You can make a whiskey sour with or without egg whites, for a foamy top (photo © Lognetic | Fotolia).
 With egg whites, the foamy drink is called a Boston Sour (photo © Lognetic | Fotolia).
 The classic Whiskey Sour garnish is half an orange wheel and a maraschino cherry (photo courtesy Fillmore Room | NYC).
Today is Whiskey Sour Day. What’s a Whiskey Sour?
Sweet and sour mix, also known as sour mix or bar mix, is an ingredient in many cocktails—and not just those called “sour,” such as Apricot Sour, Bourbon Sour, Brandy Sour, Southern Comfort Sour, Whiskey Sour and Vodka Sour.
Sour mix is found in numerous other cocktail recipes that require sweetness (sugar) and tartness (lemon or lime juice). Long Island Iced Tea, Margarita, Mai Tai, Texas Tea and Singapore Sling are examples.
Ready-to-use sour mixes are available in supermarkets and are used in many bars.
We think it’s far better to make your own sour mix. There’s nothing better than fresh-squeezed citrus juice. If your Margarita (or other sweetened cocktail) tastes better in certain establishments, it’s probably not because of better tequila, but due to the use of fresh lime juice instead of a mix.
WHY YOU SHOULDN’T USE A PRE-MADE SOUR MIX
Mixes use bottled, reconstituted juice (concentrate and water) or citrus oil from the peel (a very different flavor profile from the juice). Real Lemon brand reconstituted bottled lemon juice is made from lemon juice concentrate, water, lemon oil and the preservatives sodium benzoate, sodium metabisulfite and sodium sulfite.
The prominent Mr. and Mrs. T brand of sweet and sour mix uses bottled lime juice, bottled lemon juice, corn syrup, sugar and artificial coloring. Thanks, but no thanks.
There’s no substitute for fresh citrus juice in any recipe—unless the goal of substituting is to cut down on the cost of ingredients, and by extension, deliver a finished product that doesn’t taste anywhere as good.
If you aren’t keen on juicing, consider an electric juicer, which makes juicing a snap (and fun, too). Take a look at this Oster juicer, moderately priced with a small footprint.
While an electric juicer will get every last drop of juice from the citrus, here are techniques that anyone can use to get the most juice.
So, start juicing and then kick back with a well-deserved Whiskey Sour.
SWEET & SOUR MIX RECIPE
Making sour mix is just one step tacked on to a simple syrup recipe: It’s half simple syrup and half lemon and/or lime juice.
1. MAKE simple syrup by combining 1 cup of sugar with 1 cup of water in a saucepan. Heat, stirring constantly as the water begins to simmer, until completely dissolved. Remove from heat.
2. ADD 1 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice and 1 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice. You may also wish to try batches with only lemon juice or only lime juice, to see if you prefer either to the blend.
3. BLEND thoroughly, pour into a clean bottle or other container (we reuse the bottles from grapefruit juice), cap and refrigerate. It will last for weeks. If you have too much, you can also freeze it.
4. ASSEMBLE the cocktail: Shake 1-1/2 ounces whiskey (Bourbon, Canadian, Jack Daniels, Irish whiskey or Scotch) with three ounces sour mix. Pour over ice cubes or crushed ice into your choice of a rocks or a collins glass.
5. GARNISH with a maraschino cherry (these are the best!) or a fresh cherry in season; or go 21st-century and sprinkle with dried cherries.
How Many Lemons & Limes Do You Need?
It depends on the size of the fruit. There are 16 tablespoons in a cup.
A medium lime yields 1-1/2 to 2 tablespoons of juice; 1 cup requires 8 to 10 limes.
A medium lemon yields 2 tablespoons of juice; a large lemon can deliver up to 4 tablespoons.
WHISKEY SOUR HISTORY
Sours are one of the old families of original mixed drinks described in Jerry Thomas’ seminal 1862 book, The Bartender’s Guide. A 1962 a Spanish-language article cited a prior article in the Peruvian newspaper, El Comercio de Iquique, giving credit to Elliott Stubb for creating the Whisky Sour in 1872—10 years after Thomas’ book [source].
One might deduce that many other bartenders who purchased The Bartender’s Guide created whiskey sours. But this was pre-Information Age, so history is wiggly, at best.
The oldest English printed mention of a Whiskey Sour was in the Waukesha [Wisconsin] Plain Dealer in 1870 [source].
Sours are mixed drinks containing a base liquor, lemon or lime juice (the “sour”), and a sweetener (grenadine, simple syrup, sugar, pineapple juice, triple sec). Some of the varieties:
A Whiskey Sour uses bourbon, lemon juice and sugar, shaken and served straight up or over ice. The traditional garnish is half an orange wheel and a maraschino cherry.
A Scotch Sour trades the bourbon for scotch.
A Boston Sour adds a dash of egg white.
A Brandy Sour, mentioned by Jerry Thomas in 1887, combines brandy, curaçao, sugar and lemon juice, shaken and strained into a wine glass.
A Gin Sour substitutes gin for whiskey. Adding carbonated water turns it into a Gin Fizz.
A Midori Sour: Honeydew melon liquor, grenadine, lemon juice. While generally a bright green, it can be poured into layers resembling a green Tequila Sunrise (recipe).
A Pisco Sour, the national drink of Peru, pisco (an un-aged grape brandy, key lime or lemon juice, simple syrup, egg white, and bitters (recipe).
A Santa Cruz Sour (Jerry Thomas, 1887): Santa Cruz rum, sugar, lemon juice, shaken and strained into a wine glass.
A Ward 8 uses bourbon or rye whiskey, both lemon and orange juices, and grenadine syrup instead of sugar.
More sours by other names include the Caipirinha, Daiquiri, Margarita and Sidecar. The White Lady (also known as a Chelsea Sidecar) is a sidecar made with gin in place of brandy, different from a gin sour by switching triple sec for sugar.
You can invent your own sour and name it after yourself. Just use the template of spirit, citrus juice and sweetener, with optional liqueur, bitters and garnishes.