Drink of the Week: The Whiskey Sour

whiskey sourSours are an entire family of cocktail which mostly utilize some combination of lemon juice and sugar. (The sour mix used by many bartenders is, in my experience, slightly revolting.). The Latin American favorite, the pisco sour, is probably a better known drink in many quarters these days, but the whiskey sour has been one of the standard cocktails since cocktails have become popular. Oddly enough, it’s possible that both of these cocktail favorites actually began in Peru.

The Whiskey Sour

2 ounces whiskey (bourbon, rye, Canadian, etc.)
1/2-1 ounce fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon superfine sugar
About 1/2 of an egg white  (semi-optional)
Maraschino cherry or orange slice (optional garnishes)

Dissolve sugar in whiskey and lemon juice and add egg white.  Shake vigorously. You should see a light froth on top of the liquid.

Note that I haven’t mentioned ice at this point. It is important to keep the whiskey, lemon juice and egg white at near room temperature in order for the egg to properly emulsify. Once you’ve shaken the liquid thoroughly, however, it is time to add ice and shake again very vigorously. Strain into a chilled martini, rocks or, if you’re really serious about it, a sour glass.  Add garnishes if you’ve got them.

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Two provisos. One — the “sour” in “whiskey sour” is a serious kind of sour and thus, this drink is not for tartphobes.  Even as an increasingly hardy beverage connoisseur, I found the pucker factor on my whiskey sours to be a bit much, especially without the egg white.

Which brings us to the second proviso. I’m sure some reading this will react strongly against the use of raw egg whites, which can be a bit controversial because of the very small but not quite nonexistent risk of salmonella poisoning. If you’re especially concerned for whatever reason — and if your immune system is compromised or your health is generally shaky, I would be somewhat concerned — you might consider using pasteurized or powdered egg whites or just making the drink without it.

However, be aware that the risk of contaminated egg whites, especially if they are reasonably fresh and kept refrigerated, is actually fairly infinitesimal; whites are less vulnerable than yolks to bacteria and the overall incidence of salmonella has been going down. Also, though I can’t speak to the science of the point, bartenders argue that the alcohol and lemon juice will tend to kill any dangerous microscopic critters. In any case, I’ve been drinking this stuff all week and, aside from being extremely tired of the flavor of lemon juice, I’m doing just fine.

  

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