By Matt Mathai
It was tough being a sailor in the 1700s. The work was brutal, and decent food and water were tough to come by. Professional sailors could be at sea for over a year at a time. And scurvy, now known to be caused by a lack of vitamin C, was very debilitating. Arrrr...
To deal with bad water, bad spirits, and scurvy, the Navy would issue rations of spirits (usually rum or whiskey), and lemons, and sailors would drink an early version of what we now know as a sour.
The whiskey sour was first mentioned in print in 1862 in The Bartenders Guide by Jerry Thomas. All it had was whiskey, lemon juice, and sugar and was served over shaved ice. It is thought that the practice of adding egg white was begun during Prohibition at least partly to mask the flavor of bad alcohol. (Technically, a whiskey sour made with egg white should be called a Boston Sour.)
The Whiskey Sour (Prohibition-era version)
2 oz bourbon whiskey
¾ oz lemon juice
¾ oz Simple syrup
½ oz egg white
Garnish: orange peel (lemon works too)
Garnish: maraschino cherry
Garnish: A few drops of Angostura bitters (optional)
Chill a rocks glass
Combine all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously for about 10 seconds.
Add ice and shake until the tins are frosty - about 10 seconds more.
Double strain into the rocks glass over a large ice cube
Garnish with orange peel and a maraschino cherry (Angostura bitters optional)
Some recipes call for this drink to be served up, i.e. in a coupe glass without ice. That would make sense if you feared diluting your drink too much by adding ice. My drinks never last that long, so… (Traditionally it’s served in a rocks glass)
Double strain this drink. You don’t want little ice shards messing w/ the foam.
I used overproof bourbon (Old Grand-dad 114) - I feel it stands up better to the other ingredients. Stay away from sweet bourbons like Buffalo Trace or Makers Mark. This drink is plenty sweet enough already. If you must use a sweet bourbon, garnish the drink w/ Angostura bitters to add a touch of spice
Egg white - this seems to be becoming a habit, no? It’s clear I like the influence of egg white on drinks. If you can’t do egg white, make the whiskey sour without it and tell people you’re sticking to the way Jerry Thomas did it nearly 200 years ago. Or use aquafaba or foaming bitters.