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Sour cocktails are one of the oldest drink families: because they’re truly timeless! Here are the best sour cocktail recipes to try: whiskey sour, margarita, and more.

Tequila sour
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Sour cocktails are one of the oldest cocktail families there is, and they’re just popular today for good reason. The sweet tart flavor is timeless no matter what decade you live in!

What’s a sour? It’s a mixed drink made of liquor, citrus, and sweetener. You might be surprised by the familiar names of cocktails that are part of the sour family: The Margarita! The Cosmo! The Daiquiri! As two cocktail experts who have over 300+ cocktail recipes in our library, sours are one of Alex and my favorite family of drinks. Here are the basic the elements of a sour cocktail:

  • Liquor: Sours can be made with just about any spirit: whiskey, vodka, gin, tequila, and brandy.
  • Citrus (the “sour”): Usually you’ll see lemon juice or lime juice, but some variations have grapefruit or orange.
  • Sweetener: Simple syrup or orange liqueur like Cointreau or triple sec (which contain sugar) are the common sweeteners.
  • Egg white: (optional): Often you’ll see classic 1920’s style sour drinks topped with an egg white foam. This gives the drink a creamy, rich texture and frothy topping, like in the Boston Sour or Gin Fizz.

As you can imagine, there are endless variations on this formula. Below we’ve listed the 3 most popular sour cocktails, then listed the remaining drinks organized by type of liquor.

And now, the best sour cocktails!

More types of cocktails

We’ve got lots more great cocktail recipes for you! Here are some of our best cocktail collections:

Frequently asked questions

What defines a sour cocktail?

Sour cocktails are a family of drinks featuring a base spirit (like vodka, gin, whiskey, or even tequila), citrus juice (usually lemon or lime), and a sweetener (simple syrup or liqueur). The balance between these elements creates a refreshingly tart and tangy flavor profile.

What are some classic sour cocktails?

Vodka Sour: The quintessential sour, featuring vodka, lemon juice, simple syrup, and optionally, egg white for a frothy texture.

Whiskey Sour: This bourbon-based sour offers a deeper, richer flavor profile compared to the vodka sour.

Daiquiri: A Cuban classic made with rum, lime juice, and simple syrup, known for its refreshing simplicity.

Margarita: The Margarita is a sour cocktail (liquor + citrus + sweetener) with the addition of triple sec or Cointreau, an orange-flavored liqueur.

Can I use different citrus juices?

Yes! While lemon and lime are the most common, you can experiment with grapefruit, orange, or even yuzu juice for a unique twist.

What are some alternatives to simple syrup?

We like using pure maple syrup as an alternative sweetener for sour cocktails. Honey syrup works as well.

Do I need egg white in all sour cocktails?

Egg white is a classic addition to some sour cocktails like the Pisco Sour, creating a frothy texture and a smoother taste. It’s optional, and some variations (like the Whiskey Sour) can be made without it.

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Whiskey sour

Classic Whiskey Sour

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  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 3 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 minutes
  • Yield: 1 drink 1x
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The most famous of sour cocktails: the whiskey sour! It’s perfectly balanced with bourbon, lemon and sweetener. Garnish with an orange peel and a cocktail cherry.


  • 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) bourbon whiskey*
  • 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) fresh lemon juice
  • ¾ ounce (1 ½ tablespoons) pure maple syrup (or simple syrup)
  • Garnish: Orange peel and a cocktail cherry
  • Ice, for serving
  • Variation: Add an egg white for a Boston Sour


  1. Add the bourbon whiskey, lemon juice, and syrup to a cocktail shaker. Fill with a handful of ice and shake until very cold.
  2. Strain the drink into a lowball or Old Fashioned glass. Serve with ice, an orange peel and a cocktail cherry. 


*You can use any variety of whiskey, but we prefer it with the sweeter flavor of bourbon. 

  • Category: Drink
  • Method: Shaken
  • Cuisine: Cocktails
  • Diet: Vegan

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes and the joy of cooking! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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