Here’s how to make the New York Sour: one of the best cocktails out there! Make a classic whiskey sour and float a layer of red wine on top.

New York Sour

Here’s one of the most stunning and unique cocktails out there: the New York Sour! This spin on the Whiskey Sour takes the classic up two notches. First you have the whiskey sour layer: sweet tart and perfectly balanced. Float a layer of red wine over the top and it adds intrigue, complexity, and a fruity acidity: not to mention a stunning vibrant two-toned layer. Even better: it’s easy to make! Here’s how it’s done.

What’s in a New York Sour?

The New York Sour is a well-known variation on the whiskey sour that floats a layer of red wine on top. It’s thought to have been invented by a bartender in the 1880’s in Chicago, earning the name the Continental Sour. It was later picked up and made popular by a bartender in New York City, hence its modern name. The whiskey sour is a classic cocktail that’s on the list of International Bartender Association’s IBA official cocktails. Add a layer of wine and you’ve got this classic red wine cocktail:

  • Bourbon whiskey: as high quality as possible (you can use any type of whiskey, but we prefer the sweet flavor of bourbon)
  • Lemon juice
  • Simple syrup (we use maple syrup; more below)
  • Red wine
New York Sour

How to make a New York Sour (and make a perfect layer)

Though it looks showy, the New York Sour is actually very easy to make! You just need to know a little trick about making that beautiful red wine layer.

  1. Shake: Combine the bourbon, lemon juice and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker and shake until cold Strain it into a glass.
  2. Make the red wine layer: Here’s the fun part! Hold the back of a spoon right above the top of the glass. Then gently pour the red wine on top of the spoon into the glass. Because it hits the spoon first, the wine settles into a layer on top.
New York Sour

Maple syrup vs simple syrup

The sweetener for a whiskey sour is traditionally simple syrup. But you can also use maple syrup in this New York Sour! Here’s why we love the maple variation:

  • Maple syrup gives a nuanced sweetness. Simple syrup gives a drink a straightforward, piercing sweetness. In contrast, the sweetness with maple is more nuanced and adds complexity to the drink. It doesn’t taste like maple: it simply adds sweetness.
  • It’s a natural sweetener (no refined sugar). Maple syrup still contains sugar, of course! But if you like to use natural sweeteners, this is the way to go.

The whiskey: rye vs bourbon

You can make a New York Sour with either rye or bourbon whiskey! We generally prefer the sweeter flavor of bourbon to the spicy flavor of rye. In our classic Whiskey Sour, we typically use bourbon when we serve it. Of course, you can also make a whiskey sour with Irish whiskey (the Irish Sour) or Scotch (the Buchanan Sour).

In general, we prefer bourbon in most of our whiskey cocktails, like the Old Fashioned or Manhattan. Of course, you can use your favorite type of whiskey in this drink: each type gives the drink a different character.


More whiskey sour variations: Boston Sour & Gold Rush

Another variation on the classic whiskey sour is this Boston Sour! It has an egg white foam topping, which is often an addition to sour cocktails. It makes it feel like a true 1920’s style drink! If you’ve never tried an egg white cocktail, we’ve cracked the code to making that perfect, frothy foam.

Or try the modern classic, the Gold Rush! It’s like a whiskey sour but uses honey syrup instead of simple syrup as the sweetener.

New York Sour

More classic sour cocktails!

Here are a few more of classic cocktails that are all part of the sour cocktail family! Sour cocktails are all mixed drinks that have liquor, lemon or lime juice, and a sweetener.

When to serve a New York Sour

The New York Sour is a red wine cocktail that’s tasty as it is versatile. It’s perfect for sipping as a:

  • Happy hour drink
  • Dinner party drink
  • Summer patio drink
  • Late night drinks drink
  • Guys or girls night drink
  • Cocktail hour drink
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New York Sour

New York Sour

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 drink 1x


Here’s how to make the New York Sour: one of the best cocktails out there! Make a classic whiskey sour and float a layer of red wine on top.


  • 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) bourbon whiskey
  • 1 ounce ( 2 tablespoons) lemon juice
  • ½ ounce (1 tablespoon) maple syrup or simple syrup
  • 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) dry red wine
  • Optional garnish: lemon twist


  1. Add the bourbon, lemon juice, and syrup to a cocktail shaker and fill it with a handful of ice. Shake until very cold.
  2. Strain the drink into an ice-filled lowball or Old Fashioned glass.
  3. Carefully pour the red wine over the back of a spoon just above the surface of the drink, creating a layer on top. Serve with a lemon twist if desired.
  • Category: Drinks
  • Method: Shaken
  • Cuisine: Cocktails
  • Diet: Vegan

Keywords: New York Sour, New York Sour Recipe, Red Wine Cocktail

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Meet Sonja and Alex Overhiser: Husband and wife. Expert home cooks. Authors of recipes you'll want to make again and again.

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    1. Any dry red you enjoy would be fine, but I wouldn’t go to heavy. Something like a rioja or malbec would be great.

    1. I haven’t tried it… A splash would probably be good but I wouldn’t do any more than that because the wine already thins it out. Happy New Year!