Food & Drink

How to Choose the Best Whiskey for Your Whiskey Sour

It’s difficult to make a Whiskey Sour turn heads. You can top it with bitters or shake it with an egg white for a creamy finish, but at the end of the day, it’s still a basic blend of whiskey, fresh lemon juice and sugar—or is it?  

While the lemon juice and sugar are non-negotiable, there’s a lot of fun to be had when it comes to choosing the whiskey. Here, the best whiskies to transform your Whiskey Sour.

If you want a classic Whiskey Sour…

The traditional Whiskey Sour calls for an 80-proof bourbon as the base, which adds a touch of vanilla and oak without overpowering the sweet vs. sour tug-of-war going on in the glass. We made our classic Whiskey Sour with Basil Hayden’s, but any mid-range, 80-proof bourbon will do.

If you want a powerful Whiskey Sour…

If you really want to taste the booze in your cocktail, opt for an overproof bourbon. Wild Turkey 101 or any other 100-plus proof bourbon gives the drink a full flavor that won’t leave you wondering if you got your money’s worth of liquor.

If you want a luxe Whiskey Sour…

We wouldn’t normally use a 12-year-old whiskey in a sour, but in the spirit of innovation, we tried it anyway. We regret nothing. It turns out that Yellow Spot Irish Whiskey is the key to the Whiskey Sour of our dreams. It lends a little spice and smokiness to the sweet-tart blend. The whiskey is finished in three different casks—American bourbon, Spanish sherry and Spanish Malaga casks—which gives the cocktail a deep, nutty finish.

If you want a smoky Whiskey Sour…

Scotch is the obvious choice for a smoky Whiskey Sour. But you probably don’t want to part with two precious ounces of your favorite single malt. Go for a blended scotch instead. Famous Grouse—usually less than $20—is a great option. While it doesn’t approach the same level of intensity as an Islay single malt, it still gives the drink a smoky punch.

If you want a spicy Whiskey Sour…

While the classic Whiskey Sour’s bourbon base blends into the drink, rye cuts its way through the center, giving the drinker a tongue-tingling treat. George Dickel Rye is a solid base, but if you really want to feel a spicy twinge, try Bulleit 90-proof rye. Made from 95 percent rye grain with a higher-than-average ABV, it’s sure to get your Whiskey Sour attention in all the right ways.