Grain-based booze, citrus, and a sweetener, with egg white or aquafaba optional—of course, we’re talking about the template for a Whiskey Sour, a cocktail that’s as endlessly riffable as it is absolutely perfect. It flaunts weight and body along with acidity and lifts, meaning it’s a cocktail you can drink all year long. And we highly recommend doing exactly that.
While the original recipe doesn’t need improvement, why not try one of these creative variations? You can swap out lemon juice for grapefruit or yuzu, skip the simple syrup in favor of a liqueur, add other flavors to complement the whiskey and citrus, or even use these as inspiration for the creation of your own.
This New York Sour-Esque libation created by Michael Biddick, the owner of Blend 111, a wine bar outside Washington, D.C., adds red wine from Bordeaux’s Cadillac subregion and eschews the frothy texture usually brought by the addition of egg white.
Apricot Ginger Whiskey Sour
“The key to all great sours is creating the perfect combination of tartness from citrus and sweetness from sugar,” says Lisa Selman, the director of beverage at Kitty O’Shea’s in Chicago. In this one, which can be made with bourbon, rye or scotch, the usual lemon juice is balanced by apricot liqueur and a house-made ginger syrup made by infusing the simple syrup with fresh ginger root.
The classic cocktail gets a Japanese twist from the incorporation of yuzu, a Japanese citrus fruit, and kuromitsu, a molasses-like syrup derived from kokutō, a mineral-rich unrefined sugar. “Nikka Coffey Grain whiskey gives a rich and elegant flavor, ‘black honey’ also has rich sweetness, and the yuzu scent enhances these ingredients, giving the cocktail more of a Japanese flavor profile,” says Shigefumi Kabashima, the owner and beverage director of ROKC in New York City. The drink is finished with drops of two kinds of bitters atop its frothy surface.
Big Red Sun
Jesse Vanpoucke, the lead bartender at Lawry’s The Prime Rib in Chicago, has become fond of splitting the base in a Whiskey Sour between two whiskeys, Monkey Shoulder and Power’s, to lighten the drink’s profile. He deems the former a worthy “cocktail workhouse scotch,” and the latter is a personal tongue-in-cheek homage to doing shots of Irish whiskey. Passion fruit liqueur, vanilla simple syrup, and apple bitters round out the drink’s flavors.
“What makes a perfect Whiskey Sour is the balance of fresh ingredients,” says Jason Shelly, the resident bartender at Firestone & Robertson, a craft distillery in Fort Worth, Texas. He incorporates muddled jalapeño slices and a blend of citrus juices for a, particularly Southwestern kick.
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