Whiskey is liquid sunshine.George Bernard Shaw
Today’s cocktail movement is exciting, dynamic, and inspiring in many ways. The vast array of ingredients, colors, textures, glass designs, creative garnishes and finishing touches in many ways makes them a work of art. Whenever possible, I always prefer to sit at the bar (versus a quieter table in a restaurant bar) just so I can converse with the bartender and watch him hone his craft. Often times, it is a ringside seat to spy on an artist at working producing one delicious drink after another.
I’m always looking for new cocktails to serve to friends. And with my taste for pretty martini drinks, it’s time for me to branch out a bit more. Classic cocktails are a terrific way for any of us to learn more about the basics of drink-making. And with today—August 25—being National Whiskey Sour Day, it seems like the perfect time to explore this refreshing libation.
Made with just a few ingredients—whiskey (or bourbon), lemon juice, orange juice, and simple syrup—it is an ideal drink to serve at most occasions.
Whiskey Sours have been around a long while. In fact, as legend has it, the first version of the recipe dates back to 1862 when it appeared in Jerry Thomas’ “The Bartender’s Guide.” Still other legends have it dating back more than a century before as a popular drink served on sailing vessels. We all know from folklore that drinking was prevalent among sailors and crew. Alcohol was also one of those things that didn’t spoil, so copious amounts were often stored for long voyages. Then it was discovered that if the alcohol could be combined with a form of citrus juice, it could also be an elixir to prevent various diseases, such as scurvy due the positive benefits of Vitamin C.
In the Bartender’s Guide, the original recipe for the Whiskey Sour was:
1 large teaspoon of powdered white sugar dissolved in a seltzer or Apollnaris water
The juice of half a small lemon
1 wine glass of Bourbon or rye whiskey
Fill the glass full of shaved ice, shake up, and serve in a claret glass. Ornament with berries.
Nowadays, you don’t see the use of seltzer water in the popular drink. However, when researching Whiskey Sours, I discovered that the use of half an egg white is often used to create a frothy presentation. In the version I concocted with friends, we omitted the egg white in favor of a fresher “puckier” citrus flavor. We also added in some fresh squeezedly orange juice for an added layer of citrus sour.
Just like those sailors on the high seas, aren’t all great cocktails invented through experimentation? Start with the simple ingredients you might have on hand. And if it’s good, see what you can do to take it up a notch or two on the next try. The practice will be fun!
The following version of a Whiskey Sour was a big hit! We made two presentations of the cocktail—in an old-fashioned glass with ice, and in stemmed coupe glass. The garnish was an orange slice and a Luxardo cherry. It was immediately appealing and refreshing on this particular hot summer day, so much so, that a second round was requested before the first was even finished. In the end, when you and your friends can chill with some liquid sunshine and revel in good vibes, it doesn’t get much better!
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