Micky’s cocktail cabinet: Whiskey sours

WELCOME to the fifth edition of Micky’s Cocktail Cabinet, where we’ll be tackling the whiskey sour. It’s a cocktail with a great history, referenced in the earliest cocktail guides, and even for those who are not whiskey lovers, it’s a great cocktail to know since it serves as the basis of the other ‘sour’ cocktails (which will be covered later on in variations).

The ingredients:

2 shots of Bourbon Whiskey
1½ shots of Lemon Juice
½ shot of Sugar Syrup (2:1 ratio)
½ shot of Egg White [optional]
1 shot = 30 ml/1 fl. oz.

The recipe:

Ideally, you’re going to want to prepare your ingredients in advance:

The lemon juice should be freshly squeezed, but using the concentrated lemon juice that can be purchased in the cooking section of most supermarkets is an acceptable alternative (without a proper juicer, hand-squeezing a shot and a half of fresh lemon juice usually requires a couple of lemons).

If you don’t already have sugar syrup prepared, it’s easily made at home (as illustrated by this guide). Whilst I would suggest it’s worthwhile to put the extra effort in to assemble sugar syrup with a richer 2:1 ratio of sugar-to-water (to reduce the impact of diluting the drink), if you want to use the more simply assembled 1:1 ratio sugar syrup, simply double the amount used to a full shot.

Egg white may seem a strange ingredient to use in cocktails, particularly with the negative connotations that surround using raw eggs, but the egg white thickens the drink a little and adds a smooth foamy head to the top of the drink. As noted, it’s an optional ingredient, but I think it’s worth the added effort. When using egg white, make sure to use fresh, refrigerated eggs and make sure they have the red lion logo on them (which means they’ve been produced to British Lion hygiene and vaccination standards). The easiest method of separating the white from the yolk is to prepare two separate containers. Crack the egg in half and hold the yolk in one half of the shell whilst emptying the white from the other half into a container. Juggle the yolk into the now-empty shell and pour the remaining white into the container and repeat this process until all of the white has been obtained before placing the yolk in a separate container (or throwing it away if you have no intention of using it). A medium sized egg should produce around a shot’s worth of egg white, which is more than enough for our purposes.

Once the ingredients are prepared, the recipe itself is fairly straightforward. Place all of the ingredients in a cocktail shaker. If you’re using egg white, you’re going to want to shake all of the ingredients without ice. This is to allow the egg white to mix better with the rest of the ingredients. Then add ice to the shaker, shake again and strain the drink into an ice-filled tumbler. Decorate with a slice of the citrus fruit of your choice and enjoy, with or without a straw.


As noted earlier on, the whiskey sour recipe serves as the basis for a multitude of other cocktails:

…Absinthe sour

This one follows the exact same recipe as above, only with absinthe in place of the whiskey, providing a nice alternative for people who want a drink with a strong absinthe flavour but don’t want to drink it straight.

…Gin or vodka sour

Much like the absinthe sour, these are straightforward adaptations achieved by swapping the whiskey for a desired spirit.

…Amaretto sour

The amaretto sour is also a straightforward adaption. It follows the same recipe, but due to amaretto’s inherent sweetness, the sugar syrup can be dropped from the recipe entirely.

… Caipirinha

The caipirinha is the national cocktail of Brazil, however it can be a bit tricky to make in the United Kingdom since it relies upon cachaça, a spirit derived from sugarcane that is very popular in Brazil but less prevalent in the UK. The basic caipirinha recipe calls for a lime to be chopped into wedges and muddled in the base of a glass (make certain to use a strong glass and exercise caution when muddling). 60ml (2 shots) of cachaça and 15ml (½ shot) of sugar syrup is then added and stirred followed by crushed or cubed ice. Although an inauthentic substitute, rum (also a sugarcane derived spirit) can be used in cachaça’s place. Fruity variations can be made by adding muddled berries or tropical juices.

…Rum sour and daiquiris

A rum sour (using either light, dark or spiced rum) can be easily constructed following the same recipe as the whiskey sour; however if you’re using rum, you may wish to make a cocktail with a similarly rich history: the daiquiri. There are many variations on the daiquiri, but the basic daiquiri recipe calls for 60ml (2 shots) of white rum, 15ml (½ shot) of lime juice and 8ml (¼ shot) of sugar syrup, shaken with ice and finely strained into an iceless glass. Variations are near limitless, since this basic recipe lends itself comfortably to being mixed with any number of fruits. Muddling 6-8 strawberries and adding them before shaking creates the popular strawberry daiquiri, whilst muddling half a banana and adding it before shaking creates the equally popular banana daiquiri. For those of you with a blender, frozen daiquiris are also easily made by blending all of the ingredients with crushed ice.

…Tequila sour and margaritas

Tequila in place of whiskey can also make a delicious cocktail, however another delicious and popular sour cocktail can be made with tequila: the margarita. The basic recipe calls for 60ml (2 shots) of tequila, 30ml (1 shot) of triple sec and 30ml of lime juice, shaken with ice and strained into a salt-rimmed glass. The easiest method of achieving the salt-rimmed glass is to rub the rim with a wedge of lime (which can be retained for decoration) and dipping the lime-soaked rim onto a plateful of salt. For a slightly sweeter margarita, 15ml (¼ shot) of sugar syrup (or more ideally but less easily obtained, agave nectar) can be added to recipe. Triple sec can be replaced with blue curacao for a fanciful blue margarita or triple sec can be substituted for fruit juices to create different flavoured margaritas.