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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.
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As certified mixologists and cocktail experts, we’ve have over 300 cocktail recipes in our library. 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 recipe: Alex and I created this spin with fresh lemon juice years ago and it became an instant family hit. We like it even better with maple syrup as a sweetener, and it impresses our friends every time! Here’s the classic recipe and a few variations on this famous drink.

Key whiskey sour ingredients

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, with an optional egg white foam topping. The earliest mention of this classic cocktail is in the 1862 book The Bartender’s Guide by Jerry Thomas, so it’s been around for years. 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 other 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. Head to our Whiskey Sour with Egg White for more details!

💡 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.

Frequently asked questions

Why do you put egg whites in whiskey sour?

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.

Bartenders have been adding egg whites to sour cocktails since the 1860’s or before. Several drinks contain egg white in the 1862 book The Bartender’s Guide: How To Mix Drinks by Jerry Thomas.

What kind of whiskey is best for a whiskey sour?

A medium-bodied rye whiskey or a bourbon works well. Experiment with different whiskeys to find your favorite flavor combination. Avoid using top-shelf whiskeys, as the lemon and simple syrup will mask some of the subtleties.

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.

What’s the difference between a whiskey sour and a sour mix drink?

A classic whiskey sour uses fresh lemon juice and simple syrup, creating a balanced and complex flavor profile. Sour mix drinks often rely on pre-made sour mixes, which can be overly sweet and lack depth.

Do I need a special glass for a whiskey sour?

You can use either a classic coupe glass or a rocks glass.

Can I make this drink ahead of time?

Pre-squeeze your lemon juice and prepare simple syrup in advance. However, assemble and serve the whiskey sour right before drinking for the freshest flavors and frothiest texture.

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Whiskey sour

Classic Whiskey Sour


5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

4.9 from 14 reviews

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

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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67 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Favorite for our get togethers with family and friends. We make it by the pitcher!






  2. Suman Chattopadhyay says:

    Loved your receipes.

  3. Don Sabers says:

    Have you tried the Whiskey Sour with your Hot Honey recipe?

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      No, but I like where you’re going with this!

  4. Anonymous says:






  5. Lorne Dion says:

    Don’t know how you 2 have done this ? But there must be some Very Special Chemistry going on ! 🫨
    Way to go ! 😎

  6. Anonymous says:

    How many days will a batch keep in the fridge? Traveling, but would like to make ahead and bring

    1. Sonja Overhiser says:

      Good question! The mix keeps 1 week in the refrigerator — the flavor is best in first 24 hours, but it’s still good at a week.

  7. John Bucher says:

    Sa your AWESOME COCKTAIL recipes and they are just that, awesome..Had a birthday recently and had ppl over, big 60, n I wanted to use my new cocktail set I got, along with 4 bottles of bourbon, Barrell Bourbon 32, Barrell Bourbon Vantage, Barrell Bourbon Amidia and my go to Elijah Craig 1792 and we started with sipping and then I said wait let’s try some cocktails from this site, so we did the usual, my go to, The Old Fadhion, love yours but I did a twist to it, I mulled 2 cocktail cherries into your recipe and did a double strain for each and well, 5 stars my guest said, so after 2 or 3 of those I said let’s do one of the old time faves, whiskey sour, and for this I used Elijah Craig, it just seemed better since Barrell is higher in proof. So I pulled up your recipes and started with the normal, then I got a little twisty, 1 I did with the basic but plain simple syrup then twist #1 I did fresh mint mulled then shaken, LOVED IT they did. So 2 or 3 each later we did another twist, did the honey recipe but, and I hope you all don’t laugh, I did black raspberries mulled…yup I did. So after this one, everyone said DAM….I will say this wow. The flavors…this site and the recipes you have are awesome and i love adding twist to drinks, and so do my freinds…so thanks for the recipes and I will for sure use them. I have a lot of Eagle Rare and Barrell Bourbon 34 and 33 to use…thank you..






    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      Haha! That sounds great with black raspberries!

  8. Patricia says:

    This is my go to whiskey sour recipe! I’ve tried it with a few different bourbon brands and it’s always is delicious. Started buying maple syrup in bulk 🍁






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