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Whiskey Sour

Cotswold Cocktail School - Whiskey Sour Cocktail Recipe

 ABV 18% / 2 alcoholic units

Primary spirit: Whiskey

A Brief History of the Whiskey Sour

The history of the Whiskey Sour can be traced back to the early 19th century, where it initially appeared in writings in the United States. It's believed to be a variation of a traditional English cocktail known as the "Punch," which combined spirits, citrus, and sweeteners.

Over the years, the Whiskey Sour has evolved, and it gained immense popularity during the mid-20th century, becoming one of the staple cocktails in American bars. Its enduring appeal can be attributed to its straightforward ingredients, easy preparation, and the way it highlights the character of whiskey while providing a refreshing and balanced drinking experience.

Taste and Flavour Profile

The Whiskey Sour is a cocktail renowned for its harmonious blend of flavours:

  • Whiskey: The star of the show, whiskey—usually bourbon or rye—brings its characteristic depth, warmth, and notes of caramel, vanilla, and oak.
  • Fresh Lemon Juice: Freshly squeezed lemon juice adds a zesty and tart citrus punch that balances the sweetness of the cocktail.
  • Simple Syrup: A touch of simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water) provides the necessary sweetness to round out the flavors.

The result is a cocktail that's bright, refreshing, and timelessly enjoyable—a true classic that excites the palate.

Food Pairings

To enhance your Whiskey Sour experience, consider these delectable food pairings:

  • Sour and Salty Snacks: Treat yourself to classic bar snacks like salted nuts, pretzels, or pickles to complement the cocktail's tangy profile.
  • Citrus-Glazed Chicken: Pair your Whiskey Sour with citrus-glazed chicken for a delightful combination of sweet and tangy flavours.
  • Cheese and Charcuterie: A selection of cheeses and cured meats offers a delightful contrast to the cocktail's brightness.
  • Spicy Foods: Embrace the cocktail's tangy and zesty character with spicy dishes like buffalo wings or spicy shrimp.

 Bar Equipment

  • Cocktail shaker
  • Jigger
  • Hawthorne strainer
  • Rocks or coupe glass


  • 50ml Whiskey
  • 20ml Freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 15ml Egg white
  • 15ml simple syrup*
  • Garnish: Angostura bitters 


  • Add bourbon, lemon juice, simple syrup and egg white, if using, to a shaker, and dry-shake for 30 seconds without ice.
  • Add ice and shake again for 15–20 seconds, until well-chilled.
  • Strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice, or into a coupe without ice.
  • Garnish with 3–4 drops of Angostura bitters.
  • Optional garnish: Lemon peel

*Simple syrup - 1 part sugar to one part water. Gently heat in a pan until sugar has dissolved and allow to cool

What's the best Whiskey for a Whiskey Sour?

The best whiskey for a Whiskey Sour cocktail often depends on your personal taste preferences, as well as whether you prefer a sweeter or spicier profile for your cocktail. Both bourbon and rye whiskey are commonly used in Whiskey Sours, and each brings its own unique characteristics to the drink. Here's a breakdown of the two options:

  • Bourbon Whiskey: Bourbon is a popular choice for Whiskey Sours due to its sweet and mellow flavour profile. It typically offers notes of caramel, vanilla, and oak, which can complement the sweetness of the simple syrup and the tartness of the lemon juice. If you prefer a Whiskey Sour with a smoother and slightly sweeter taste, bourbon is an excellent choice.

Recommended Bourbon Brands: Basil Hayden's, Buffalo Trace, Woodford Reserve, and Bulleit Bourbon are all respected choices for a bourbon-based Whiskey Sour.

  • Rye Whiskey: Rye whiskey is known for its spicier and more robust flavour profile. It often features notes of pepper, cinnamon, and herbs, which can provide a bit more complexity to the Whiskey Sour. If you enjoy a Whiskey Sour with a drier and spicier finish, rye whiskey is a great option.

Recommended Rye Whiskey Brands: Bulleit Rye, Rittenhouse Rye, Whistlers Pig and Templeton Rye are popular choices for rye-based Whiskey Sours.

Ultimately, the best whiskey for your Whiskey Sour depends on your taste preferences. You can experiment with both bourbon and rye to discover which one you prefer. Additionally, some cocktail enthusiasts enjoy using a combination of both bourbon and rye to create a balanced and complex flavor profile in their Whiskey Sours.

Remember that the key is to use a quality whiskey that you appreciate on its own, as it plays a central role in defining the character of the cocktail. Whether you choose bourbon or rye, the result should be a delightful and well-balanced Whiskey Sour.

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