The Bartenders' Ratio For Balanced Whiskey Sours

The whiskey sour is a timeless bar staple for many reasons: It can be made with inexpensive whiskey without being undrinkable, it uses ingredients that every bartender has on hand, and it appeals to fans of whiskey cocktails that don't taste like vanilla or baking spices. But if you can't help but associate whiskey sours with sticky dive bars and bad hangovers, it's probably because you haven't had one that's been properly made.

The ideal whiskey sour is all about achieving the right ratios. To mix this drink like a pro bartender, start with two ounces of whiskey, ¾ ounce of lemon juice, and ¾ ounce of rich simple syrup. In case you're wondering, that's simple syrup made with two parts sugar to one part water, rather than a one-to-one ratio. This is a great baseline for getting the right notes of spiciness from the whiskey and acid from the lemon juice, which are smoothed out with a bit of sweetness.

How to make a good whiskey sour

If you're wondering where sour mix comes into the whiskey sour equation, it doesn't. Part of the reason why so many bad whiskey sours exist in the world is thanks to store-bought sour mix, those overly-sweet jugs of citrus juice filled with "natural flavors" and various preservatives. Fresh citrus juice is one of the biggest upgrades you can make to your whiskey sour. You should prep your citrus right before you plan on mixing your drink, or else the juice will begin to oxidize and lose its flavor. However, if you're planning on making a bunch of whiskey sours for a crowd, you can batch your own homemade sour mix an hour or so beforehand and store it in the fridge until you're ready to use it.

Because whiskey sours are citrus-based, they should be shaken over ice to get a beautiful frothy foam on top. You can jazz the foam up even further by adding an egg white (try dry shaking your ingredients before adding ice for extra froth), or you can even use two tablespoons of aquafaba if you want a vegan foam. From there, just follow the golden ratio and shake the ingredients, strain into a coupe or rocks glass, and enjoy.

Variations on whiskey sours

Once you've got the basic ratio down, feel free to experiment with your whiskey sours. The bourbon sour is one cocktail that's just as easy to make, and has more of a warm flavor for fans of vanilla and spice. You could also add a shot of apple juice and some fresh ginger juice for a refreshing, seasonal apple-ginger whiskey sour. For another simple swap, use brown sugar or maple syrup in place of a classic simple syrup for a richer flavor. 

If you want to really twist things up, try using a combination of various citrus juices in your whiskey sour. Lemon and lime are the classic sour mix duo, but you might also try using lemon and grapefruit juice, or subbing in an orange liqueur for your simple syrup. As for adding more alcohol, try making a stour beer syrup for your whiskey sour. The hint of rich stout is balanced out by the refreshing citrus juices. As for garnishes, an orange or lemon peel is classic, as is a brandied cherry or even a pinch of Angostura bitters.