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How to make a proper whiskey sour

So simple, so elegant — when you do it right

Whiskey sour cocktail
Dan Baker / The Manual

The whiskey sour is, hands down, a classic cocktail and one that is great both for people who love whiskey and for people who might be on the fence about whiskey (which means they haven’t tried enough good whiskey yet, and it’s your job to show them the light). The first written references to the drink come from the late 1800s, though most likely the drink itself, like many classic cocktails, had existed in some form for a time before that. We enjoy this cocktail because it has all the hallmarks of a good drink — spirit, sugar, sour, and a “weak” element (from that old saying)  — in proportions that have been dialed in over the last century plus.

If you’re nervous about using an egg white in your cocktail, you could omit it (and, technically, the first iterations of the drink did not feature an egg white), but you will not have the same creamy mouthfeel or consistency. If you still want the mouthfeel but can’t get over the egg thing, you can find a substitute for egg white in aquafaba, otherwise known as chickpea water. If you’re doing that, you’ll want to use about two tablespoons per egg white. Either way, it is up to you. For our video, we omitted the egg white.

Below, check out how to make a whiskey sour. We talked with Eddie Riddell, who worked at Trifecta Tavern in Portland, Oregon (which is now closed).

How to make a whiskey sour pour
Dan Baker / The Manual

How to make a whiskey sour

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces bourbon
  • 1 ounce lemon juice
  • 1 ounce simple syrup
  • 1 egg white, optional*
  • Cocktail cherry (for garnish)

Method

  1. Add all ingredients except the cherry to a shaker with ice.
  2. Shake well.
  3. Strain into a rocks glass with a large cube of ice.
  4. Garnish with a cocktail cherry.

*If using an egg white: Add all ingredients except the cherry to a shaker without ice. Shake well. Add ice and shake again. Strain into a rocks glass with a large cube of ice. Garnish with a cocktail cherry.

This recipe features Garrison Brothers Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey, the winner of the Bourbon category in the 2022 Manual Spirit Awards. If you’re looking to find other cocktail videos, we recommend checking out:

Whiskey sour outside on a table
Billy's Booze Blog / Flickr

Why are egg whites in a whiskey sour?

Earlier on, we discussed that adding egg whites to your whiskey sour drinks is completely optional, but without the egg whites, the drinks lose some of their mouthfeel. But why is that? When you add an egg white to your whiskey sour and shake it up, the proteins in the egg white emulsify, trapping air pockets, which gives the drink its signature creamy texture without impacting the flavor of the other ingredients.

Using egg whites safely

Now there are probably a lot of you out there who are a little skittish about using raw egg whites in a cocktail because of the potential for health issues. As long as the eggs you’re using are pasteurized (make sure the carton clearly says the eggs are pasteurized), then it’s safe to use them in your cocktail.

When dealing with egg whites for cocktails, make sure you keep your work area clean and hygienic. Wash your hands with warm, soapy water before and after using the egg whites. When you’re done, clean any utensils or glasses that came into contact with raw eggs thoroughly and then clean your work surface with a soapy cloth before drying it completely. Then all that’s left is to enjoy your drink!

Nate Swanner
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Nate is General Manager for all not-Digital-Trends properties at DTMG, including The Manual, Digital Trends en Espanol…
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