What bourbon should I use for a whiskey sour?

A whiskey sour is a mix of whiskey, sugar, and lemon juice. Some people prefer to add a bit of egg white to make the mixture creamier. It is shaken up and served, usually on ice.

Whiskey sours can be made with any whiskey, but bourbon is said to be the best. Whiskey sours are a relatively common drink with bourbon lovers. For those that like to enjoy a cocktail now and then, it is the best drink for a refreshing feeling that can be enjoyed all year round. It is such a simple cocktail to make with the right ingredients and a perfect way to entertain your guests.

This is also an excellent way to try out your bourbon for beginners as you will not get overwhelmed by the bourbon’s body or strength.

There are different ways to drink your whiskey sour, and it all depends on the amount of alcohol you put in your mix.

It is good to understand a bit about whiskey sour, so here is a bit of history.

Whiskey sour history

Whiskey soar has been made for many years, although it was first mentioned in a bartending guide in 1892. It has been a very famous drink because of its simple ingredients: whiskey, lemon, sugar, and water.

In the mid-1930s, people started experimenting with the making of whiskey sour and developed a pre-made sour mix that they could use. However, this was put aside with the preference of fresh lemon juice in later years until now. Some people now prefer to prepare the simple sugar syrup beforehand, stating that it gives a smoother experience to the whiskey sour.

Barrels of whiskey

What goes into a whiskey sour


You need to make a simple sugar syrup to go into your whiskey sour. It is recommended to use white sugar, mixed with water equally, and heated on low heat to help the sugar dissolve and leave a syrup. Others like using brown sugar, which forms a darker syrup and adds a variation to the drink’s flavor.


Commonly used sours are lime juice or lemon juice, and sometimes, the two are combined. It is essential to ensure that the choice of your sour is fresh. After juicing, it is said that both lemon and lime juice are best enjoyed after about 4 hours. Make sure to strain the pulp to make sure the seeds do not get into your whiskey sour.


You will need to ensure that your water is pure and does not have an off taste, which may ultimately affect your whiskey sour. Also, ensure your fridge is clean, so it does not alter your water or ice taste.


Here is where the gist of the whiskey sour is. The type of whiskey you choose determines the whiskey sour you will have. Choosing the right type of bourbon for your cocktail should not be much of a hassle. The next time you are at your favorite bar, you can ask your bartender for some directions on the best Bourbons to try out for this mix.

The ingredients need to be mixed with a lot of care to avoid putting off the whiskey sour’s taste. For example, too much simple syrup may make the cocktail too sweet, while too much lemon juice may “water down” the taste of alcohol.

Still, it all depends on the type of feel you want to get from your whiskey sour.

Here are some variations of the whiskey sour with different types of whiskeys.

Classic whiskey sour

Here, it is recommended to use bourbon with proof of 80 as the base. This adds oak and vanilla tastes, which does not overpower the sweet and sour tastes in the cocktail. This is said to be the traditional way of making a whiskey sour.

Powerful whiskey sour

This is an excellent variation for those that want to taste more of the alcohol in the cocktail. For this, a bourbon with a proof of 100 or over is recommended. The cocktail will be rich in flavor.

Luxe whiskey sour

For this whiskey sour, you will use a bourbon that is 12 years old. That’s right; this bourbon tends to give some smokiness and spice to the cocktail’s sweet, sour mix. You are sure to get a depth of nuttiness with this type of cocktail.

A smoky whiskey sour

Here, you will want to use scotch. A blended scotch is perfect for this cocktail. You will get a smoky punch from this combination.

Spicy whiskey sour

Here, a bourbon with a high rye content. Rye in itself is spicy and peppers, giving your cocktail a “tongue-tingling treat.”

The experience you want to get from your whiskey sour will guide your choice of whiskey to use. This is, of course, if you already know your bourbon. You will have already known what gives a sweet taste and what gives a more spicy taste. If not, just read the label on the bottles for guidance, or ask your bartender for tips the next time you visit the bar.


A few bourbon examples of sampling

Here are a few bourbons to try for your whiskey sour. They are just a sample of the many types of bourbons and offer different flavors to your palate.

Woodford Reserve Bourbon

This is a drink known for its “medium body and natural sweetness.” It is said not to overpower the cocktail with its smoothness.

Russell’s Reserve 10 year Bourbon Whiskey

This bourbon, I said, to be packed with a lot of character. It is not too strong to overpower the sugar and lemon taste in the cocktail. At the same time, it is not too mild to get lost in the mix.

Elijah Craig Small  Batch Bourbon

This is a high proof bourbon but with a sweet finish so that it does not overpower the other ingredients in the cocktail. For those that enjoy this mix with some egg white, it is said that this bourbon helps to “get away from the dryness of the egg white.”

Treaty Oak Ghost Hill Bourbon

This is a type of bourbon made in Texas using Texas corn and a lot of wheat. It is a delicious type of bourbon that goes well into the whiskey sour.

Of course, there are many types of bourbon that can be used for this cocktail. It is, it seems, a matter of personal preference and choice, made over time with the sampling of different types of bourbons.

How to make your whiskey sour

The making of your whiskey sour is a significant bit, and each detail has to be done keenly to avoid ruining the drink. The main steps involved are,

Build the cocktail

Put your ingredients in a cocktail shaker. That is bourbon, lemon or lime juice, simple sugar syrup, and water. You can add in the egg white.

Shake the cocktail

The first time you shake your cocktail, you will do it dry as in with no ice, yet. Shake thoroughly for about ten seconds to make sure that the egg white is mixed into the cocktail.

Add ice and shake again.

Add ice into the cocktail and shake again thoroughly to chill the mix.

Strain cocktail

Place a strainer over the mouth of the Shaker and pour the cocktail through. This will prevent any seeds, pulp, or ice shares from getting into the whiskey sour.

Adding the egg white to your whiskey sour is known as a “Boston sour.” Another twist is adding a few drops of red wine into your cocktail and is known as the “New York Sour.”

Cocktails of whiskey
Cocktails of whiskey

To conclude

There is no rule against having various twists to your whiskey sour, so long as you get to enjoy your cocktail.

A good whiskey sour will give you balanced tastes of vanilla, oak, and smoke from a good bourbon, a sharp citrus taste from a lemon that is freshly cut, and a sweetness to balance the sour taste, from a well done simple sugar syrup.

However, choosing the right bourbon for your whiskey largely depends on your personal preference and the kind of experience you want to have. You may fancy sweetness, smokiness, or a type of spicy bourbon to give you a kick in your cocktail. Whichever you choose, making a good whiskey sour will sure give you a good experience!

It is the simplicity of the drink that gives people the desire to try this cocktail. You do not have to visit the bar to enjoy it; simply make yours at home and chill. It is important to note that you will get a better experience when you use fresh ingredients to make your whiskey sour.

You can garnish your whiskey sour with a slice of orange and with the most commonly used “maraschino cherry.”

If you are at a loss about what good bourbon to choose, always feel to ask your bartender for tips. I am sure he will be more than happy to share!

Enjoy your whiskey sour!

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