Whiskey sour is an elegant and sweet-tasting cocktail classic. Although they can vary, most whiskey sours contain a frothy egg white to give the drink a creamier texture, freshly squeezed citrus juice, and a little dash of syrup.
Whiskey sours and classical beverages like it can be tailored to suit any taste. There are quite a few ways to make a whiskey sour and finding out which method suits you best can be quite the experience.
Maybe you want egg white or maybe you don’t. Maybe you want it on the rocks with a cherry or with no cherry up against the rocks.
Of course, most importantly is the type of whiskey you use.
The whiskey you choose can significantly change the flavor profile of this classic cocktail.
Selecting the right whiskey with the correct balance can transform your cocktail from something vapid into something extraordinary.
To help you tailor your whiskey sour according to your taste, we have rounded up the best whiskeys for whiskey sours in 2021.
With advice from expert bartenders, you will be able to find a whiskey that can change your cocktail game for good.
The best whiskeys for your whiskey sour
Sporting a medium body with a naturally sweet taste, bourbon whiskey is often considered to be the go-to choice for the sour treatment.
Woodford Reserve Bourbon is smooth and rich. But it does not pack too much of a punch to overwhelm the flavor profile. This is one of the key aspects you should look out for when making a whiskey sour.
Many people prefer whiskeys that tend to have a milder taste. Something that compliments all the other flavors of the cocktail. Whiskey that has a very strong essence may not blend in so well and can be a little too strong for whiskey sours.
Originating in Kentucky, Elijah Craig Small Batch whiskey is spicy and rich. With a hint of grounding smoke, this bourbon is a popular choice with many whiskey sour drinkers.
Its distinctive taste is the perfect choice when standing up against the sweet and simple flavor of the syrup as well as the tangy lemon in a whiskey sour. The spice left on your palate leaves no doubt what your whiskey sour base spirit is.
Eryn Reece, head bartender at Banzarbar in New York states how the Elijah Craig bottle enhances the “rustic, traditional version” of a whiskey sour.
We believe Elijah Craig should be added to a whiskey sour casually. Use a tumbler on top of around 4 pieces of ice. You can also strain it into the cocktail glass if you prefer.
With a reasonable price, Elijah Craig can transform your whiskey sour into something delectable, unique, and comforting.
As we mentioned, Bourbon whiskey is a preferred choice for most whiskey sours. One example is Russell’s Reserve 10 Year Bourbon Whiskey. This has all of the characteristics that bourbon should carry and is ideal for adding to cocktails.
As whiskey sours tend to have sugar and lemon battling out to impress your taste buds. Russell’s Reserve Bourbon Whiskey compliments these tastes wonderfully but not in an overbearing sense.
Some bourbons in a whiskey sour can be too “high-proof” or “hot.” Others can be too mellow. It’s about finding a middle ground so the whiskey isn’t too overpowering or so weak that it gets lost in the depths of the cocktail.
If you like your whiskey sour with fresh lemon, some simple syrup, an egg white, and a few drops of Angostura bitters on the egg white, then Russell’s Reserve 10 Years Bourbon Whiskey may be the perfect combination.
Nikka Days Whiskey is a bright and flavorful Japanese whiskey. Many whiskey lovers are all too aware of the quality whiskeys Nikka continuously produces and this is no exception.
Although a perfect choice for adding to a whiskey sour, it is just as exceptional when sipping alone. Nikka Days Whiskey was crafted for casual drinking. It is meant to be served on the rocks or in a cocktail.
This blended spirit has a supreme balance of floral flavors with bright fruit and a substantial smoke. While it has some weight, Nikka Days Whiskey does not overpower any of the other flavors in a whiskey sour.
Complex and layered, Nikka Days Whiskey is the right choice if you like your Scotch sours. Finish off your whiskey sour with Nikka Days Whiskey by adding a quality cherry and use the best ice you can. Talk about a taste sensation.
Treaty Oak Ghost Hill Bourbon is mostly made from Texan corn with a great deal of Texan wheat. This helps create a distinct and unique whiskey that is truly delicious.
The term “bourbon” refers to any American whiskey that is made from at least 51% corn. And no, whiskey doesn’t have to hail from Kentucky to be considered bourbon as many people believe.
Due to its unique blend of flavors, Treaty Oak Ghost Hill Bourbon is a favorite among casual whiskey drinkers as well as the more experienced such as Randy Hayden, the beverage director of The Roof at Ponce City Market in Atlanta.
He recommends adding “2 dashes of Angostura Bitters” to your Ghost Hill Sour for the best possible result.
Here, we have another good old American bourbon. Made in Colorado, Old Elk Blended Straight Bourbon is one of many high-quality bourbons hailing from the state. This spirit sports a smooth yet rich flavor that goes pretty heavy on the malt.
With an ABV of 44%, this bourbon is certainly not timid when it comes to proof. That being said, Old Elk Blended Straight Bourbon is not as hot in a whiskey sour as you may think.
The added alcohol level amplifies the delicious sweet and zesty flavors of the bourbon instead.
As Mel Maddox, the Old Elk distillery’s bartender states, “its proof allows for the flavors of the grain to really shine.” Don’t just stop with Old Elk Straight Bourbon, however.
We suggest adding an egg white for the creamiest, frothiest cocktail you may ever have. You may think you have a dessert in front of you rather than a top-quality whiskey sour.
Kentucky, the epicenter of top-quality bourbon production.
Another example is Eagle Rare Bourbon. Rare by name but not in nature, you can usually find this in stores such as Pappy Van Winkle and Blantons. Its ease of purchase is mainly down to its popularity.
With an incredibly smooth flavor, Eagle Rare Bourbon is skillfully crafted. It contains hints of leather, coffee, and oak that combine for a supremely balanced spirit for a whiskey sour.
We believe Eagle Rare Bourbon is simply perfect for whiskey sours. It provides enough bite to cut through the lemon and sugar of the cocktail but not so much that it overpowers the drink.
Rittenhouse is one of the top rye whiskeys out there. Its signature spice and smooth heat work wonders in a whiskey sour.
Many people love this drink for its slightly higher proof. Because it has an ABV of 50%, Rittenhouse can stand up to mixing better than most.
Even when cut with water, sugar, and citrus, its orange zest and spicy flavors shine through but not too much.
The added boost of alcohol results in you being able to taste Rittenhouse’s spicy rye flavor even when the drink is completely mixed.
While it is drier than the bourbons on our list, Rittenhouse could become your whiskey of choice if you like to avoid too much sweetness in your whiskey sours.
As soon as you try Wild Turkey 101 Rye, you will be met by a pepper bite. This distinct flavor results in a sweeter and smoother personality than that of bourbon.
Sean Geason from True Story Brands in Atlanta explains why Wild Turkey 101 Rye is so ideal for whiskey sours.
He says that this rye whiskey is “a robust and round whiskey with great spice notes that does a great job standing up to the citrus and sugar in a sour.”
Whiskey should never overpower your sour drink and this is what makes Wild Turkey 101 Rye a great option. Smooth but with a bite, your whiskey sour will only be improved by this spirit.
If you’re a little unsure of what kind of whiskey sour you want, then Jack Daniel’s Gentleman’s Jack is a great place to start. This whiskey has relaxed flavors that will not overpower any whiskey sour.
While you can still taste the lemon and sugar from the sour, Gentleman’s Jack will add a little hint of vanilla to spruce up the drink.
This whiskey is soft. It is velvety. It is delectable. Its soft and velvety flavor is due to charcoal filtering that helps create a very easy-to-drink cocktail.
With lemon and crystalline sugar flavors, Jack Daniel’s Gentleman’s Jack plays wonderfully with the lemon and sugar of your whiskey sour cocktail.
With a hint of smoke underneath, this is the kind of whiskey sour you will often get at your local bar. Dependable, tasty, and easy to drink.
While many typically opt for an American bourbon for whiskey sours, there are other choices out there. Why not try a homegrown Canadian spirit? Hailing from Canada, Lot 40 is a classic rye whiskey.
This whiskey is pot-stilled (distills flavored liquors) and has a wide range of notes in its flavor from baking spices to stone fruits.
Lot 40 Rye Whiskey boasts daring levels of spice that may put off potential drinkers at first. However, this simply brightens the cocktail’s citrusy flavors further.
Add some dashes of bitter when making the egg white and add into the drink. The structure of the cocktail will change dramatically. If you’re looking for a more interesting whiskey sour, then this is the way to go.
Classic sours tend to just use citrus juice as their number one element but you can be more creative than this. Some mixologists like to incorporate other fruit flavors into their cocktails.
If you’re looking for a fruitier-favored whiskey sour, Old Forester Rye is the answer. Its toasty notes combined with apricot make for a heavenly lemon-apricot sour.
It’s 100 proof hold up in a whiskey sour when you add more fruit such as raspberries and blueberries.
So, be creative. Experiment with raspberry and blueberry sours and you may find the drink you have been searching for.
It is worth remembering that whiskey sours should be on the sour side. It’s called a whiskey sweet for a reason so there is no need to add too much simple syrup.
The wonderful thing about whiskey sours is that you can be creative with them. But some whiskeys will suit your tastes more than others.
Just because a cherry or egg whites may not work for you with one whiskey doesn’t mean they won’t with another.
Try any of the whiskeys on our list and we are sure you will find something that you will stick with for a long time.
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