Whiskey Sour

In the first post of this blog I said the Sour is dead. The Sour, like 2pac, is not really dead. You will occasionally catch glimpses of the real deal at a bar, or a party, and you have to do a double-take, or question what you’ve just experienced. If you actively look for it, you’ll find remnants, fragments, memories, and “the good old days”. Tonight is Oak & Grain’s Coachella, but this ain’t no hologram.

If you go into a most bars today, when you ask for a drink, sour, you will get a shot of liquor floating in a deluge of corn syrup and citric acid. “Sours mix” is the de-evolution of the Sour. Modernized, atomized, dehydrated, and given no expiration, the powdered garbage you can buy at the store or consume at a dive is as much real Sours as Twizzlers is licorice. It’s a crying shame in every way, considering real Sours is just concentrated lemonade. It’s so darn simple to make.

It’s simple syrup and lemon juice. That’s it. No secret formula, no preservatives or corn or powder or settling or shaking. Just a bit of stirring. If you’ve been playing this game along with us at home, you’ve already made Sours. You’ve just added a few extra ingredients. Still got that simple syrup I’ve told you how to make? Good! Get it ready.

The Whiskey Sour is no secret, and if you Google the recipe you’ll find plenty out there. Nobody takes the time to make it proper, though, so odds are you may have never had a real Whiskey Sour. If this was some two-bit blog I’d just copy-paste someone else’s recipe. I’ve taken the liberty to adjust the recipe, though, and if reactions from those who I have served are any indication, I’ve struck the perfect formula. Ladies and gentlemen I give to you, the most perfect Whiskey Sour you’ll ever drink:

Whiskey Sour

  • Juice from 1/2 a lemon
  • 3/4 oz of rich simple syrup
  • 2 oz of Jim Beam
  • Orange peel

Fill a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice. Juice your half lemon over the shaker, pour in your simple syrup and Jim Beam. Seal and shake, vigorously, for at least 10 seconds. Strain into a cocktail glass, wipe the rim with an orange peel and garnish.

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Notes on execution: 

Glass is important here. Make it a small one, no more than 4-5 ounces. Technically this recipe is about 3.5 ounces in total. Traditionally Sours is served on the rocks, in a Sours glass, which is just a narrow glass that holds about 6 ounces. We’re breaking tradition here.

Technique is nothing new for veterans of this blog, but remember: rich simple syrup is made by boiling one cup of water, adding two cups of sugar, stirring till clear, then letting it cool.

Why Jim Beam? As I’ve said, Jim Beam should be your first choice for cheap Whiskey. When volume matters, and it will once you finish your first, go for JB White. For some cosmic reason, Jim Beam just tastes really, really good in a Sour. This is not a fancy drink, this is a quick one you enjoy to invigorate the soul. You can make this drink with any other Whiskey that you feel like using, or for that matter, any other liquor. If you use gin, add some seltzer and ice, you’ve made a Tom Collins. If you use rum, you’ve made a Daisy. If you use vodka, you’ve made a mistake. I wouldn’t recommend Scotch, blended or otherwise. Evan Williams also works well when going for volume. 

Shake this one a lot. Part of the Sour’s appeal is the fizziness, and there’s no seltzer in here to do that. Bubbles are inserted manually. You’ll feel the shaker get bone-chillingly cold. This is desired. Strain everything out, do not serve it on the rocks. Every sip should be as sweet as the first, and you won’t have to worry about the drink warming up based on how fast these go down. If you shook well and long, you’ll have a drink so cold ice will begin to form along the surface after pouring. This is beautiful.

The orange peel is what really sets this one out from a typical Sour. From my understanding, this is technically a Whiskey Peel, but no one outside of a casket will split that hair anymore. Take a vegetable peeler, and peel the top layer of an orange, avoiding the pith as much as possible. Twist the peel over the poured drink, expressing the oils, and rub the outside of the peel along the rim. Drop it in the drink, smile and serve.

This was a recipe I’ve previously only shared with close friends. It’s not exactly secret, and it’s easy to do, but what counts is that you take the time to do it. I suggest the following: at the earliest convenient hot, sunny Saturday, invite a few friends over for lunch, whip out a fifth of JB, and start serving these as a digestif. Afternoon becomes night. Cheers.

Photo by M.

Jim Beam & Cream

Tonight we’re taking a slight departure from the drinks I’ve cataloged so far. Instead of something fancy accompanied with a poem, we’re treading into party territory. The kind with paper hats and poppers. No clowns, though, unless they bring a fifth of JB.

A word about Jim Beam: JB Kentucky Bourbon (white label) is a cheap Whiskey. It’s also a good Whiskey. Often when people reach for square-bottle Whiskey they grab a bottle of Jack Daniels. Jack does not cooperate with much, except barbecue sauce and Coke. Why? Jack is harsh. Like, open your mouth behind a peeling-out Corvette harsh. Guy Fieri is the driver. Jim Beam is a little tough to swallow on its own, but it plays fair with others. It’s my Bourbon of choice for simple cocktails that don’t call for classy ingredients. Cheap does not necessarily mean bad. JB has a black label that is shockingly good for being ~$25 for a fifth. You can walk away with a white label and have change from a twenty.

This recipe I got from an unusual source, a friend of a friend who doesn’t even drink that much. Surprisingly, once I asked around, nobody seemed to know about this one. Googling “Jim Beam and Cream” does not yield the recipe. That will change tonight. After whipping one up for myself I declared it ‘incredible’ and ‘illegal’. Incredible because it marries the smokey oak of Jim Beam with an irresistible cream soda float. Illegal because it does what I just described. Ladies and gentlemen I bestow upon you the Jim Beam and Cream:

Jim Beam and Cream

  • Vanilla ice cream
  • 1.5 oz of Jim Beam
  • Cream soda

Place a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream into a tall glass. Pour in 1.5 ounces of Jim Beam, and then cover with cream soda. Serve with a spoon.

Notes on execution:

Get some decent vanilla ice cream to accompany this one unless you’re going for volume. I’m lucky enough to be within Adirondack Creamery’s distribution area, and tried their vanilla ice cream this evening. Great, rich vanilla flavor to complement the Bourbon. There’s so much sweetness at work here, though, so premium ice cream is a bit of a waste if you’re making these for a large pack of drinkers. Still, if you can shell it out, get the good stuff.

Jim Beam runs the show here. It already tastes a bit vanilla-ish so I don’t recommend substituting him out. Why would you, anyways? Jim Beam is so versatile you should always have some on hand. It doesn’t make a fancy drink, but it makes a good drink.

Cream soda is recommended here as well. Avoid HFCS because it will be sickeningly sweet. You want some good stuff? Try Virgil’s Cream Soda. It tasted great in this recipe. This is a soda float with Whiskey in it, however, so you could put whatever soda you want. Root beer? Cola? Go for it. Cream soda says the recipe, and says I, but don’t let that stop you from experimenting.

No sprinkles.

There you go, quick and to the point. Sometimes I can babble about these drinks, but I think the recipe says it all. Serve it when you deem it appropriate. Cheers.

Photos credits: M