The Whiskey Sour - Ode To a Once Forbidden Love

courtesy Goodies First
courtesy Goodies First

And the PR requests just keep on coming! I give in. Uncle. But this was another I couldn’t possibly turn down. National Whiskey Sour Day on August 25th? I’m IN.

The whiskey sour is one of the first drinks I ever loved. I tried my first in the 1990s, and I’m sure it was the “bad” kind - fake sour mix from a dirty East Village dive bar gun, probably a well whiskey too, and a waxy, processed maraschino- but I liked it well enough. Years later I finally had a fresh juice version prepared at my then favorite NYC BBQ spot (RIP Tennessee Mountain), alongside their sweet-smoky, meaty ribs and addictive, crisp, fluffy onion rings. It matched those flavors perfectly, with just the right note of sugary tang from the juice, and I was hooked forever. But back then, you weren’t supposed to admit to loving them. Depending on the source, whiskey sours were either an “old lady” or “training wheel” drink. I had to bury my forbidden love deep within, only to surface in locales far from home where my whiskey sour and I could finally be ourselves without the eyes of scrutiny.

But the recent classic cocktail renaissance made it safe to come out of hiding. I take no shame ordering one at a good cocktail bar where I know there will be fresh juice, and even the possibility of an egg white (the restored component from yore that helped me publicly declare my passion once and for all.) I prefer mine most with rye, but that doesn’t mean I’d kick other whiskies out of bed here.

Some whiskey sour recipes to sip on their special day this Sunday:

The Classic Whiskey Sour

Sometimes the original is all you need. Can be made with or without the egg white, which gives it an extra delicious froth. Don’t despair if you don’t get it perfect the first try. I strongly encourage you to play with ingredients and measurements till you find your favorite sour.

60 ml (2 oz) whisk(e)y - rye, bourbon, Scotch, Irish, Japanese - use any part of the United Nations of brown grain distillate that you like

15 ml (½ oz) fresh lemon juice

15 ml (½ oz) simple, agave, demerara or maple syrup (it all works), use less if you prefer more sour than sweet

1 egg white (optional)

couple dashes bitters (any kind of your choosing - Angostura, Peychaud's, orange, etc.- optional, but only if you used the egg white)

cocktail cherry (use a good one, not that neon pink crap, hopefully you made some during cherry season)

Shake all ingredients (except bitters and garnish) vigorously with ice until well blended and frothy. If you’ve done it right, even without egg white, you’ll have a good froth on. Strain into a chilled coupe or Old Fashioned glass. If you used the egg white, add a couple dashes of bitters on the froth and make pretty swirls with a toothpick. Add the cherry if you’ve got it. Orange or lemon wheel works too. Or just drink it.

Kilbeggan Secret Sour by Joaquin Simo
Kilbeggan Secret Sour by Joaquin Simo

Kilbeggan Secret Sour

Recipe by Joaquin Simo, Pouring Ribbons, New York City

45 ml (1 1/2 oz) Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey

23 ml (3/4 oz) dry vermouth

23 ml (3/4 oz) simple syrup

15 ml (1/2 oz) fresh lemon juice

15 ml (1/2 oz) fresh grapefruit juice

dash orange bitters

club soda

Combine all ingredients except soda in a mixing glass over ice and shake. Strain into a Collins glass with ice and fill with soda. Garnish with a lemon peel.

The Doubtful Guest

A smoky, tangy treat created by Jens Kerger for a customer who didn’t think Scotch belonged in cocktails till he tried this one.

60ml (2 oz) non-smoky Scotch such as Glenmorangie, Ancnoc, Auchentoshan, Glen Garioch, etc.

20ml (1 oz) lemon juice

10ml (⅓ oz) fresh pineapple juice

20ml (⅔ oz) honey syrup (made with one part honey to one part water)

couple of leaves lemon balm (if available)

1 egg white

1 tsp Laphroaig 10 Yr or similar smoky Scotch

Shake everything except smoky element with ice, double strain. Pour back into shaker and shake again dry (no ice) to emulsify egg white. Pour into pre-chilled long stemmed champagne flute. Layer the tsp Laphroaig on top.