Cracking whiskey sours

After the sugary excesses of the Easter weekend, something a bit less sweet is in order. Whiskey sours seem to fit that bill exactly. The variations of this cocktail are many – in particular, whether or not you include egg white or bitters and quite how sour the whole thing should be. So I’ve done some experimenting on your behalf (hic!) and here are my thoughts.

The sweetness in whiskey sours comes from a sugar syrup (though some variations use powdered, or icing, sugar, syrup is the more obvious choice since the sugar is already dissolved). You can buy sugar syrup or make it yourself by boiling a cup of water and stirring in two cups of sugar until the sugar is dissolved. The precise amounts aren’t important, but a two to one ratio gives a good rich syrup. Turn the heat out as soon as the sugar is dissolved (the syrup should be clear and there should be no gritty bits if you drag a spoon across the bottom) and leave to cool.

I’ve tended towards the sourer end of the spectrum with a 4:2:1 ratio of whiskey to lemon juice to syrup. That is, for one drink, 2 fl oz of whiskey (bourbon is the traditional spirit of choice here), 1 fl oz of lemon juice and 1/2 fl oz of sugar syrup. If you’d prefer a sweeter drink, up the syrup to taste.


If you’re adding the egg white (and I’m going to convince you that you should), for the quantities above, take half an egg white (although, since egg whites are INDIVISIBLE, this is impossible to measure, it’s about a tablespoon.) Add the egg to the other ingredients in a cocktail shaker, without ice, and shake to emulsify. The egg white creates a sweet, almost meringue like, top to the whole drink and acts to round off all the flavours so that none of them dominate the balance of strong, sour and sweet. There’s no trace of raw egg.


Shake once more with ice to cool the drink and pour through a strainer into a glass, spooning over any of the froth that stays in the shaker.


I did a taste test with a couple of dashes of bitters but their subtler flavours were unnecessary in this straight down the line, no messing, cocktail. A maraschino cherry wouldn’t go amiss though.


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