How to Make the Perfect Whiskey Sour

A recipe from Joaquín Simó, the 2012 Tales of the Cocktail American Bartender of the Year.

whiskey sour
Henry Phillips

If you’ve mastered the Old Fashioned and the Manhattan, your next challenge is a Whiskey Sour. It’s a step above a three-ingredient cocktail, but adds ingredients most people have lying around the house: an egg and a lemon. (Make sure the lemon’s fresh; a Whiskey Sour is only as good as its ingredients.)

The Sour’s Troubled Past

“The whiskey sour hit its nadir when citrus juice and sugar were preassembled for convenience,” said Christian Hetter, bar manager at The Berkshire Room, a Chicago craft cocktail lounge. “The world got used to ready-to-use sour mix.” What was once a classic cocktail lost its nobility. The whiskey sour became a sickly lime-green concoction, served alongside margaritas from lever-operated machines. But fortunately, the recent surge of craft cocktail culture has brought the sweet and tart drink back into the mainstream.

In contrast to the sour-mix concoctions of yesteryear, a worthwhile Whiskey Sour draws on the egg white for a rich texture (without adding much taste) and bitters — which aren’t necessarily traditional — that echo and complement the notes of the whiskey. We spoke with Joaquín Simó — the 2012 Tales of the Cocktail American Bartender of the Year who left the renowned Death & Co. to open Pouring Ribbons, which has quickly become a NYC whiskey bar staple — about how to make the Whiskey Sour. It’s a thick, zippy drink that forces you to slow down and enjoy its many nuances. Find the recipe below.

Whiskey Sour

Makes one cocktail

2 ounces rye or bourbon (100 proof or higher)
0.75 ounce fresh lemon juice
0.5 ounce rich demerara syrup (2 parts demerara/turbinado/muscovado sugar: 1 part water)
1 egg white
1 lemon swath
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash Orange bitters
1 brandied cherry


1. Separate an egg white into a shaker tin and add whiskey, bitters, lemon juice and demerara syrup.

2. “Dry shake” (without ice) vigorously to froth the cocktail.

3. Open shaker and add ice. Shake again for several seconds.

4. Through a tea strainer, strain into a coupe. Let the drink settle so the foam separates from the liquid.

5. Add dots of Angostura bitters and paint them across the surface with a cocktail skewer. Add a brandied cherry. Serve.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
More From Cocktails