By Pink Lady
I’ve been writing about cocktails for this publication for over a decade, and I am shocked and appalled to note that I have never given my full attention here to a cocktail that is near and dear to my heart, the Whiskey Sour.
I feel like I owe this drink an apology, for two reasons. First, the Whiskey Sour is a cocktail I make for myself almost every single week. But more importantly, the Sour style cocktail constitutes a foundation template for cocktail making, and a basic drink formula that everyone should have in their back pocket. A Sour style cocktail represents a whole genre of drinks and, once you identify the basic formulae, it’s one you’ll see everywhere you go. In its basic incarnation, a Sour is a drink made with spirits, sweetener, citrus and water (or ice.) Understanding this format, the category contains multitudes, from Daiquiris to Gimlets to the modern classic Cosmopolitan. And understanding the basics of this formula should allow you to make a drink like this easily at home, using any liquor, provided you have something sweet and something acidic, to help you out.
The Sour is understood to be derived from punch or considered one of the “lesser punches”, as we say, using the lexicon of drinks curated by cocktail historian David Wondrich. Without getting too deep into the weeds of punch or sour history (which is indeed very weedy), one can see some basic similarities: both contain spirits, sugar, water (or ice), and citrus. Whereas punch was first popularly consumed ‘til the bottom of the bowl, by the late 19th century it was a drink made in smaller doses for guys on the go (they were indeed mostly men because this was the saloon era). According to Wondrich, The Whiskey Sour entered the historical record in 1856 in a Toronto saloon’s drink list, alongside another similar formula called “The Fix”, which was short for “Fix-Up.” It would go on, from the 186Os to the 196Os, to be “one of the cardinal points of American drinking.”
The Sour style cocktail is both simple and flexible, which is why the structure has proven so popular. The sour could also take many forms, depending upon where and when (meaning what century) you were drinking it, and might even include egg white. Here is my go-to formulation, but if whiskey isn’t your thing, feel free to swap in any liquor you like.
(Pink Lady’s version)
2 ounceS of Whiskey
3/4 ounce of fresh lemon juice
3/4 ounce of 1:1 simple syrup
SHAKE ingredients with ice in a mixing glass. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass & enjoy!