The Simple Syrup Swap You Should Use When Making A Whiskey Sour

A whiskey sour is one of those cocktails that's a bar staple but is just as easy to create at home. It doesn't require any tricky or hard-to-get-hold-of ingredients, consisting of just whiskey, lemon juice, simple syrup, and sometimes egg white, which are shaken and strained. But, as always, when making classic cocktails, the devil is in the detail. If you want to shake up (forgive the pun) your whiskey sour recipe, then switching out the simple syrup is a great place to start, providing endless variations to take the drink to new heights.

A simple syrup brings the sweet component to a whiskey sour, contrasting with and balancing the sharpness of the lemon and the satisfying, warm strength of the alcohol. Made by dissolving sugar in water, basic simple syrup uses a 1:1 ratio, but you can make a 'rich' syrup by using 2:1 sugar to water. And one easy way to elevate simple syrup is by using an alternative type of sweetener. While white granulated sugar is most common, you could try using brown sugar instead for extra caramel notes as well as an appealing amber color, or turbinado for a molasses-like flavor.

But to really experiment, it's worth swapping the syrup for an alternative source of sweetness altogether. Try honey or maple syrup, or something a little fruitier for a new spin on the boozy beverage. Beyond adding light sweetness, they will also offer new depth and balance of flavor.

Try honey or maple syrup to sweeten whiskey sour

Whiskey, honey, and lemon are perfect partners — just think of an old fashioned hot toddy to see how well they work together. When combined with a refreshingly cold whiskey sour, honey not only balances the tart citrus but also brings out the natural caramel of bourbon. Essentially, it turns the drink into a gold rush cocktail. Rather than adding pure honey, make a syrup using a 1:1 ratio for a better, runnier consistency. Or try agave nectar as an alternative.

If you want to ramp up the sweet notes in a whiskey sour, try maple syrup in place of the usual simple syrup for a great after-dinner drink. The toffee-like flavor adds a deliciously decadent taste to complement a vanilla-forward bourbon or smoky Scotch — while the velvety viscosity brings a luxurious mouthfeel to the drink. The tangy lemon helps to cut through the sweetness.

While the bartenders' ratio for balanced whiskey sours is usually equal amounts of simple syrup and lemon juice, you may want to experiment a little to get the right balance when swapping it. A syrup made with milder-tasting honey could be used in equal amounts since it is diluted with water. But if you're going for undiluted maple syrup, it's worth using a little less syrup than citrus juice so as not to overwhelm the other ingredients. You can always increase it according to personal taste, but once it's in, you can't take it out.

Amplify the sweetness in whiskey sours with fruity flavors

It's not just sugary simple syrup switches that can help to sweeten up and round out a whiskey sour. Another way of bringing an extra dimension to the drink is to diversify the basic ingredients to incorporate more naturally sweet fruity flavors. There are different ways of doing this, mostly involving swapping a proportion of the usual syrup, lemon juice, or whiskey for an alternative fruit juice or liqueur. You just need to consider what sort of flavor profiles work best with your choice of whiskey.

Try adding other citrus juices rather than just the lemon. Sweeter orange juice could be used as a direct substitute for the syrup in the drink, or try reducing the syrup quantity and muddling in a few plump blackberries to boost the juicy sweetness. Switch some of the sour lemon juice for grapefruit for a mellow bitter balance. Or try incorporating fragrant lychee juice or passion fruit puree for an aromatic treat.

Alternatively, a fruity, sweet liqueur makes for a complex boozy boost. Replace a little of your preferred whiskey with nuances that complement its warm vanilla or toasty caramel notes, and contrast nicely with the sour lemon. Peach, apricot, or cherry flavors all work especially well.