How to Make a Whiskey Sour: Sonosopa's Easy Whiskey Sour Recipe

When it comes to classic cocktails, few can hold a candle to the timeless charm of the Whiskey Sour. This elegant and refreshing drink has been the cornerstone of bars and speakeasies for over a century, offering a delightful mix of flavors that continues to entice new and seasoned whiskey aficionados alike.

In this blog, we'll delve into the brief history, share some of our favourite recipe variations, and tips to make the perfect Whiskey Sour, all while keeping you engaged with our love for this quintessential tipple. So, pour yourself a glass and let's explore the fascinating world of Whiskey Sours together.

Whiskey sour

A Brief History of the Whiskey Sour

The origins of the Whiskey Sour date back to the 19th century, with the first recorded mention appearing in 1870 in a Wisconsin newspaper.

This classic cocktail is believed to have been a favorite among sailors, who used it to combat scurvy with its lemon juice and to preserve their drinking water with the alcohol content.

Over time, the Whiskey Sour gained popularity in bars and social gatherings, becoming a staple in the American cocktail scene.

The Classic Whiskey Sour Recipe

At its core, the Whiskey Sour is a simple yet elegant blend of whiskey, lemon juice, and sugar, shaken with ice and strained into a glass. To craft the perfect Whiskey Sour, use the following recipe:

Whiskey Sour Ingredients:

  • 2 oz whiskey (preferably bourbon)
  • 3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup
  • 1 egg white

How to Make a Whiskey Sour:

  1. Combine whiskey, lemon juice, and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker.
  2. Add ice and shake vigorously for 10-15 seconds.
  3. For a frothy texture, add an egg white and dry shake without ice before adding ice and shaking again.
  4. Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice.
  5. Garnish with a lemon wheel and a maraschino cherry.

Whiskey Sour Variations

While the classic Whiskey Sour recipe remains a beloved choice, there are numerous variations that showcase the versatility and adaptability of this iconic cocktail. Some popular Whiskey Sour spins include:

  • Boston Sour: This variation is a Whiskey Sour with the addition of an egg white, which creates a creamy, frothy texture. The egg white adds a delightful mouthfeel and smoothness to the drink. To make a Boston Sour, follow the classic Whiskey Sour recipe but include an egg white, performing a dry shake (without ice) before shaking with ice and straining into a glass.

  • New York Sour: The New York Sour is a beautiful and flavor-rich cocktail that features a float of red wine on top of a classic Whiskey Sour. To make a New York Sour, prepare the Whiskey Sour as usual, then carefully pour about 1/2 ounce of red wine (such as a Malbec or Shiraz) over the back of a spoon onto the surface of the drink. This creates a visually striking layered effect, with the wine adding complexity and depth to the cocktail.

  • Maple Whiskey Sour: For a cozy, autumnal twist on the classic Whiskey Sour, swap out the simple syrup for maple syrup. The maple syrup imparts a rich, earthy sweetness that pairs wonderfully with the bourbon or rye whiskey. To make a Maple Whiskey Sour, follow the classic recipe but replace the simple syrup with an equal amount of pure maple syrup.

  • Rye Whiskey Sour: By substituting rye whiskey for bourbon, you can introduce spicier, more robust flavors to your Whiskey Sour. Rye whiskey often brings forward notes of pepper, cinnamon, and other baking spices, which can add a delightful complexity to the drink. Follow the classic Whiskey Sour recipe, but use rye whiskey instead of bourbon

    whiskey sour image
  • Amaretto Whiskey Sour: The addition of Amaretto, an almond-flavored liqueur, to the Whiskey Sour results in a slightly sweeter, nuttier cocktail with an Italian twist. To make an Amaretto Whiskey Sour, add 1/2 ounce of Amaretto to the classic Whiskey Sour recipe.

  • Smoky Sour: For a smoky twist, use a peated Scotch whiskey instead of bourbon or rye. The peaty, smoky flavors of the Scotch will add a unique depth and character to the Whiskey Sour. Follow the classic Whiskey Sour recipe, but use peated Scotch whiskey as your base spirit.

These variations demonstrate the incredible versatility of the Whiskey Sour, allowing you to experiment with flavors and textures to suit your preferences.

Don't be afraid to get creative and try new combinations, as the Whiskey Sour is an excellent canvas for your cocktail creativity.

How to Make a Whiskey Sour Taste Better

To elevate your Whiskey Sour game, consider these expert tips:
  1. Use fresh lemon juice: Freshly squeezed lemon juice is essential for achieving the perfect balance of flavors.
  2. Sweeten to taste: Adjust the amount of simple syrup to your preference, and experiment with alternative sweeteners like honey or agave.
  3. Choose quality whiskey: Opt for a high-quality bourbon or rye whiskey to enhance the overall taste of your cocktail.
  4. Chill your glass: A chilled glass will keep your Whiskey Sour colder for a longer period, ensuring optimal enjoyment.
  5. Master the dry shake: When incorporating egg whites, perfect the dry shake (shaking without ice) to achieve a frothy, creamy texture.
  6. Experiment with bitters: Adding a dash of aromatic bitters can introduce depth and complexity to your Whiskey Sour.

    The Best Whiskeys to Use for a Whiskey Sour (Including Japanese Whiskies)

    The choice of whiskey plays a significant role in the overall taste and character of your Whiskey Sour.

    While the cocktail is traditionally made with bourbon, there are plenty of excellent options available, including our favourite Japanese whiskies. Here are some recommendations for the best whiskeys to use in a Whiskey Sour:

    • Bourbon: Bourbon is the classic choice for a Whiskey Sour, providing a rich, sweet base that balances well with the lemon juice and simple syrup. Some excellent bourbon options for a Whiskey Sour include:

      • Maker's Mark
      • Buffalo Trace
      • Woodford Reserve
      • Four Roses Small Batch
    • Rye Whiskey: Rye whiskey adds a spicier, more robust flavor profile to the Whiskey Sour. If you prefer a bolder, more complex cocktail, consider using one of these rye whiskeys:

      • Rittenhouse Rye
      • Bulleit Rye
      • Old Overholt
      • Sazerac Rye
    • Japanese Whiskies: Japanese whiskies are renowned for their delicate, smooth, and nuanced flavors. Incorporating a Japanese whiskey into your Whiskey Sour can yield an elegant and refined cocktail. Some recommended Japanese whiskies for a Whiskey Sour include:

      • Suntory Toki
      • Nikka Coffey Grain Whisky
      • Mars Shinshu Iwai
      • Hakushu 12 Year Old
    • Scotch Whisky: For a smoky or peaty twist on the classic Whiskey Sour, consider using a Scotch whisky. Be mindful that heavily peated whiskies can overpower the cocktail, so opt for a lightly peated or balanced Scotch, such as:

      • Highland Park 12 Year Old
      • Johnnie Walker Black Label
      • Talisker 10 Year Old
      • Bowmore 12 Year Old

    When choosing the best whiskey for your Whiskey Sour, consider your personal taste preferences and the flavor profiles you'd like to highlight in the cocktail. With so many fantastic options available, the possibilities are endless for crafting your perfect Whiskey Sour. If you want to read further about some of the best Japanese Whiskies on the market, be sure to read our Top Japanese Whiskey Brands article. 

    Calories in a Whiskey Sour

    Total: Approximately 184 calories

    Being mindful of the caloric content of your cocktails can be helpful for those who are watching their weight or looking to maintain a balanced diet. In this section, we'll discuss the approximate calories in a Whiskey Sour and provide some tips for reducing the calorie count without compromising on taste.

    A classic Whiskey Sour is made with whiskey, lemon juice, and simple syrup. Here's a rough breakdown of the calorie content in a standard Whiskey Sour:

    1. Whiskey (2 oz): Approximately 128 calories (64 calories per ounce)
    2. Fresh lemon juice (3/4 oz): Approximately 8 calories
    3. Simple syrup (1/2 oz): Approximately 48 calories (96 calories per ounce)

    What is The Right Glass for a Whiskey Sour

    Choosing the right glass for your Whiskey Sour can enhance the presentation and overall enjoyment of the cocktail. The traditional choice for serving a Whiskey Sour is a rocks glass (also known as an Old Fashioned glass or lowball glass). This short, sturdy glass typically has a capacity of 6 to 10 ounces and is perfect for showcasing the cocktail's rich color and garnishes.

    Glass Design Recommendations:

    • Classic Rocks Glass: Opt for a simple, timeless design with a classic, clear rocks glass. This allows the beauty of the Whiskey Sour to shine through, making it the star of the show.

    • Cut Crystal Rocks Glass: For a touch of elegance, choose a cut crystal rocks glass with intricate patterns. This adds a sophisticated look to your cocktail and can elevate the overall presentation. Why not take a look at something a bit unique, such as the delicate Sonosopa Fujisan whiskey glass pictured below.

    • Colored Glass: Consider using a rocks glass with a subtle tint or color for a unique and visually appealing twist. Just be sure that the color doesn't overpower the Whiskey Sour itself.

    • Etched or Engraved Glass: Personalize your Whiskey Sour experience with an etched or engraved rocks glass. These designs can range from monograms to intricate patterns and add an extra layer of style to your cocktail. A beautiful example of an intricately patterned glass can be seen below in the Sonosopa Shimo whiskey glass.

    Ultimately, the choice of glass is a matter of personal preference and should reflect your taste and style. Regardless of the design you choose, ensure that the glass is clean and well-chilled to provide the best Whiskey Sour experience.

    Some of the Best Whiskey Sour Food Pairings

    A well-made Whiskey Sour is a delight on its own, but it can also be the perfect accompaniment to a delicious meal. Some suggested food pairings for your Whiskey Sour include:

    1. Fried or grilled chicken: The tangy citrus notes in the Whiskey Sour complement the savory flavors of fried or grilled chicken.
    2. BBQ dishes: The smoky sweetness of barbecue pairs exceptionally well with the bold flavors of a Whiskey Sour.
    3. Cheese platters: A diverse cheese selection can bring out the complexity of the whiskey and highlight the drink's citrus and sweetness.
    4. Spicy dishes: The refreshing qualities of the Whiskey Sour can help cool down the heat from spicy cuisine.
    5. Desserts: Rich, chocolate-based desserts can be balanced by the zesty, refreshing taste of a Whiskey Sour.


    The Whiskey Sour is a testament to the timeless appeal of classic cocktails, with its simple yet sophisticated blend of flavors and endless potential for customization.

    Whether you're new to the world of whiskey or a seasoned aficionado, mastering the art of crafting the perfect Whiskey Sour is a rewarding and delicious endeavor.

    With a solid understanding of the history, variations, and expert tips shared in this blog, you're well on your way to becoming a Whiskey Sour connoisseur.

    So, gather your ingredients, raise a glass, and toast to the enduring charm of this iconic cocktail. Cheers!