Classic Cocktails: The Whiskey Sour

Today we take a look at another classic:

The Whiskey Sour

A whiskey sour

Yes, the little plastic sword really does make it taste better.

As with many other drinks originating prior to Prohibition, the true origin of the whiskey sour is in dispute.  One story claims it was invented in Peru by an Englishman named Eliot Stubb, sometime during or after 1872.  This is cast into doubt; however, by a mention of the drink in a Wisconsin newspaper published in 1870.  It’s not clear if the whiskey sour mentioned in the American newspaper is the same as the one that has become famous around the world.

I don’t know which story is true…  I just know the drink is delicious (especially on a hot day).

  • 1.5 oz whiskey (I prefer bourbon)
  • 1 oz lemon juice (I prefer freshly squeezed)
  • 1/2 oz gomme syrup*

Combine whiskey, lemon juice, and syrup and shake vigorously with ice (I keep going until my metal cocktail shaker is too cold to continue holding in my hands).  Strain into a chilled Old Fashioned glass that has been rimmed with sugar and filled with ice.  Garnish with half a slice of orange and a maraschino cherry.


* Gomme syrup is made from sugar, water, and gum arabic.  As most of us don’t stock our home bars with this, simple syrup can be used instead.  Gomme syrup will emulsify the drink a great deal more, but the sour is still quite drinkable without it.

To make simple syrup, I use a ratio of 2 parts sugar to 1 part water.  Just heat them together, stirring constantly until the sugar has dissolved, then allow the syrup to cool.  Be very careful not to allow the sugar to burn or caramelize.  I make small batches as I don’t use it that often and it can quickly become a breeding ground for nasty bugs if left unchecked.


Classic Cocktails: The Manhattan

A Perfect ManhattanOne of my favorite cocktails is an old classic:  The sweet, smoky, and slightly spicy Manhattan.  It’s simple to make and can be easily modified in a number of ways to suit individual taste.

Like many classics, the true origin of the Manhattan is unclear.  One of the most common explanations is that the drink was invented at New York’s Manhattan club in the 1870s for a banquet hosted by Jennie Jerome (Lady Randolph Churchill), Winston Churchill’s mother.  There are reports that the Lady was pregnant in France at the time, so the story is likely untrue.

The traditional recipe calls for only three ingredients (four if you include the garnish):

  • 2 parts rye whiskey
  • 1 part sweet vermouth
  • a dash of Angostura bitters
  • maraschino cherry for garnish

Simply combine the first three ingredients and gently stir* them with ice for 15 to 20 seconds, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with the cherry in the bottom of the glass, and enjoy.

Variations include changing the whiskey (I prefer bourbon) or the bitters (try orange bitters, or chocolate if you have them), using different vermouth (replace half the sweet vermouth in the basic recipe with dry to make a Perfect Manhattan), or adding some cherry juice for extra sweetness (making it a Sweet Manhattan).  Many versions change the spirit to something entirely different than whiskey, such as port (a Ruby Manhattan), dark rum (a Cuban Manhattan), or Anejo (aged/vintage) tequila (a Tijuana Manhattan).  The possibilities are endless.

How do you like yours?


* Shaking or over-stirring your Manhattan will introduce air bubbles, causing it to not be as smooth as it should be (i.e.: like silk).  It will also “bruise” the alcohol (a small amount of ice will melt, diluting your drink).  Both of these are bad things, and you probably don’t want them.