TotW: Whiskey Sour

UPDATE:  Jump to the end of the article if you just want my best recipe for a Whiskey Sour.

Those of you that know me personally know that I’m not a big drinker – even less now that I’ve developed an allergic reaction to some kinds of beer.  However, I love learning new stuff and when I saw this post by Brad Guigar my curiosity about the Whiskey Sour was piqued.  I am no bartender and have only set foot in a bar a handful of times so I hit up the internet for some drinks knowledge.

A Whiskey Sour comes from one of the oldest families of cocktails known as the sours.  They are made from a base liquor, lemon or lime juice and a sweetener.  Other examples include Kamikazes, Daiquiris, Sidecars and Margaritas.  Wikibooks describes the taste this way:  “The flavour of a sour, especially a whiskey sour, has been likened to that of sour sweets that leaves the mouth watering and the tongue tingling but always wanting more.”

After fumbling around for a while I determined that probably the most “official” Whiskey Sour recipe comes from the International Bartenders Association.  If I’m going to do it, I might as well do it right.

WHISKEY SOUR Pre dinner (old fashioned or cobbler glass)
4.5 cl Bourbon whiskey
3.0 cl Fresh lemon juice
1.5 cl Gomme syrup
1 Dash egg white
Pour all ingredients into cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake well. Strain in old fashioned or cobbler glass. If served “On the rocks”, strain ingredients into old fashioned glass filled with ice. Garnish with half orange slice and maraschino cherry.

So a Whiskey Sour is basically tart bourbon lemonade.  The name makes me think of an old western tough guy drink, but when you describe what’s in it, it loses some of its masculinity.  Testosterone points are deducted for the cherry and orange wedge too.

Reviewing the recipe, first I had to determine how many cl’s were in a tablespoon so I could see how big a single serving is officially supposed to be.  I had already cleverly deciphered their code and realized that the ratio was three parts to two parts to one part.  It turns out that 1.5cl is quite close to one tablespoon.

Second I had to figure out what the heck gomme syrup is.  You can read about that adventure in this post.

Below is the photo-packed process of making a Whiskey Sour with additional notes.

Step 0.  Collect ingredients:  bourbon, lemon, gomme syrup, maraschino cherries and orange.

Ok, I didn’t photograph everything.  You need to juice the lemon and cut the orange into thin half slices.  Strain the lemon if you don’t want pulp.

Step 1.  Pour three tablespoons of whiskey in an old fashioned glass (or shaker).

Since the bulk of this drink is whiskey, I thought getting an affordable but tasty one made sense.  I probably spent the most time on this project researching what the gourmands and drunkards like best.  Suggestions were all over the place with some folks demanding high-end micro brew super dupers and other proclaiming the merits of Wild Turkey.  Eventually three brands bubbled to the top:  Woodford Reserve, Maker’s Mark, and Jim Beam.  Woodford and Maker’s were deemed to be the richest flavored but still priced for mere mortals.  Jim Beam and Jim Beam Black Label were said to be inoffensive.  No bad flavors in them and good for mixed drinks.

Side Note:  For champagne-like naming reasons, Jack Daniel’s cannot be considered a true bourbon, but I bet it would be tasty in a Whiskey Sour nonetheless.

Step 2.  Add two tablespoons of fresh lemon juice.

It really does make a noticeable difference using fresh lemon juice or lime juice rather than bottled when called for in recipes.

Step 3.  Add one tablespoon of gomme syrup.

I tried the recipe this way but I guess I’m just I’m too much of a sugar lover.  I think two tablespoons works better.

Step 4.  Add ice.  Shake.  Pour through strainer into glass.

D’oh!  Didn’t photograph this either.  Also, I left out the egg white as some places list it as optional.

Step 5.  Add orange half slice and maraschino cherry.  Drinkitup!

I used a whole slice of orange.  I thought it would be easier to fish out of the glass.


A.  If I had used less flavorful bourbon I think the gomme syrup would have been more important.  If it was a blind taste test, I don’t know if I’d be able to tell the difference between a Whiskey Sour using gomme and one using standard rich simple syrup (2 sugar : 1 water).  For you taste testers out there, I do think gomme is worth a try.  You might love it.

B.  The standard recipe doesn’t give you much of a drink.  Either put this thing on the rocks or make it a double.

C.  The orange is a waste and a hassle.  It just gets in the way when you are drinking.  It doesn’t add any flavor unless it is served perched on the side of the glass where it can be squeezed into the drink.

D.  There is no need to mix this drink in a separate shaker unless you want the theatrics.

E.  The egg white is optional.  Like the orange, this seems like an unnecessary hassle to me.

F.  Stick with the lower alcohol content bourbons.  It is almost half the drink.  If you use Wild Turkey 101, I don’t think you’ll taste much else.

3 Tablespoons Maker’s Mark bourbon whiskey
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 Tablespoons gomme syrup -or- 2 Tablespoons simple syrup*
2 maraschino cherries

Combine bourbon, lemon juice and gomme syrup in an old fashioned glass.
Stir well.  Add ice.  Stir again.
Garnish with maraschino cherries.

*Granulated sugar dissolved in water – 1:1 ratio


13 thoughts on “TotW: Whiskey Sour

  1. That would be your drink on ice… now that you have your toe in the water, why not look for something good in the wintertime? A similiar variation to the whiskey sour is the hot toddy (served warm). It’s good for what ails ya.

  2. Also: For a good whiskey taste, on a reasonable budget, I really like Tullamore Dew. For the sake of your palate, you should also try whatever whiskey you get, straight, so you get an idea of how the flavors interact, what dominates, etc. Just about a half Tbsp. Swish and spit (if you don’t like drinking straight). Also, do the same on the rocks, so you can taste what a difference ice/water makes on which flavors stand out.

  3. Thanks for the suggestions. What I’ve found works well is to have tastings of similar things. Everyone brings their favorite beer and we all try a little of each, etc. It is amazing how much variation there is in things that you thought were really similar when tried side by side.

    I like the taste of most alcohol straight and I will say that Maker’s Mark tastes good. I can’t imagine spitting out perfectly good booze. 🙂

    For the 4th, I think I’m going to try a variation on the Whiskey Sour that Brad Guigar suggested. Mix up a WS. Put in a blender with almost an equal amount of ice. Blend to Margarita consistency. N-joy.

  4. Good for a whisky sour COCKTAIL. But for a whiskey sour, you put entirely too much time into this. The easy, if bastardidized version, 4 oz whiskey, 8 oz 50/50 soda(or Squirt) over ice.

    1. You have a very valid point. You could simplify this drink with bourbon and a sweet lemon/lime soda like Sprite. Half the fun of this project was learning a bunch of new stuff. The other half was doing it the “right” way to see if it was worthwhile. That’s the real benefit to you guys. You can see what I did and decide if it is worth the trouble or not.

  5. No wonder your blog numbers are up! You posted about booze, and then advertised it on FB! Sweet!

    Love the look of this drink, btw. But, it does look a little girly with the orange slice and cherry.


  6. The difference between Jack Daniel’s and bourbon is more than a technicality; unlike bourbon, JD and other Tennessee whiskeys are charcoal mellowed. This is what gives JD its distinctive sooty taste.

    You’re right about the JD sour, though. Highly drinkable.

  7. An excellent and informative post. However:

    D. There is no need to mix this drink in a separate shaker unless you want the theatrics.

    Not so. Shaking in a shaker with ice chills the entire drink and adds a hint of water in exactly the same proportions every time. If you’re not having the drink on the rocks chilling it by means of the shaker means making the drink the perfect temperature for a sour even after just a few seconds of shaking.

    As a side note, stirring a drink in an ice filled shaker cools the drink without adding quite as much water, which affects the flavor. When James Bond orders a Vodka Martini, shaken-not-stirred, what he’s really doing is ordering a drink that’s somewhat more watered down. Which is odd in a vodka martini, since vodka doesn’t add a lot of flavor.

  8. Hi Jason,

    We met once at Lee Anne’s. I’m Jeremy’s girlfriend. I’m up late and happened upon your blog. Love your writing and the way you think! I just wanted to add that I too am not a big drinker, but the Whiskey Sour is on my list of favorites on the few occasions that I have a mixed drink. I will give your recipe a try. The version I’ve made was a recipe from Emeril. It just calls for straight sugar, but I thought it was very good. I’m excited to see if I can top it.

    Ta, Ta,


  9. Pingback: Three Bourbons |

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