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Issue 50 - The Whisky Sour

Whisky Magazine Issue 50
September 2005


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The Whisky Sour

It's all a question of balance. Ian Wisniewski explains how a good Sour can put a smile on your face

As a style of cocktail the Sour applies the same treatment to various spirits, with the first sip revealing how appropriately it's named. Lemon juice provides the sourness, and the challenge lies in attaining a balance between the sourness, sweetness and the spirit, without allowing any individual element to dominate.

The Whisky and Brandy Sour were the original exponents of this style, and have been popular since the mid-19th century. However, the options also include gin, rum and pisco, with the Pisco Sour being Peru and Chile's national cocktail.

Various Whisky Sour recipes stipulate bourbon, and as this offers more sweetness than rye whiskey, it's an ideal starting point in gaining a sweet/sour balance. Meanwhile, substituting with blended Scotch is hardly unusual on the cocktail circuit.

The choice of whisky, not to mention the brand, really does matter as the character comes through clearly in the resulting cocktail. The difference between a bourbon and blended Scotch for example is immediately apparent (as are peating levels).

For the most impressive sourness lemon juice must be freshly squeezed. Any variation in levels of sourness from different lemons is usually minimal, with fresher fruit more consistent.

Adding sweetness in the form of sirop de gomme (sugar syrup) is standard practise, as it can be incorporated into the cocktail more readily than sugar. However, sugar syrup can be flavoured with additional ingredients, which may add a floral note to the recipe...

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