How To Make a Classic Whiskey Sour

updated Sep 13, 2022
How To Make a Whiskey Sour
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angled shot of a single whiskey sour, garnished with a luxardo cherry.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Styling: Rachel Perlmutter

A whiskey sour is yours for the making year-round. It’s refreshing enough to keep up with a spritz during the warm summer months, and so appropriate during the colder seasons of the year. Even if you’re not a whiskey fan (which breaks my heart), you might still find yourself swooning over a well-crafted whiskey sour. It’s that good! The secret is using fresh ingredients.

It’s such an easy cocktail to make at home, and perfect for entertaining guests. There’s nothing better than hearing that ooh! from your guest when you hand them a coupe glass filled with whiskey sour goodness.

To get started, you’ll need some bourbon, lemon juice, simple syrup, and one small egg (optional, but more on this in a bit).

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Styling: Rachel Perlmutter

The Best Whiskey Sour Ingredients

Bourbon: Choosing a bourbon for this cocktail shouldn’t be difficult. I recommend a good value bottle, something in the price range of $15 to $25. Next time you’re at a cocktail bar you like, ask the bartender which specific bottles of any given spirit they have in their well bar. This is a great way to find out what’s good, both for your home bar and your budget.

Lemon juice: Next up, fresh-squeezed lemon juice. I’ll say it again because this is so important: fresh-squeezed lemon juice. Gone are the days of using cheap mixes. If you want the absolute best whiskey sour you ever did taste in your life, then you need the real-deal fresh juice. Simple as that!

Simple syrup: For the sweetener, use a simple syrup (sugar dissolved in water). There are several whiskey sour recipes out there that call for a heaping bar spoon of sugar. You’re free to go this route, but simple syrup combines so much better, so I prefer and recommend this.

Get the recipe: How To Make Simple Syrup

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

To Use Egg White or Not

Have you ever seen that amazing layer of foam resting gently at the top of a cocktail? Yeah, you can thank egg white for that. To some, using raw egg whites in a cocktail is a novel concept (although this has been a trick of bartenders for nearly a century).

Bartenders use egg whites in cocktails, like the whiskey sour, to give it a rich, creamy texture along with a smooth head of foam. To stay on the idea of fresh ingredients, use organic eggs (or pasteurized if you’re still on the fence). If you’re curious about it altering the flavor, just know that egg white is flavorless. It also helps to reduce the acidity from the citrus and bind the flavors together. It enhances the presentation of your whiskey sour, too. Remember, we’re not settling for anything less than an ooh! from you and from your guest.

If you still feel like shaking up your cocktail with raw egg white is just too much to stomach, then feel free to leave it out!

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

Stirring vs Shaking a Cocktail

When it comes time to make the whiskey sour (which is the best part), you’ll want to shake it. A general rule of thumb is if a cocktail contains only spirits, then you want to stir. If a cocktail contains juice, dairy, or egg white, then you shake it.

Classic Cocktails with Apartment Bartender

Elliott Clark, home cocktail enthusiast and founder of Apartment Bartender, joins us this week to open class on classic cocktails to pair with your Great Steak Dinner. Whether you’re new to making Martinis or a pro at mixing Old Fashioneds, Elliott has tips on everything from better booze to better barware to improve your home bar.

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Build the cocktail. Place the bourbon, lemon juice, simple syrup, and egg white in a cocktail shaker. Do not add ice yet. (Image credit: Lauren Volo)

How To Make a Whiskey Sour

Makes 1 cocktail

Nutritional Info


  • 2 ounces

    bourbon whiskey

  • 1 ounce

    freshly squeezed lemon juice

  • 3/4 ounce

    simple syrup

  • 1

    egg white from a small to medium egg

  • Ice

  • 1

    maraschino cherry


  • Cocktail shaker

  • Hawthorne strainer

  • Fine-mesh strainer

  • Jigger or small liquid measuring glass

  • Rocks or coupe glass

  • Skewer or cocktail pick


  1. Build the cocktail. Place the bourbon, lemon juice, simple syrup, and egg white in a cocktail shaker. Do not add ice yet.

  2. Dry shake the cocktail. Seal the shaker and shake vigorously for 10 seconds. (This is referred to as a "dry shake." It's good for incorporating the egg white before adding ice to the shaker.)

  3. Shake again with ice. Add ice, seal again, and shake for 7 to 10 seconds more to chill.

  4. Strain the cocktail. Fit a Hawthorne strainer over the top of the shaker and pour the cocktail through a fine-mesh strainer into a coupe glass. This is referred to as a "double strain" and this method is used to catch any ice shards or pulp from the fresh-squeezed lemon juice.

  5. Garnish and serve. Garnish with a speared maraschino cherry.