the rocks—the recipe includes instructions for either option. Recipe yields 1 cocktail.
Egg white option (Boston Sour served up)
- Chill your coupe glass by filling it to the brim with ice and water. Set your glass aside.
- Pour the bourbon, lemon juice, syrup and egg white into an empty cocktail shaker. Now we’ll do a dry shake—either shake the mixture well for 30 seconds or for maximum foam, blend it with an immersion blender on high for 30 seconds.
- Add a big scoop of ice to the shaker and shake for about 10 to 15 seconds, until the outside of the shaker is absolutely ice cold.
- Discard the ice water in your glass and gently shake out any stubborn water droplets. Strain the mixture into your prepared glass. Garnish with an orange wedge and a cocktail cherry on a cocktail skewer. Serve at once.
No egg white (Whiskey Sour on the rocks)
- Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Pour in the bourbon, lemon juice and syrup. Shake the mixture for about 10 to 15 seconds, until the outside of the shaker is absolutely ice cold.
- Fill a rocks glass with ice. Strain the mixture into your prepared glass. Garnish with an orange wedge and a cocktail cherry. Serve at once.
Measurement tips: Two ounces is ¼ cup, one ounce is 2 tablespoons, and ½ ounce is 1 tablespoon. I like to use this stainless steel jigger (affiliate link) for measuring small amounts of liquid.
▸ Nutrition Information
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