The Biggest Mistake To Avoid When Shaking Up A Whiskey Sour

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The whiskey sour cocktail is a mix of a wide range of bitter, sweet, and sour flavors. In addition to the lip-warming whiskey and creamy egg white that froths it all up, there's a hint of sweetness from some added simple syrup that acts to counterbalance the tangy lemon juice. It's a straightforward drink to make, but it's a delicate balance requiring the best ingredients. 

A high-quality whiskey is easy enough to grab, but the biggest blunder to avoid, according to expert Katie Stryjewski, cocktail blogger and author of "Cocktails, Mocktails, and Garnishes from the Garden," is reaching for a bottle of pre-made sour mix.

"Fresh lemon juice and simple syrup are so much better," says Stryjewski. Even though store-bought sour mix seems like a convenient swap, it comes with a muted citrus note, and too much sweetness without any fresh qualities. It also often contains high-fructose corn syrup, preservatives, and artificial coloring.

While fresh lemon juice is easy enough to come by, so is simple syrup. It's exactly what it sounds like — simple — and easy to make at home. All you need are two ingredients: sugar and water. According to Stryjewski, you can add equal amounts of each to a sauce pan and gently stir it over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Once cooled, add an equal part of lemon juice. It should last for several weeks if stored in the fridge, she says, but "toss it if it starts to become cloudy."

Sour mix variations for an even bolder whiskey drink

Another benefit of making your own sour mix instead of using a commercial option is that it opens the door to a lot more options for sugar and citrus swaps that can lead to more creative drinks. 

Any citrus can be swapped in for the lemon juice, with lime being an obvious substitute. Just keep in mind if you choose a sweeter fruit, such as orange or grapefruit, you will probably want to lessen the amount of sugar you use in the simple syrup. You could also make a citrus-infused sweetener, like kumquat simple syrup. For a fun spin, try adding other fresh fruits in addition to the citrus and make an apple-ginger whiskey sour.

Perhaps you want to skip the step of making the simple syrup altogether and opt for a liquid sweetener, such as maple syrup or honey to use instead. If you want to keep it sugar-free, you can also do that using liquid monk fruit or stevia. 

Adding a citrusy-sweet liquor like triple sec, or adding a splash of grenadine or orange juice, are other twists you can take for your homemade sour mix. If you stick to a bartenders' ratio for whiskey sours, the flavor combinations and creative curves you can take are endless. Just don't forget the cherry on top.