What could be better than combining the big three—citrus, spirits, and sugar into a delicious cocktail? And one of the oldest cocktails to boot as well! Drumroll for the Whiskey Sour!
While its history is lost to the mists of time, it can be traced back to the Lincoln administration, and the first recipe was published in 1862. So while discussing what whiskey sour tastes like, we should ask what it feels like.
As the name suggests, a Whiskey Sour will have a sour taste. But that’s also slightly misleading. Because bourbon is the traditional choice, you’ll notice hints of vanilla and caramel in harmony with the sourness of the lemon or lime juice. The simple syrup brings it all into a harmoniously balanced cocktail. Adding egg whites gives the cocktail a velvety mouthfeel and helps to tame the overall tartness.
We’ll look at a basic Whiskey Sour recipe so you can mix your own at home and offer advice on egg white substitutes if you cannot abide raw egg white or do not consume it due to dietary preferences. Finally, we’ll close off with a taste description so you know exactly what to expect when you order or mix a Whiskey Sour.
Mixing Up a Whiskey Sour — A Traditional Recipe
You feel like whipping up one of the granddaddies of cocktails (the Manhattan is another historic cocktail), but what do you need to make this classic cocktail?
The traditional recipe calls for whiskey, lemon juice, sugar, and egg white. The egg white is standard, but you can leave it out to make a delicious vegan cocktail or use an alternative (we’ll touch upon that later).
The egg white is also added to tame the tart flavor and create a richer and smoother mouthfeel.
To make a Whiskey Sour the traditional way, you’ll need the following recipe.
- Two ounces of whiskey—anything you fancy will do, but the conventional choice is bourbon.
- Three-quarters of an ounce of freshly squeezed lemon juice (lime juice is another option).
- Half an ounce of simple syrup
- Half an ounce of egg white.
- Angostura bitters for garnishing
This is one of those cocktails where you will use the ‘dry shake’ technique to thoroughly combine all your ingredients—primarily if you use egg white.
Dry shaking means you’re going to shake all your ingredients without ice to combine them and shake it again again again with ice to cool it all down.
- Combine the whiskey, simple syrup, egg white, and lemon juice in a shaker and shake it all (vigorously) for about 30 seconds.
- Add your ice to the ingredients, and shake it all again to ensure it is well-chilled.
- Strain your drink into a coupe or rock glass.
- Allow the drink to settle, form a frothy head, and garnish with three to four drops of Angostura bitters.
See, relatively easy.
A Note on Egg White
Egg white is the traditional choice when mixing up one of these classic cocktails. But what do you do when the idea of raw egg white doesn’t appeal to you or you have dietary restrictions?
Fear not. There is another ingredient you can try to obtain the same frothy cocktail.
Aquafaba is the perfect substitute for the egg white in a Whiskey Sour cocktail. When you drain your can of chickpeas, keep the liquid because this is one of the best egg white substitutes.
Ensure you buy the salt-free option because nobody wants salt in their Whiskey Sour… And you’ll have chickpeas for dinner. A win-win combination, we’d say!
Aquafaba has a similar consistency to egg whites, and bakers use it for baking meringues, cakes, and other desserts. Here’s an informative and entertaining deep dive into five alternatives to egg whites.
What Does a Whiskey Sour Taste Like?
Because the traditional recipe is made from bourbon, you’ll notice it tastes like vanilla and caramel. The lemon (or lime juice) adds tartness and a sour taste.
The simple syrup balances the bourbon’s fiery flavor and the juice’s tartness. At the same time, the egg white adds a silky smooth dimension to the drink.
You can adapt your recipe in countless ways. For example, equal amounts of juice and simple syrup will yield a sweeter cocktail, while dialing the juice down will have the same effect. The key here is balance; you can adjust the proportions to create a drink that suits your tastes.
It isn’t always easy to tell what a beverage tastes like from the name alone. For example, you can expect a Whiskey Sour to have a tartness and a hint of sweetness.
If you go the traditional route, don’t forget the egg white because it will give your drink a smooth velvet mouthfeel and help to tame the tartness of the lemon or lime juice. If you decide to forgo the egg white, you can use substitutes to create the same effect, taste, and mouth feel.