Reliably delicious, the Whiskey Sour is one of the oldest mixed drinks to have remained in regular circulation.
It is a classic mix of spirit, citrus and sugar, but don’t let the simplicity fool you, as Julius Yates from Shady Pines Saloon reminds us “some of the simplest drinks are the hardest to make”.
Mentions of the Whiskey Sour began to appear in newspapers as early as the 1870s, and within a decade, the drink was fairly ubiquitous. After the repeal of Prohibition, it quickly rebounded to prominence, but over the following half-century, it got lost in a mire of artificial sour mixes.
Recently, the cocktail has had quite a revival, thanks mainly to bartenders bringing fresh juice back to the mix and once again incorporating egg white (an ingredient extra now thought of in mixology circles as the “original” form of the drink).
But in its heyday, even the likes of Ernest Hemingway would drink them till dawn with another legendary writer, F. Scott Fitzgerald in the Dingo bar in Paris during 1920.
“It’s definitely a drink that hits the palette and the sensors in a way, that has kept it popular,” said Yates. “Plus the egg white gives it a really nice, rich, silky, foamy texture. If you make it without it, it tends to be a little bit watery”.
Often referred to as a Boston Sour, it is a drink where the harmony between the ingredients is particularly important. “You don’t want it to be too sweet or too sour,” yates pointed out. “You’ve got to really make sure that you have that balance of flavours.”
While most people automatically make a Whiskey Sour with a Bourbon Whiskey, at Shady Pines, they drop the ‘e’ and make it with a Scotch.
“Scotch is drier and finer than Bourbon,” says Yates. “I mean we are a Bourbon bar, but it’s just one of those things where people chose to either use Bourbon or Scotch and we use the Scotch because it’s a more refined product.”
If you are looking to stay with the original Bourbon for the drink, Yates recommends a small batch like Baker’s 7-Year-Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. “It’s a higher proof, nice more spicy Bourbon, with a high Rye content. It’s got a bigger body and a nice bit of spice to it, which would play really well against the Egg White.”
Yates recommends that if you are making your own Sugar Syrup, you should be mixing it up at room temperature. If you cook it down at a higher heat, then it makes the syrup itself sweeter.
He also recommends that you don’t just make it at a 1:1 ratio. “We use a 3:2 ratio, so 900g being sugar and 600g being water. Really at room temperature, you are just stirring it, and it will eventually dissolve.”
The Egg White
The thing to remember when using egg white is that the eggs need to be pasteurised, really fresh and have no damage to the shells.
Yates points out that the bar always uses fresh egg whites but “You can use something like Aquafaba” says Yates “but it tends to have a bit of a metallic, almost savoury taste to it from the chickpeas.”
The Glassware & Garnish
A Rocks glass is the traditional serving glass for this drink.
Lemon & cherry are the traditional garnish, and Shady Pines use a Morello Cherry.
Yates pointed out that the dry shake is one of the most important elements to this Cocktail.
“Just make sure that you shake it enough so that the egg white start to react properly,” he said.
Of course, the main trick with this drink is to ensure that you create a proper seal with your shaker tins before you start shaking.
“You need to be careful to ensure that the tins don’t come apart,” Yates continued. ‘Trust me, every bartender has done it, and it’s the worst thing you can do. That sticky Lemon egg white goes everywhere… it’s gross.”
The most obvious riff to this drink is, of course, the New York Sour (which incorporates a float of Red Wine), but if you’re looking for other variations to play with, Yates has a few suggestions.
“Although not a sour, a drink I like is a Camerons Kick which uses equal parts Scotch Whisky and Irish Whiskey with lemon Juice, but instead of Sugar Syrup, you use Orgeat Syrup.”
2 oz / 60 ml Whiskey, Shady Pines uses Ballantine’s Scotch Whisky
0.67 oz / 20ml Sugar Syrup
1oz / 30ml fresh Lemon Juice
0.5oz / 15ml Egg White
2 dashes Angostura Aromatic Bitters
Add Lemon Juice, Sugar Syrup, Egg White, Whiskey & Angostura Bitters to a shaker tin. Give it a quick dry shake, then add ice and shake again. Fine strain into a Sour or Rocks glass. Garnish with Lemon wedge & a Cherry (American flag optional).