Take It To The Next Level: The Whiskey Sour

This post was made in collaboration with Cooper’s Craft. Opinions are my own.
Content intended for those of legal drinking age (21+). Please enjoy responsibly and in moderation.

Consisting of just whiskey, lemon juice, sugar and often (not always) egg white, a classic Whiskey Sour is always a crowd pleaser. It’s simple, delicious and easy enough to make a good one at home. However, if you’re feeling a little creative, it’s also an easy drink to upgrade.

Classic cocktails like this one are super fun to “riff.” By simply swapping out an ingredient or adding in a new one, you can have a whole new take on a classic drink and the combinations are virtually endless.

Let’s talk about some basic building blocks of a good Whiskey Sour, then we’ll get into some easy upgrades for this cocktail.

Cooper's Craft

The Basics

Somewhat obviously, it’s important to start with a high-quality spirit. My friends at Cooper’s Craft hooked me up with a couple bottles of their newly rebranded whiskey: their flagship Kentucky Straight Bourbon and their 100-proof Barrel Reserve. I generally prefer using higher-proof spirits in cocktails, so I particularly enjoyed using the Barrel Reserve. However, their original bourbon was also fantastic and stood up well to being mixed with other ingredients.

Next, it’s all about combining the whiskey with fresh citrus and a bit of sugar to achieve the right balance of flavor. Too much citrus (or too little sweetness) will result in an overly dry/sour cocktail. Similarly, too much sugar will just make it taste cloying and syrupy. Below is the standard Whiskey Sour spec, so keep this in mind as your template:

Classic Whiskey Sour

2 oz Whiskey

3/4 oz fresh lemon juice

3/4 oz Simple syrup

Egg White

Combine ingredients in a shaker and shake without ice (this helps break down the proteins in the egg white). Add ice and shake again. Double-strain into a chilled coupe.

Coopers Craft Bourbon

The Upgrade: Tea Syrups & Liqueurs

With the above template in mind, I like to start by messing with some of those building blocks to create a new take on a Whiskey Sour. One of my favorite cocktail “upgrades” is creating unique simple syrups. I thought that incorporating chamomile tea into a Whiskey Sour sounded fun, so I made a chamomile tea simple syrup. I simply steeped two chamomile tea bags in about 6 oz of hot water. After steeping for a few minutes I added equal parts sugar and stirred to combine. Easy!

I then took the classic Whiskey Sour spec and swapped out the simple syrup with my new chamomile syrup. I’ve been enjoying a touch of banana liqueur in several cocktails lately, so I added 1/4 oz of that as well. Once I strained the final cocktail into the glass and allowed the foam to set, I took some chamomile blossoms and carefully placed them in a row on top for an aromatic (and picturesque) garnish.

Keep in mind that some whiskies might overpower the delicate flavor of chamomile. However, Cooper’s Craft Bourbon worked really well here and wasn’t too “pushy” with the other ingredients.

Chamomile Whiskey Sour

2 oz Cooper’s Craft Bourbon

3/4 oz fresh lemon juice

3/4 oz Chamomile simple syrup

1/4 oz Banane du Bresil (banana liqueur)

Egg white

Chamomile blossoms for garnish

Cooper's Craft Whiskey Sour

I was really happy with how the chamomile tea syrup came through on the final drink and that touch of banana liqueur made it a little extra special. For this second take, I decided to add a few different liqueurs for some added complexity. Since the chamomile syrup worked so well, I made another one but this time from an herbal hibiscus tea.

The final drink had a beautiful reddish, almost peach color. I used 1/4 oz less of the syrup because the hibiscus was especially fragrant. Despite having multiple liqueurs and several different strong flavors, the final result was still very much a Whiskey Sour. Cooper’s Craft Bourbon didn’t get lost among the other ingredients but meshed really nicely with everything.

Hibiscus Whiskey Sour

2 oz Cooper’s Craft Bourbon

3/4 oz fresh lemon juice

1/2 oz hibiscus tea simple syrup

1/4 oz Cynar

1/4 oz Licor 43

Egg white

Dried hibiscus for garnish

I hope this helps get some fun ideas flowing for you on how to get creative with Whiskey Sours– and even other cocktails. Basically, find a recipe that works well and you enjoy, then start swapping out ingredients or adding in different liqueurs or infusions. Remember that it’s all about balance, so you might have to adjust the levels of spirit/sour/sweet as you add in other ingredients.

Also, be sure to keep an eye out for Cooper’s Craft Bourbon and their Barrel Reserve; both are exceptional spirits for both sipping and mixing. Cheers!