There are a whole lot of cocktails in this world and there are also a whole lot of random holidays; there are not, however, too many random holidays to celebrate specific cocktails. If a cocktail is given it’s own celebratory date on the calendar, you know that it has really made it in this world. Today, we honor one of those chosen libations: the Whiskey Sour.

In a world filled with complicated cocktails, the classic whiskey sour is a breath of fresh air. You know the ultra iconic Jerry Thomas’ Bartender’s Guide? The first edition was published in 1862 and the whiskey sour was one of the original cocktails featured. It is also thought to be the trailblazer for the sour drinks of present day; that is, using a specific spirit and then incorporating lime or lemon juice, and then something to sweeten it up, like sugar.

You will find slight variations of the whiskey sour everywhere these days – please ignore the disgusting ones made with sour mix at your local watering hole – but it’s always good to know the original recipe if you ever need it. In the 1862 version of the Bartender’s Guide, here’s how Jerry Thomas tells us how to make a proper whiskey sour:

  • Use a small bar glass
  • Take 1 large teaspoonful of powdered white sugar, dissolved in a little Seltzer or Apollinaris water.
  • Add the juice of half a small lemon.
  • Add 1 wine-glass of bourbon or rye whiskey.
  • Fill the glass full of shaved ice, shake up, and strain into a claret glass. Ornament with berries.

Some of that may seem a little confusing to you – what the heck is Apollinaris water? And how big is this wine glass of whiskey? However, we do enjoy the use of “ornament” rather than “garnish” and we’re thinking of adding it to our repertoire. Anyway, if you’re looking for a recipe that’s a little easier to understand, go for the International Bartenders Association’s official recipe:

  • In an ice-filled shaker, add 3 parts bourbon, 2 parts fresh lemon juice, 1 part Gomme syrup (or substitute simple syrup), and an optional dash of egg white.
  • Shake to combine and strain into a chilled cocktail glass, or over fresh ice in a rocks glass.

Some folks like to add a little bit of egg white to their whiskey sour because it makes a fancy little froth on top. It’s really a matter of preference, but if you do decide to add the egg whites, just make sure to give the cocktail shaker a few extra shakes before you strain the drink into the glass.

What’s your take on the whiskey sour? Crusty old relic of past happy hours? Or classic cocktail that only gets better with age?