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Serves

Whisky Sour Cocktail Recipe: Simple Satisfaction

Discover new ways to enjoy this classic cocktail

Whether you consider yourself a cocktail connoisseur or have yet to delve deeply into the realm of mixed drinks, the whisky sour cocktail is a classic serve that has stood the test of time. A member of the ‘sours’ family of cocktails; the beauty and draw of the sour is in the simplicity and purity of ingredients. They are traditionally composed of just three elements: spirit, sweetener, and souring agent. Part of the magic of the whisky sour is its balance of sweet and tartness, achieving a palatal satisfaction that few serves are able to attain. Use it to introduce whisky newcomers or those who tend to avoid the bolder flavours that come with a single malt to the depths and expressions of the spirit.

A Bit of History: Myth, Legend, Mixes

The origins of adding citrus to spirits finds its roots on the high seas in the 1700s, where British sailors may have begun to squeeze lemons and limes into their drinks (usually rum) to help ward off scurvy. Sugar and water were added to balance the strength of flavours, and as the drink made its way onto land, other types of spirits including whisky and brandy, were naturally supplemented. 

The first mention of the combination in recorded history was in a Wisconsin newspaper in 1870, and a recipe was printed 17 years later in Jerry Thomas’s The Bartender’s Guide. Originally published in 1862 with just ten recipes, it was the first drinks book written in English to contain recipes for cocktails.

Through the 19th century and into the 20th, the whisky sour, with its many spirit relatives and adaptations grew in popularity. This was further enabled by modern technology that allowed ice to be stored and citrus to keep longer out of season. The sweet and sour combination was further immortalised through other recipes; expressions including sours with cognac (the Sidecar) gin (Daisy) and vodka (Collins).

The Sours Evolution

As time went on, bartenders began to add a few alternative ingredients for variety. Today there are different types of whisky sours, with subtle changes in ingredients to complement your single malt. The Boston sour through the presence of fresh egg white, which is added to the mix and shaken to produce a satisfying silky thickness, enables the flavours to develop further on the tongue. The New York sour is distinguished in the addition of a small amount of red wine, offering another intricate layer of flavour to the serve.

Other small additions include complimentary bitters to bind flavours, adding some wine, or switching up the type of sweeteners for a new sensory experience. Try a simple syrup, maple syrup, honey or agave to change how the sour and spirits interact in the serve. Some recipes use a whisky sour mix, however individual, freshly sourced and mixed ingredients will always produce a better whisky sour, and they allow you to play with the ratios as suits your palate. Sours are traditionally garnished with a maraschino cherry and half an orange slice, but lemon peels are popular, as are berries or candied ginger.

The Choice of Spirit: what is the best whisky for a whisky sour?

A whisky sour can be created with different types of whisky, including scotch whisky, bourbon, Canadian rye and Japanese whiskies. The common use of bourbon is both a result of the drink’s historic roots in America, and because the rich vanilla and caramel flavours imparted from the charred bourbon barrels are well suited to the citrusy notes found in a sour.

However don’t let common approaches limit your creativity and exploration in this classic serve. A single malt will impress its own personality; if there was one essential, golden rule to follow in making a whisky sour–and indeed, for creating any cocktail or drink– it’s that quality is integral. 

As with any classic serve, the possibilities are endless. Balance is always key for the whisky sour, so it may take a bit of experimentation with the sweetness to acidity to spirit for each different whisky before you strike the perfect chord and find the ratios that work for you.

NY Sour Glass

The Perfect Whisky Sour Recipe: The New York Sour

Calling back to the Spanish roots of our exceptional oak casks, The Macallan Triple Cask 12 Years Old’s citrus and vanilla notes are perfectly suited to this elegant cocktail. The presence of the ex-bourbon barrels marries exquisitely with our European and American Sherry oak casks to create a vibrant single malt. Our recipe is a variation on the refreshing classic New York sour and is taken to a new level once the Spanish Rioja is drizzled slowly over the top. It is dry yet fruity, with the incredible backbone of The Macallan Triple Cask 12 Years Old present throughout the experience.

Glass

  • Rocks glass

Ingredients: New York Sour

Garnish

  • Garnish with a lemon twist.

As with any drink, the quality of your materials is essential. Gather your ingredients, ensuring that the lemon is organic and unwaxed for the lemon peel twist. A tumbler or old fashioned is the traditional glass to use (also known as a lowball). You can serve your cocktail neat or over ice.

 

How to make a Whisky Sour

1. Add all ingredients except the wine to an ice-filled shaker

2. Shake vigorously and strain into a rocks glass

3. Drizzle Rioja over the drink, pouring over the back of a spoon, so it floats on the top of the drink

4. Garnish with a lemon peel

A Note on Presentation

Most bartenders will serve a sour over ice, although drinking it neat will ensure none of the flavours are diluted and missed. The rocks, or tumbler glass is the traditional sour glass, however, you can enhance the presentation by serving your cocktail in an old fashioned glass of cut-crystal, or straining it into a coupe glass for an added flourish.

You can continue to personalise your sour by experimenting with any of the three core elements. Try grapefruit, blood oranges or the exotic pomelo instead of lemon. For sweeteners, as noted above there are any number of natural sugars that will result in a new flavour profile of your sour.

Whether you prefer the classic or a more modern interpretation, the whisky sour cocktail is an elegant serve who’s longevity and continued popularity is a clear indication/demonstration that quality, simplicity and flavour are always timeless.

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