Recipe Review

All in the (Cocktail) Family: Sours Straight Up Cocktails

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Margaritas. Daiquiris. Sidecars. It wasn’t too long ago that I realized some of my favorite drinks had something in common. Each is a member of a certain tart and delicious extended cocktail family: the Sour.

The perfect combination of citrusy freshness and mellowing sweetness, backed by the rich warmth of alcohol, Sours are one of the earliest cocktail types on record (Brandy Sours were big in the 1850s), and their modern cousins (Cosmos, anyone?) are still holding their own.

The beauty of the Sour is its simplicity: mix together a base liquor, a sour ingredient – usually fresh lemon or lime juice – and a sweetener, and you’re good to go.

Within the Sour family there are Classic Sours, International Sours, and New Orleans Sours. Classic Sours are distinguished by the non-alcoholic sweeteners they’re mixed with (sugar, flavored syrup, or a sweet fruit juice):

  • Daiquiri (rum, lime juice, simple syrup)
  • Whiskey Sour (whiskey, lemon juice, simple syrup – recipe below)
  • Lemon Drop (citrus vodka, lemon juice, simple syrup)
  • Pisco Sour (pisco brandy, lemon juice, simple syrup – with Angostura bitters and egg white)

International and New Orleans Sours (as defined by mixologist Gary Regan), on the other hand, get their sweetness from liqueur. In the case of New Orleans Sours, an orange-flavored one, such as Cointreau, triple sec, or curaçao:

  • Margarita (tequila, lime juice, triple sec or Cointreau)
  • Sidecar (brandy, lemon juice, Cointreau)
  • Cosmopolitan (vodka, lime and cranberry juice, Cointreau)
  • Aviation (gin, lemon juice, Maraschino liqueur)
(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

The possibilities are nearly endless, but one of my personal favorites in the bunch goes right back to basics: the Whiskey Sour.

Whiskey Sour
(adapted from Salvatore Calabrese, Classic Cocktails)
makes one cocktail

1 3/4 ounces bourbon (or rye whiskey)
2/3 ounces freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon simple syrup
1 egg white (optional – I leave it out)

Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker over ice and shake briskly. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a Maraschino cherry (I’ve been using homemade ones from earlier this summer, mmmmm!) and an optional orange slice.

(Images: Nora Maynard)