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How to Make the Ultimate Bourbon Sour

bourbon sour

In terms of cocktail recipes, the Bourbon Sour is a classic. Put a bit of Southern charm in your life with this legendary bourbon cocktail.

The Bourbon Sour, aka the Whiskey Sour, has a long and fascinating history, thanks in no small part to its simplicity and delectable taste. The first official written record of the cocktail can be found in the 1862 book, The Bartender’s Guide, by Jerry Thomas. However, sailors in the British Navy had been drinking a very similar concoction long before that.


Spirits were often used a substitute for water on long sea journeys (much to the relief of sun-ripened sailors, no doubt), and served with lemon and lime to combat the dreaded scurvy, which is caused by severe vitamin C deficiency.


After being road-tested, or water-tested, by sailors onboard for decades, the Bourbon Sour and its variants inevitably made its way ashore and into the pubs, bars and taverns – and homes – around the world.

How to make it

The classic recipe for the Bourbon Sour contains just three simple ingredients: bourbon, lemon juice and simple syrup. Traditional, fancier versions include egg white, which adds an attractive frothy top to the cocktail, without changing the flavour.


The key to making the best Bourbon Sour is the quality of the lemon juice. Hand-squeeze it fresh into the shaker.


Also, be sure to get the balance right. Base spirit, sugar and citrus in the right proportions is the simple formula for a great-tasting Bourbon Sour.


  • 50ml bourbon
  • 20ml lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 10ml sugar syrup
  • 10ml egg white (optional)
  • Orange slice and cherry, to garnish


  1. Pour all ingredients into a shaker half filled with ice and shake well for about 20 seconds to chill the liquid. (If using egg white, perform a “dry shake” and shake all the ingredients for 30 seconds without ice before shaking again with fresh ice.)
  2. Strain the mixture into a glass over ice and garnish with orange slice and cherry.

5 Bourbons to Try

Jim Beam White Label Bourbon


An original Kentucky straight bourbon aged in new, charred American oak barrels. It’s mellow, with typical bourbon flavours of caramel and vanilla, with a hint of fruit and honey.


Wild Turkey Bourbon Whiskey


Distilled at a very low proof to ensure all barrel flavours evolve during the ageing process, Wild Turkey is characterised by sweet vanilla notes, maple and cinnamon, juxtaposed with oakiness, spice and char.


Woodford Bourbon Reserve


Handcrafted in small batches, this has a uniquely rich, smooth and balanced flavour. Expect notes of espresso beans, cereal sweetness, toasty oak and a touch of rum.


Maker’s Mark Bourbon Whiskey


Makers Mark is a unique and full-flavoured bourbon, made using the old-style sour-mash method and sealed with its iconic red wax. The taste is sweet and balanced with caramel, vanilla and fruity essences. The finish? Smooth and subtle.


Jack Daniel’s Whiskey


Considered the “soul” of American whiskey, its distinct and unique taste comes from mellowing the freshly distilled whiskey drop by drop through 10 feet of sugar maple charcoal. Tastes smooth and soft, with notes of banana milkshake, mixed nuts and a little caramel.

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