How to make a classic Whiskey Sour?

This Whiskey Sour cocktail recipe is one of the classics every good bartender should have in their repertoire. And with this old traditional drink becoming ever-more popular with a broader demographic of spirit and cocktail enthusiasts, this easy Whiskey Sour recipe is a great one to try out on your friends and family. 

Cocktail Ingredients and Kit:

  • Egg whites 
  • Bourbon
  • Lemon juice
  • Rich demerara syrup
  • Angostura orange bitters
  • Ice 
  • Optional: lemon zest or lemon twist to garnish
  • Barillio mixology set, including shaker, jigger, and strainer
Whiskey Sour

A Brief History of the Whiskey Sour 

The Whiskey Sour made its debut in the press in Jerry Thomas’s aptly named book Bartenders Guide. However, it’s likely that this cocktail was around before this guide was published in 1862, and most historians even agree that it started life out at sea! 

In the 1800s, many sailors fell victim to scurvy, an illness that often caused death from lack of vitamin C. To avoid becoming sick with scurvy, sailors used to bring bucketloads of citrus fruits on their voyages. And as you may know, sailors and other sea goers were also partial to a glass of whiskey or rum (as pirates of the Caribbean character Captian Jack Sparrow rather frequently pointed out). Therefore, it was only a matter of time before the sailors combined these spirits with lemon juice to make the infant version of today’s Whiskey Sour. 

It wasn’t till this cocktail was introduced to land-dwellers that eventually, people started adding other ingredients, such as egg whites and syrups, and the current version of the Whiskey Sour was born.

Is Whiskey a Man’s Drink? 

Many people associate whiskey with an ‘older man’s drink’, but why is this? Whiskey is often considered a drink for men due to the ample amount of hardy Irish and Scottish men favoring this spirit. Therefore, when these people started to immigrate to America, Whiskey was particularly popular with this demographic, and the association has stuck. 

However, the Whiskey sour, with its sweet and sour elements, is a balanced drink that is now enjoyed by many people and not just a stereotypical ‘white bearded gentleman’. Taylor Swift has also referenced whiskey on ice, Tennessee Whiskey and an Old Fashioned in several of her records.

Whiskey Sour Cocktail Recipe


  • Shaker
  • Jigger
  • Strainer


  • ½ oz Egg whites
  • 2 oz Bourbon
  • ¾ oz Lemon juice
  • ¾ oz Rich demerara syrup
  • 4-5 dashes Angostura orange bitters
  • Ice
  • Optional: lemon zest or lemon twist to garnish


  • Start by adding your egg whites, bourbon, lemon juice, demerara syrup, and bitters to your Barillio shaker.
  • Add your shaker lid and shake for 5-10 seconds. Next, add a handful of ice and shake for a further 10 seconds.
  • Strain into your favorite whiskey glass.
  • Optional: garnish with a lemon zest or lemon twist.
Keyword bartender kit, cocktail, cocktail recipe

Recipe Alterations

As mentioned, our expert bartending pros recommend using a bourbon whiskey in your whiskey sour. Bourbon is easier to drink than other whiskeys, and the vanilla and oak flavors in the bourbon complement the cocktail’s sweet and sour notes. 

If you’re making this recipe during fall, you mash wish to add just a dash of orange juice to add a touch of autumnal fruitiness to compliment the citrus flavor from the lemon juice and the sweetness from the syrup. 

Another great way to spice up this cocktail (not literally) is adding in a sprinkle of edible gold glitter. As edible glitter is a popular ingredient for home bakers, you can get food-grade edible glitter from most confectionary or large grocery stores or purchase some online for under $5. The glitter is a great way to give this Whiskey Sour cocktail recipe a winter makeover and impress your guests over the holidays.

Other Whiskey Cocktail Recipes 

The Whiskey Sour is the father of all whiskey cocktails and our choice for the one you should master as a bartending trainee. However, if you are ready to move on to other Whiskey-based drinks, here are our top choices you can shake or stir in your Barillio mixology set: 


How much alcohol is in a Whiskey Sour? 

This Whiskey Sour recipe contains two ingredients that have alcohol: the bourbon, which is approximately 40% ABV (depending on the brand), and the Angostura orange bitters, which is around 45% ABV. 

However, a cocktail is legally still non-alcoholic with just a few drops of Angostura bitters only, so although the bitters have very high alcohol by volume percentage, the majority of the alcohol content in this cocktail comes from the 2 oz of bourbon.  

What does a Whiskey Sour taste like? 

The majority of the taste in this delicious Whiskey Sour comes from the caramel, oak and vanilla notes in the Bourbon. However, the syrup is also important to balance the bitters and lemon juice. 

The Whiskey Sour is somewhat mild in strength, similar to the strength of a glass of wine. 

Why is there egg white in a Whiskey Sour? 

Some Whiskey Sour recipes now omit the egg whites. However, this ingredient is traditionally used to balance the flavors in the Whiskey Sour and round out the texture to help the drinker experience a smooth, rich cocktail. 

What’s the difference between a Whiskey Sour and an Old Fashioned?

The Whiskey Sour and the Old Fashioned cocktails’ primary ingredient is whiskey. Both cocktails also use a sweetener and bitters; however, the Old fashioned will use sugar rather than rich demerara syrup. Additionally, the Whiskey Sour also uses lemon juice and egg whites, and the Old Fashioned will requires water. 

The garnishings on the cocktails are also different, with Old Fashioned favoring Maraschino cherries or orange slices and Whiskey Sours traditionally using lemon zest. 

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