How to Make an Exceptional Whiskey Sour

Simple but endlessly satisfying, this classic sour is a pre-Prohibition era hit.

Whiskey Sour

Matt Taylor-Gross / Food Styling by Lucy Simon

In our opinion, ordering a Whiskey Sour is never a bad idea — even a dive bar whiskey sour made with sugar-laden sour mix are an improvement on the classic well cocktail. Despite its broad appeal, when a Whiskey Sour is made properly, it is totally exceptional. The sweet and tart cocktail is an undeniable classic, and when it's made well, it will blow you away. 

The Whiskey Sour is the best-known example of a sour, a cocktail made with lemon, and sometimes other citrus as well, sweetener, and a distilled spirit. The drinks are smaller than a fizz, which has a similar composition with the addition of soda water. According to the very opinionated Paul Harrington and Laura Moorhead, authors of Cocktail: The Drinks Bible for the 21st Century, a sour is served in a “short and squat [glass], holding about 6 to 8 ounces. When made with 2 ounces less, the more respectable sours can be served as cocktails.” Whether you’re drinking an 8-ounce ‘drink’ or a 6-ounce ‘cocktail,’ the Whiskey Sour is balanced and delicious, and you might want more than just one. 

While there are variations without it, our favorite version of the Whiskey Sour leans on an egg white for its frothy texture and silky mouthfeel. “People have been putting eggs and spirits together for centuries,” writes Neal Bodenheimer in his book Cure: New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix ‘Em. “Egg whites contribute this perfect bit of texture but also dry a drink out. That’s a balance that is hard to replicate with any other ingredient.” While most ingredients which add body to a cocktail add flavor or sweetness, like Orgeat, egg white simply affects the texture of the drink. By giving the ingredients a dry shake, which means to vigorously shake the cocktail before adding ice, you aerate the drink, adding tiny air bubbles that get trapped in the egg white and add body — think about the science behind how meringue gets light and fluffy as air is beaten into it. While working with raw egg white can feel daunting, make sure you use fresh eggs and remember you can always start with half an egg white or less. Go at your own pace as you get used to this new technique. 

The Whiskey Sour has a few other simple ingredients. The whiskey, of course, lemon juice, simple syrup, and bitters for a bit of aromatic interest and to garnish the frothy top. Read on for everything you need to know to make one at home.  


  • 2 ounces bourbon

  • 3/4 ounce lemon juice

  • 3/4 ounce simple syrup

  • 1/2 ounce egg white

  • 2 dashes bitters (for garnish)


  1. In a cocktail shaker without ice, combine bourbon, lemon juice, simple syrup, and egg white. Dry shake for 20 seconds until emulsified.

  2. Add ice and shake once more, until fully chilled.

  3. Strain into a coupe glass and garnish with three drops of Angostura bitters.

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