You may have have overheard another bar patron order a sour, or heard it referred to in some TV show or movie (Don Draper’s a fan). And likely, you had no idea what it was but thought anything called a sour just can’t be something I’d want. Consider this: Chances are your favorite drink is a sour. If your cocktail of choice is a margarita, cosmopolitan, daiquiri or a Long Island Iced Tea, then you have already fallen for sour’s charms.
At their most basic, sours are just mixed drinks that contain a base spirit (gin, rum, vodka, bourbon, etc), lemon or lime juice, and a sweet element, which could be sugar, simple syrup or a sweet liqueur. So, here’s the rundown:
Margarita (tequila, lime, Cointreau); Cosmo (vodka, lime and cranberry, Cointreau), Daiquiri (rum, lime, simple syrup), Long Island (vodka, gin, rum, tequila, lemon juice, triple sec and simple syrup).
Here’s what you need to know to make your own at home or order like a pro.
- The key to a sour is the critical balance between the tartness of the citrus and the sugary element. Too much of one creates a mouth-puckering mess. Too much of the other and you get a cloying, syrupy “candy.” Either way, it’s not a cocktail you’d want to spend time with.
- Speaking of spending time, do not waste yours with pre-packaged sour mixes that contain God-knows-what additives and preservatives. Fresh citrus juice is the way to go here. Sure, you can make something quick and dirty with a bottle of mix, but wouldn’t you rather elevate the experience for yourself and your guests? It doesn’t take much time or effort to juice a few lemons and lime, and you’ll be rewarded with drink worthy of your best tequilas and gins.
- Quality bars and bartenders always use fresh over mix. If they’re reaching for pre-packaged at your local when they already have fresh limes and lemons to garnish drinks, well then they’ve got it all wrong.
- Sours are just about the oldest cocktails, with recipes said to date back as far as the 1800s. They are one of the pillars of mixology, and if your bartender doesn’t know her way around making one, then you need to find a new bar.
You’ve already met my personal favorite sour, the Sidecar, in a previous post. Here are two more classics, easy and impressive to whip up for guests and great to add as your go-to drink order when out on the town, as well as a recipe for simple syrup.
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
Heat water in a saucepan, add sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely. The syrup can be refrigerated and stored in a glass jar for up to a month.
Maker’s Mark (Whiskey) Sour
2 oz Maker’s Mark Bourbon
1 ounce simple syrup
1/2 ounce lemon juice
Shake ingredients with ice in a cocktail shaker and strain into a rocks glass. Garnish with a slice of lemon and a cherry.
You can also substitute the simple syrup with ½ to 1 oz superfine sugar, and use any type of bourbon, rye whiskey, Irish whiskey or Canadian whiskey.
2 oz Pisco, a South American spirit made from grapes that is the national drink of both Chile and Peru
¾ oz fresh lime juice
½ oz simple syrup
the white of one egg*
4 drops Angostura bitters
Place ingredients to a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously 20 seconds. Then fill shaker halfway with ice and shake for an additional 20 seconds. Strain into a cocktail glass, add bitters and swirl with cocktail straw to create simple design atop the foam. Serve.
* Farm fresh eggs, certified Grade AA or pasteurized reduces salmonella risk. Wash the shell before breaking and take care to prevent contact between the exterior of the shell and the white.