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Master the classic whiskey sour! This cocktail is easy to make at home with a few simple ingredients for a balance of sweet, tart, and boozy.

Whiskey Sour recipe in cocktail glass with cherry.

As certified mixologists and home cocktail makers, we’ve created over 300 cocktails for this website. But it all goes back to this whiskey sour recipe, which we’ve made too many times to count! This sweet-tart, balanced whiskey drink dates back to the 1870’s, though you may know it as a bar drink made with sour mix.

Why we love this whiskey sour recipe

The whiskey sour is a simple cocktail from the “sour” family of cocktails, using 2 parts whiskey, 1 part lemon juice and 1 part simple syrup. Some people add an egg white (you can also call this version a Boston Sour). The earliest mention of this classic cocktail is in the 1862 book The Bartender’s Guide: How To Mix Drinks by Jerry Thomas.

We created this homemade spin with fresh lemon years ago and it became an instant family hit. It’s even better with maple syrup as a sweetener and it impresses our guests every time. Here’s the classic recipe and a few riffs and variations on this famous drink!

Key ingredients

Whiskey sour ingredients: whiskey, lemon juice, simple syrup.

The whiskey sour is on the list of International Bartender Association’s IBA official cocktails, meaning it has an “official” definition. There are three ingredients you’ll need for a classic whiskey sour, plus the garnish:

  • Whiskey: Use a high quality whiskey. A whiskey sour can be made with rye or bourbon; it’s most commonly made with bourbon in America.
  • Lemon juice: Always use freshly squeezed juice from real lemons for cocktails. Bottled juice has no comparison.
  • Simple syrup: Simple syrup is a liquid sweetener used in many cocktail recipes and coffee drinks, and it’s easy to make at home. Adjust the sweetness level in a whiskey sour to fit your tastes. A classic sour formula is 2:1:1, or 2 oz spirit, 1 oz citrus, and 1 oz sweetener. We prefer it with ¾ ounce syrup, which lets the whiskey flavor shine.

How to make a whiskey sour: step by step

Whiskey Sour Step 1

Step 1: Add the whiskey, lemon juice and simple syrup to a cocktail shaker.

Whiskey Sour Step 2

Step 2: Add a handful of ice and shake until cold, about 30 seconds.

Whiskey sour step 3, pouring.

Step 3: Strain into a lowball glass with clear ice. Garnish with a cocktail cherry.

Alternative sweeteners

While simple syrup is our cocktail sweetener of choice, we’ve found maple syrup tastes even better in a whiskey sour! It adds caramel undertones and a nuance that’s missing from simple syrup. In our taste tests with friends and family, maple syrup always wins! Honey is another natural sweetener that works well here.

Whiskey sour with egg white

Variation: add an egg white

Egg whites are often added to sour cocktails to create a silky texture and a smooth, luxurious mouthfeel. Making a whiskey sour with egg white is also called Boston Sour. We love a good egg white foam for the personality it gives to a drink (both here and in these egg white cocktails).

To make the best frothy consistency, bartenders use what’s called a “dry shake.” The first step is to shake the egg white and the other ingredients without ice to create a stable foam. Ice is then added to the shaker, and the mixture is shaken again to chill and dilute the drink. Go to our Whiskey Sour with Egg White for more.

💡 Tip: For an egg-free alternative to egg white foams, this Fee Brothers Cocktail Foamer has become a popular alternative.

Bourbon whiskey bottle

Best whiskey for whiskey sours

We recommend a mid-priced bourbon for a classic whiskey sour. The vanilla notes and smoothness of bourbon blends seamlessly with the tart citrus and sugar. A bottle of bourbon in the $25 to $35 range is considered mid-priced, but you can go as high end as you like! Some bourbon brands we’d recommend are:

  • $: Elijah Craig Small Batch
  • $$: Four Roses Small Batch or Woodford Reserve
  • $$$: Bulleit 10 Year Bourbon

Spicy rye whiskey also works in a whiskey sour, or you can use a blended Scotch.

How to make a batch of whiskey sour mix

Let’s say you’re looking for a whiskey sour mix, but you don’t want to get one of those store bought containers with lots of sugar. You can also use this recipe as a mix to make lots of drinks at once! Simply mix up a big batch of the simple syrup and lemon juice.

  • Here’s how to make a whiskey sour mix for 8 drinks: Mix 1 cup lemon juice plus ¾ cup pure maple syrup. Or, make this Homemade Sweet and Sour Mix.
  • To make a single drink, measure out 3 ½ tablespoons of the mix with 4 tablespoons whiskey. It’s that simple! For more, go to Whiskey Sour Mix.
Easy whiskey sour recipe splashing out of glass

Variations on the whiskey sour

The whiskey sour is so iconic, there are many variations on this bourbon cocktail! Start with the maple syrup variation, followed by Boston Sour, then try these notable variations:

Want more cocktail ideas? The Whiskey Sour is on our list of the top 50 Most Popular Cocktails, along with the margarita, gin and tonic, Tom Collins, mimosa, and more.

Why do you put egg whites in whiskey sour?

Bartenders have been adding egg whites to sour cocktails since the 1860’s or before, as several drinks contain egg white in the 1862 book The Bartender’s Guide: How To Mix Drinks by Jerry Thomas. Adding an egg white gives a silky texture and a smooth, luxurious mouthfeel to the drink. A whiskey sour can be made with or without egg whites.

Do you have to use bourbon for whiskey sour?

A whiskey sour can be made with any type of whiskey. The vanilla and caramel notes of bourbon pair best with the acidic lemon. But you can also use rye whiskey, Irish whiskey, or even a blended Scotch.

What is the 3 2 1 ratio for whiskey sours?

Some people say that the best ratio for a whiskey sour is 3 parts spirits, 2 parts sour, 1 part sweet. However, the classic formula for a sour is a 2:1:1 ratio, or 2 parts spirits, 1 part sour and 1 part sweet. We prefer a 2:1:1 ratio for a whiskey sour.

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Whiskey sour

Classic Whiskey Sour


  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 3 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 minutes
  • Yield: 1 drink 1x

Description

Master the classic whiskey sour! This cocktail is easy to make at home with a few simple ingredients for a balance of sweet, tart, and boozy.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 ounces whiskey (we prefer bourbon)
  • 1 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 to 1 ounce simple syrup*
  • Garnish: Orange peel and a cocktail cherry
  • Ice, for serving

Instructions

  1. Add the whiskey, lemon juice, and simple 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. 

Notes

To convert to tablespoons, 1 ounce = 2 tablespoons.

* Adjust the sweetness level in a whiskey sour to fit your tastes. We also like substituting maple syrup for the simple syrup, which adds subtle caramel notes to the flavor profile.

  • Category: Drinks
  • Method: Mixed
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: whiskey sour, whiskey sour recipe, how to make a whiskey sour, bourbon sour

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 for memorable kitchen moments! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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66 Comments

  1. I’m not much of a whiskey fan (except with Coke) but had to see the recipe just to get a closer look at the picture. It’s awesome!
    I think I’ll be plunking glasses of lemonade on our table to get a similar shot :).

  2. Holy cow…that photo is amazing. Looks like it is right out of a magazine add! Way to go. Drink looks tasty, too. Think I might have to pick up some honey on the way home.

    1. What an amazing photo!! You two are simply awesome :) Joe may need some more honey and less whiskey though…….

  3. Incredible shot! This recipe reminds me of a cold hot toddy. I love that you used natural ingredients to sweeten it!

    1. Thank you! And, I love the thought of a cold hot toddy – haha! If that’s not already a drink, someone should bring that back :)

  4. Alex, oh Alex.

    How long have you know me? I had hair then, so it’s been a while. I hate to publically correct you, but son, you have NEVER been more wrong.

    Have you seen my glass? THIS WILL ONLY MAKE 1 drink–NOT 2!!

    I can’t wait to taste the Alex/Sonja version of my favorite drink. You better double the recipe if I have to share. Thank you!

    Joe ” regarding Marilyn, once a H%+, always a H%+” the evil stepfather.

    1. Haha! I was worried that if I made the portions Joe-sized, the readers would start acting like you…

      p.s. Tastes best with Preble Twp’s own Rekeweg Honey.

      1. Great whiskey sour. Goes great with my distillery bourbon and might be great with our Tennessee Whiskey “As smooth as Tennessee Whiskey”

  5. Definitely your best photo of all time :) I think Ben might even need a print of that one for his office…

  6. Wow, that first shot is stunning! Really stopped me in my tracks (and made me crave a whiskey sour…)

    Love the natural ingredients in this.

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