Without a doubt, this is one of our favorite go-to drinks to serve. In fact, this whiskey sour cocktail probably is on our top three lists of whiskey cocktails to make. Partly because we have a lemon tree which provides amazing lemons, and because of our love of whiskey, combined with bright lemon flavors and a touch of sweetness, this sour cocktail never fails to please.

For family gatherings, this is by far the most requested cocktail. And everyone agrees that once they’ve tasted our whiskey sours, they can almost never order it at a bar because rarely are they as good. It should be nicely balanced between the bright, fresh lemon, just sweet enough, and rounded out by a solid rye or bourbon whiskey.

whiskey sour cocktail on bar table

Origins of a Sour Cocktail

It’s a classic cocktail. It’s been around forever and it still being made on the regular today and for good reason. It’s delicious. Most will say the whiskey sour was first published over 150 years ago in one of the original cocktail books… and so forth and so on. We get it. But more importantly, it still gets so much love today when made properly.

What makes a good whiskey sour?

Since it is such a simple cocktail, 3-5 ingredients depending on how it is made, it comes down to the details on whether it is a “good”, “great”, or “just ok” whiskey sour. It is made with whiskey (usually bourbon or rye whiskey), lemon juice, simple syrup (or other sweetener) and then the variation with egg white and Angostura bitters. The whiskey will matter, but only a bit. The simple syrup, or if you change to another sweetener like maple syrup or honey, will give it a nice twist.

  • But the true key to a great whiskey sour is the lemon juice. The better the lemons, the fresher they are, and how recently it was juiced determines how good the cocktail is.
  • If you can get your hands on a ripe lemon, freshly picked from the tree, juice it right away and make the whiskey sour soon after, it may just be the most amazing whiskey sour you’ve ever had.
  • Out of all our citrus trees (we currently have over 15 different citrus trees), we’ve found the fruit from the lemon tree to be the most time sensitive. When freshly picked, the lemon rinds are exploding with delicious oil which add another layer of flavor when juiced. After a few days the oils are significantly reduced and it continues to trend downward in quality as time progresses. Same with the fresh juice. After about 12 hours or so after juicing, the juice lacks the vibrancy of when it was initially squeezed.

With Egg White or Without?

Many classic variations of the whiskey sour use egg white (and often then topped with a dash Angostura bitters). It gives a nice foam, takes a bit of the acidic and tart edge off the cocktail (helpful if the lemons were under-ripe or not that fresh juiced) and give the cocktail a slightly heavier texture. Without the egg white, the cocktail is brighter and more refreshing, but in the cooler months we often appreciate the slightly heavier texture. Depending on your current vibe, it is hard to go wrong as both options are delicious.

  • If you make it with a egg white, dry shake the cocktail first. Add whiskey, lemon juice, simple syrup, and egg white into the shaker first with NO ICE.
  • Shake it vigorously for about 15 seconds.
  • Now add ice and shake it again for another vigorous 15 seconds.
  • Strain into a coupe or similar cocktail glass and add a couple dashes of Angostura bitters if you like.
pouring whiskey sour cocktail

Video: Watch how to make a Whiskey Sour

What Whiskey To Use

Bourbon and rye whiskey are the classic whiskeys to use for this whiskey sour cocktail. Tennessee whiskeys fall in the right flavor range too. They all have enough sweetness to balance with the tart sour of the lemon juice.

  • Bourbon will make it a bit sweeter, rye gives a little bit of spice, but don’t waste the $60+ bottles on a cocktail with citrus and a sweetener masking the nuances of a pricey bottle. Personally we will use a rye whiskey like Bulleit Rye or a bourbon like Buffalo Trace. Something in that range. But with a good lemon juice, even an inexpensive whiskey like Jack Daniels will be super tasty. Save the really good stuff for drinking straight up.
  • Drier or smoky whiskeys (Scotch, Irish, Japanese whiskeys, etc…) will impart a completely different flavor. It can be interesting to experiment with, but may not be the initial taste desired. Here’s our easy guide to understanding whisk(e)y if you want to learn more about their differences.

How to Make Whiskey Sour Cocktail

It is as simple of a cocktail as it gets. That’s why it’s so easy to make for our dinner parties.

  • Shake everything until nice a chilled and then strain into a rocks glass over ice.
  • If you are making an egg white version, then dry shake first (NO ICE). Then shake with ice and strain into a coupe glass or similar.
  • For parties, we’ll make a big batch and have it ready in a large mason jar or similar. When it is party time, pour however much as needed into a shaker filled with ice. Give it a go and then strain into ice filled glasses.
whiskey sour cocktail on bar table

Whiskey Sour Cocktail

A classic and simple cocktail. Refreshing and delicious yet so many times made poorly at bars. Using fresh lemon juice makes a huge difference compared to bottled lemon juice. The better the lemons, the better the cocktail.
Traditionally it was often made with rye, but today you'll mostly find them made with bourbon. Personally we like the slightly less sweet version with a nice rye whiskey, but still enjoy the bourbon varieties as well.
See note below recipe for making with egg white.
5 from 3 votes


  • 2 oz. (60 ml) Rye or Bourbon whiskey
  • 3/4 oz. (22 ml) fresh Lemon Juice
  • 1/2 oz. (15 ml) Simple Syrup , or to taste


  • In a shaker filled with ice, add the whiskey, lemon juice, and simple syrup. Shake vigorously for about 15 seconds. Taste for flavor. If your lemons are extra sour, you may need add a touch more simple syrup.
  • Strain and pour into a double old-fashioned glass with several large ice cubes. Enjoy.


Note 1: A basic simple syrup is a 1:1 ratio of sugar dissolved in water. We’ll usually make 1 cup sugar heated & dissolved in 1 cup of water. Let it cool before using. We usually make larger batches and keep on hand in the refrigerator.
Note 2: Making with an egg white. A traditional whiskey sour has an egg white for texture, it isn’t necessary and we personally usually prefer it without. If you want to make it with an egg white, it is best to dry shake the cocktail first.
  • Add the whiskey, lemon juice, simple syrup, and egg white in the shaker (NO ICE). Shake vigorously for about 15 seconds. Now add the ice and shake again for about 15-20 seconds. Strain in a rocks glass with ice or in a coupe or Nick & Nora glass without ice. Add a few dashes of Angostura bitters if desired.
RAW EGG WARNING – Consuming raw eggs poses a risk of food-borne illness.


Nutrition Information per Serving

Calories: 185kcal, Carbohydrates: 12g, Protein: 1g, Fat: 1g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Sodium: 8mg, Sugar: 11g, Vitamin C: 8mg, Iron: 1mg
finished whiskey sour cocktail on table

If you love a whiskey sour, you might love some of these other cocktails:

  • Paper Plane – Our house favorite whiskey cocktail. Refreshing with a touch of sweet, touch of bitter, and balanced with the brightness of lemon.
  • Sidecar Fizz – add a little bubbly to your life.
  • Kentucky Sidecar – similar to the whiskey sour but with tangerine juice. So good!
  • Blood Orange Sidecar – cognac and blood orange juice make this irresistible.

Enjoy more cocktail recipes in our collection: