How the Whiskey Sour Became a Maligned Cocktail, and How You Can Make a Great One

That's the old-school 45-percent ABV Makers in the background.
That's the old-school 45-percent ABV Makers in the background.

If you go into a random bar and order a whiskey sour, chances are the drink you receive will be terrible. The sour mix is usually the culprit. A similar pre-made concoction of sugar and artificial flavoring has ruined margaritas and other cocktail classics, mostly because bartenders are under the impression they're easier to work with.

Look at the ingredients in a sour mix:

Sugar, Citric Acid (Provides Tartness), Lemon Juice Powder (Lemon Juice Dehydrated with Corn Syrup Solids), Sodium Citrate (Controls Acidity), Dried Egg Whites, Calcium Phosphate (Prevents Caking), Lemon Oil, BHA (Prolongs Freshness).

Unless you're at a high-end cocktail den (or The Windmill Lounge), the original recipes that were used to fashion these drinks have long been forgotten. Mixes like these, in either powdered or liquid forms, have become the standard way of preparing cocktails at most bars. Which is weird, because making a whiskey sour the right way takes no more time than methods that make use of pre-made mixes.

Here's how to make a whiskey sour, perfectly suited to you, without the BHA, calcium phsophate and dried egg whites.

Juice a single lemon. Squeeze it right into the shaker and use your fingers to catch any seeds. As long as it's not a terrible piece of fruit they always seems to yield about an ounce of juice. The exact amount won't matter though, because you're going to taste this drink as you go.

In a cocktail shaker, mix the lemon juice with 2 ounces of whatever whiskey you prefer. Start with a tiny squirt of simple syrup (everyone keeps this in their fridge, right?), stir with a spoon and give it a taste. I like mine super tart, so I usually stop there, but it's your drink. Add as much simple syrup as you like till you get the flavor that suits you.

With the drink properly balanced, add a tumbler's glass worth of ice and shake like you've never shaken before. Fancy dance moves, hip gyrations, bouncing and other body undulations are completely unnecessary -- a simple up and down motion will do just fine. Just be thorough. Now pour the mixture back in your tumbler and garnish with a cherry.

It's that easy. Just be warned: the whiskey sour you're used to ordering at your neighborhood bar will never taste the same.

It's that easy
It's that easy

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