The Whiskey Sour – a classic cocktail that is extremely easy to make. It’s just got a few ingredients, but it’s got all a good cocktail could ask for: it’s sweet, it’s sour, and let’s be honest; it’s kind of strong. You can also really easily make this into a ginger whiskey sour!
If you like this whiskey drink, you will also love The Penicillin Cocktail, Irish coffee or any one of the other 11 refreshing whiskey cocktails in this round-up. Some other classic cocktails I recommend are mojito, gin fizz and vodka lemonade. There’s always a drink for any occasion here at Ginger with Spice.
What is a Whiskey Sour and why is it called that?
No funny business here.
A whiskey sour is called just that because it is a whiskey based drink that happens to be sour. A classic whiskey sour is made with whiskey, lemon juice, simple syrup and egg whites. It’s one of my favorite drinks because of the sweet and sour combination.
And before you ask; no, I do not consider a whiskey sour a ‘girly drink’, because if a drink is tasty, it should be tasty for both genders – don’t you think? A manly man can order a piña colada or a mojito and not feel awkward about it.
The whiskey sour is a very old drink. First written down in 1862 in The Bartender’s Guide by Jerry Thomas. It was, however, known for a century prior to this. When sailors ventured overseas, they struggled with malnutrition and scurvy and germs and what not. Citrus is great to prevent scurvy, and whiskey (or rum) was safe to drink as opposed to the dirty water.
In a way, that was how the whiskey sour got its origin. Read more about this from The Alcohol Professor.
Why Do we Have Egg Whites in a Whiskey Sour?
The egg white helps to reduce the acidity from the lemon, and it also binds the flavors together. The cocktail will get a little cloudy and get a lovely foam on top.
I know a lot of people freak out when they see the recipe and it calls for raw egg whites – let me tell you, you cannot taste it! It’s completely flavorless. The egg white gives a pretty white foam and it can be omitted if you really want to. But if it is solely for the “Oh but I don’t like eggs” – then that excuse won’t work.
However, it may taste a little off if the drink sits for too long. So if you’re not planning on drinking it right away, I would also omit it. And 1 egg white will be enough for two drinks, so you don’t have to multiply that when making several drinks at once. But you can, of course!
Vegan Whiskey Sour
I know salmonella could be a valid excuse, but this shouldn’t be an issue if you use pasteurized eggs. However, if you’re vegan, then that’s a good excuse. Vegans may use the liquid from a can of chickpeas instead, known as the aquafaba. I have not tasted this, so I cannot vouch for the taste, although aquafaba is considered tasteless. Therefore I definitely think it’s worth a shot!
1 egg white is approximately 1-2 tbsp aquafaba. Use the same way as egg white in this recipe.
Whiskey Sour Variations
A whiskey sour is a perfect cocktail to experiment with different flavors. Instead of the simple syrup in this recipe, you can add equal amounts:
- Make a blackberry whiskey sour using my blackberry syrup.
- Or an apricot rosemary whiskey sour with the simple syrup form this apricot gin fizz.
- Any-kind-of-berry-whiskey sour, using this cordial as a base and whatever berry you have on hand.
- Honey or maple whiskey sour with, you guessed it, honey or maple syrup.
- Lilac whiskey sour using this lilac syrup.
- Ginger whiskey sour – my favorite next to the classic, see instructions in the next paragraph.
- New York whiskey sour – top the whiskey sour with 1/2 oz (1 tbsp) red wine, using the backside of a spoon so it floats on top. A red wine like a Shiraz or Malbec is perfectly fruity for this.
- Other flavors to add to a simple syrup: rosemary, mint, cinnamon, lavender and lime.
I want to make it a Ginger Whiskey Sour
Yay, me too! I love ginger whiskey sours. And it’s almost as simple as making a traditional whiskey sour. When you make your simple syrup, you make a ginger simple syrup instead.
For example you may add 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup sugar into a saucepan, along with 1 inch ginger roughly chopped. Stir until sugar is dissolved and let it simmer for about 15 minutes. Let it cool to room temperature with the ginger still in it, this really infuses the simple syrup with delicious ginger.
You can do this with any thinkable flavor, really. I’ve used rhubarb stalks, apricot and rosemary and so many other things. Ginger is also a classic, so I’m putting it here as an option for you.
What is the best whiskey to use?
You can use a bourbon or a rye for this recipe. I prefer bourbon, like a Jim Beam Kentucky Bourbon, and I’m very happy about it. It’s relatively cheap but also really delicious. I’m not sponsored for saying this, just trying to help in your decisions. According to bartender Kenneth McCoy, bourbon is best because of the vanilla, honey and caramel notes. Rye is spicier.
But even bartenders are even battling whether bourbon or rye is the best whiskey for a whiskey sour. Here’s a list of the 10 best whiskeys for a whiskey sour. And if you want a cheap whiskey for your whiskey sour, check the test of 13 under $25 whiskeys here, and spoiler alert – some even get the grade A+!
How to make a whiskey sour from scratch
Place whiskey, lemon juice, simple syrup and egg white in a cocktail shaker. Don’t add in the ice just yet. Shake vigorously for 30 seconds. This will incorporate the egg white properly. If you are making more than 1 drink, do not increase amount of egg whites, that is not necessary. 1 egg white will be enough for 2 drinks (but if you want you can double it too).
Add ice and shake again, for around 15 seconds more, this to chill the drink. Strain into a glass using a fine-mesh sieve. Garnish with a lemon slice and serve!
Serve immediately with a slice of lemon, and a marachino cherry if you feel like it, as that’s the traditional way of serving it. I just have bad associations with these cherries, so I don’t like them as decor. It’s just me, not the cherry.
Scroll for a printable recipe card below!
More delicious summer cocktails:
- Apricot and Rosemary Gin Fizz
- Classic Mojito (+ a pitcher recipe!)
- Cucumber Pomegranate Vodka Lemonade
- Blood Orange Margarita (or any citrus)
- Grapefruit Mint Green Tea Sangria
- The Penicillin Cocktail (the brother of this whiskey sour!)
- Blackberry Martini
- Ginger Pear Bellini
- … or simply just head to my Cocktails section to get the latest recipes!
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Classic Whiskey Sour
- 4 tbsp whiskey bourbon. 2 oz.
- 2 tbsp lemon juice freshly squeezed. 1 oz
- 2 tbsp simple syrup 1 oz
- 1 tbsp egg white approx. 1 egg white from small egg*
- lemon slice for garnish, optional
- Place whiskey, lemon juice, simple syrup** and egg white in a cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously for 30 seconds. This will incorporate the egg white properly.
- Add ice and shake again, for around 15 seconds more, this will chill the drink. Strain into a glass using a fine-mesh sieve. Garnish with a lemon slice and serve!