Whiskey Sours

I drank my first Whiskey Sour at the behest of my friend Julie who had spent two years in Ireland where she developed a taste for the amber liquor. That tall drink sipped in the plush lounge of the Four Seasons in Vancouver (two nights of luxury while on assignment in my hometown. L’Occitaine products in the bathroom, three soft pillows on the bed and turn-down service; this is exactly why I never stay at hostels) sparked what would become a several-year quest to find the perfect replica.

There is something deliciously retro about a Whiskey Sour. Makes me want to sing Danke Schoen while prancing around in heels and a frilly, white apron. (And a dress, people, what kind of blog do you think this is?)

I’ve had pitiful recreations at some bars where the bartender believes mixing whiskey and lime-ade will fulfill the need. May I just say, No. No. No. No.

The ingredients

It seems the secret is to have one at a hotel bar and every time I’ve done this, it has been successful. Still, I wanted to give them a try at home, so I was ecstatic when the Barefoot Contessa included a recipe in her latest book, Barefoot Contessa at Home. Her recipe calls specifically for Jack Daniel’s and who am I to doubt Ina? But when I made a batch, I didn’t love them and I wondered if perhaps I wasn’t as enchanted with Whiskey Sours as I once had been.

But I was determined to make them for my pre-blog launch on Saturday night. (And then I got impatient, launched the blog and made it a post-launch.) Another friend kindly offered to donate a half bottle of Gibson’s Whiskey that she had lying around and didn’t think she’d drink on her own, so I decided to make it what that.

I nearly got a hand cramp from reaming the eight limes and six lemons required to make two cups of fresh-squeezed citrus and I was very grateful I had no paper cuts. But it was beyond worth it. Once combined with the sugar syrup and the smooth whiskey, these drinks were fantastic. I think my guests and I made it through the entire batch in the first 30 minutes of the party.

The Aftermath

For the record, I didn’t bother with the cocktail shaker step because I made a pitcher of them and had kept everything in the fridge until just before serving. No one seemed to mind, but I bet ice cold would be even better. In fact, writing about this is tempting me to go squeeze out the rest of the lemons and limes in the fridge for another round.

The recipe comes from Barefoot Contessa at Home.

Fresh Whiskey Sours

  • 3/4 cup Whiskey (use what you like, though my friend Julie — to whom I turn for all things Whiskey — recommends Jameson or Bushmills.)
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (3 lemons)
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (4 limes)
  • 2/3 cup sugar syrup

Combine the whiskey, lemon juice, lime juice and syrup. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice and fill two-thirds full with the cocktail mixture. Shake for 30 seconds and pour into glasses. Add a maraschino cherry and serve ice cold.

Note: To make sugar syrup, put 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Chill thoroughly before using.

Serves four (apparently).

Whiskey Sours

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  1. You might have had a problem with bourbon. Both Jameson and Bushmills are Irish whisky and Gibsons is Canadian Whiskey (also known as Rye). Jack Daniel’s (also known as the other man in my life) is American Whiskey which is often called bourbon but can really only be called that if it comes from Bourbon (kinda like Champagne). In any event, I’m glad it worked out for you. Bet you never thought your kid sis would know so much about booze did you?

  2. Here’s a recipe for Brandied Cherries. You’ll never go back to those bright red, chemical laden store bought cherries again !

    Lu’s Brandied Cherries

    1 pound sweet cherries, pitted
    1/2 cup sugar
    1/2 cup water
    2 tsp. lemon juice, fresh-squeezed
    1 stick cinnamon
    Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
    1 tsp. vanilla extract
    1 cup brandy
    Tools: cherry pitter, saucepan, ladle, jars with lids

    Wash and pit the cherries. In a saucepan, combine all ingredients except the cherries and brandy and bring to a rolling boil. When the liquid begins to boil, reduce the heat to medium. Add the cherries and simmer for 5–7 minutes. Remove from heat, add the brandy and let cool. Transfer the cherries into clean jars and refrigerate, uncovered until cherries are cool to touch. Cover tightly and refrigerate for up to two weeks.

    From Lu Brow
    Swizzle Stick Bar at Café Adelaide, New Orleans

  3. I stumbled upon your web site searching for Barefoot Contessa’s classic whiskey sour. I really like your web site! Do you have any vegetarian or fish recipes?

  4. HI,

    I have to say I have been following your blog from afar for quite some time: well done!

    But one thing that has been missing is: after a hard day at work: at cooking, what do you drink for fun or relaxation? A G&T? What Gin? What Tonic? A glass of red wine? What do you reach for first? And what do you pair with your creations?


  5. Hey Jeff,

    while I love a good whiskey sour, you’re right, it’s not usually the first thing I reach for. At home I tend to drink a lot of white wine (gewurtztraminers and rieslings) and my fall-back cocktail is good ol’ G&T (Hendrick’s gin, please, though Bombay will do in a pinch). Canada Dry tonic, though I have been tempted to try some others . . . .


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