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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. 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 ! 😎

  5. 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.

  6. 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!

  7. 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 🍁






  8. Rahat Hassan says:

    This is totally amazing ,I never seen this kind of before any other website so thankful to a couple cooks.






  9. Carol Rayko says:

    A new favorite! Thanks for the recipe.






  10. Isabel says:

    This drink is becoming so popular in Spain! Never heard of it before and now more and more places do it. Can’t wait to try, thanks for the recipe!






  11. Emanuel Makasva says:

    Stunning

  12. St. Michael says:

    Excellent and simple recipe. Ingenious with Vermont maple syrup! Had a somewhat pineapple aftertaste.

    I made an addition you might want to try. Added about 1 Tbsp of a very good apricot jam. Made drink “rounder” to the mouth, and flavors sequenced nicely.

    Ellzabeth’s Apricot Jam, Locally grown Blenheim apricots, Orchard Heritage Park, 560 East Remington Dr, Sunnyvale, CA, 94087. 408-891-1753. (I’m just a very satisfied customer)






    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      We’ll have to try it! And thanks for the recommendation.

  13. discoverregina says:

    Wow!! Mind blown! Thank you so much for this recipe. I had to call my mom and my mother-in-law about this recipe. We are cooking the stock right now and I’ll make homemade Best Whiskey Sour Recipe to go with it. Way to go!

  14. Rhodi Pelloni says:

    I’ve made a drink I called a “whiskey sour” in the past, but it basically was just two parts lime juice to one part whiskey. I thought I would try the “official” version with lemon and simple syrup instead.

    About 30 years ago on military assignment, I frequented Vaquero’s (Cowboy’s) Bar in Comayagua, Honduras. The bartender always had a pitcher of lemonade for gin and lemonade. I liked it.

    As I was squeezing the lemon and making the simple syrup, it dawned on me. This is a “whiskey and lemonade”. I made it with Jameson Irish whiskey, and it was pretty good. I’m not sure if I like it better with lime juice and no added sweetener. I may have to make both at the same time and do a taste test.






  15. Dani T says:

    PERFECT.






    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      Thank you!

  16. Miranda says:

    Seriously the best whiskey sour recipe I’ve ever tried! The maple syrup is what makes it so amazing. It pairs well with the oak in the bourbon.






  17. Brian Lackey says:

    Love the Whiskey Sour recipe. I had no cherries so I go without. The only problem with this recipe is that it is so good, I am now out of Bourbon!






    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      It’s a real problem! :)

  18. Elle Tsey says:

    Tried this recipe and it was delicious! I might tweak the amount of maple syrup just a tad, but I much prefer the maple syrup to simple syrup – great substitute!






  19. Dr. Ted says:

    Someone on my favorite TV show always drinks whiskey sours (I know, I’m impressionable…) so when I was at a bar a few months back I tried one and it was awful. I guess it was made with sweet and sour mix or something. Well that, plus I don’t like mixed drinks ~ I’m a straight bourbon guy, period. But I found your recipe and decided to give it a try this afternoon, and wow! This is one cocktail I’m going to be drinking when Saturday afternoon rolls around. I’ve already shared this blog with our daughter who actually DOES like cocktails.

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      Haha! So glad you loved it :)

  20. Jessica Brantner says:

    Omg! This truly is the easiest, most wonderful sour I’ve enjoyed. Hands down, the maple syrup beats simple syrup by far and IS ON HAND. I love a whiskey sour, but do not want to stand around making simple syrup and don’t drink often enough to batch make it.
    I used half lemon juice and half key lime. A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      So glad you enjoyed it!

  21. Anonymous says:

    OMG I’m drinking my dinner tonight. Sooo yummy.

  22. KT says:

    Have made this 4 times in the last week, my husband enjoyed it so much he went out and bought a dozen lemons so that we don’t run out :) thank you for a simple and delicious cocktail! We are excited to try the New York Sour next!

  23. Beth says:

    Delicious and easy recipe! Thanks! Enjoying one (okay, maybe 2) while making dinner for the fam on a cold night in Minneapolis. Hope all are well in Indiana!

  24. Racheal says:

    SO,I doubt you’ve heard this before but, “how ’bout that shot’?? Sweet.!Made the recipe, I prefer shaken to stirred but makes difficult with ice…drinking anyhow!

  25. laura says:

    Just repeating everyone else, but WOW what amazing photos!

    1. Alex says:

      Haha, thank you! And thanks everyone else!

  26. Miranda @ Biting Life says:

    Wow, that photo is AMAZING! One of the best blog photos I’ve ever seen (probably THE best!).

    1. Sonja says:

      Wow, thank you! Makes all those times of dropping the ice cube worth it :)

  27. Annie says:

    I reeeeallly love these photos. Awesome job.

  28. Rosabel says:

    Wow! First of, I LOVE the pictures! I also like the idea of using honey to sweeten the cocktail. Another option (all natural and tasty) would be to use Organic Maple Syrup (which I ofter use as a sweetener: it is healthier and gives a delicious taste to recipes). (I not it is hard to find but I get mine online with Rouge Maple)

    1. Sonja says:

      Thanks! Sounds like a great idea – I’ve never thought of adding maple syrup. Thanks for the idea!

    1. Alex says:

      Looks awesome, and I have some lavender blooming in the garden right now!

  29. milena says:

    That is a damn good shot!

  30. Shawn @ I Wash...You Dry says:

    I’m not a drinker, but that first picture is sure amazing! I saw it on FoodGawker, and had to come check it out! Very nice!

  31. Jennifer (Delicieux) says:

    That first image is amazing!!! I also love your update to this classic recipe. My fiance is a huge fan of whiskey sours, so I will have to try your updated version on him.

  32. TastefullyJulie says:

    I was JUST thinking on my way to work today (don’t ask) that I would like to try a whiskey sour that isn’t made with nasty sour mix from a bottle. Yum. Thanks!

  33. Krissy's Creations says:

    What a wonderful photo! You should sell it! I know I definitely would like that up on my wall :)

    1. Sonja says:

      Haha, well now you’ve got us thinking! We’ll let you know :)

  34. Chez Us says:

    Great photo! We, too, love a good whiskey sour and nothing compares to making your own sour mix. We started making it last year, after a friend reintroduced us to the drink. Will never go back. Cheers!

  35. Alexandra says:

    Um, to repeat: Amazing photo! I agree with Joe even though I’ve never seen his glass!

    Yay for me having everything I need for one of these in my kitchen and at 5:30 I’m going to concoct one! Thanks!

  36. Julia {The Roasted Root} says:

    Whisky sour has always been one of my favorite drinks! Love that your version is zesty and naturally sweetened. Great flavor and your pictures are gorgeous!

  37. Julia says:

    What an amazing picture!!!!! And I love this updated classic recipe!

  38. RussianMomCooks says:

    The shot is stunning! Almost want to try whiskey! Meaah…

  39. Farmer's City Wife says:

    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 :).

  40. Cousin Dan says:

    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. Aunt Wendy says:

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

  41. Devon says:

    Love that you used honey to sweeten the whiskey sour! Great idea :)

  42. Kris Mullen @munchin with munchkin says:

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

    1. Sonja says:

      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 :)

  43. Joe says:

    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. Alex says:

      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. Dean Madison says:

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






  44. Erin says:

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

    1. Alex says:

      Haha! Thanks. I think winkflash is having a canvas sale this week… :)

  45. Melissa // thefauxmartha says:

    Oh my beautiful! Awesome shot!

  46. Kathryn says:

    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.

    1. Alex says:

      Thanks! I figured there had to be some way they made whiskey sours before HFCS was invented…

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