August 25, is National Whisky Sour Day. This humble yet very charming cocktail belonging to the cocktail family of “sours” is primarily composed of a base liquor – in this case whisky – lime or lemon, and a sweetener – sugar, syrups, triple sec, etc. (and the optional egg white, which adds a silky, velvety texture to the drink, and softens the kick of the alcohol). If a bar doesn’t have those basic ingredients, they should just shut their doors forever! Though misjudged as a girly drink, trust me, this drink knows no gender. Cocktail snobs or novice drinkers, this will definitely hit the spot.

The ‘Sour’ is born

First formally listed in Jerry Thomas’s 1862 book, How to Mix Drinks (though it has variations dating back to the 1700s), the whisky sour is probably the grandfather of all the sours and as such, demands our respect. Necessity is the mother of invention and this beverage came about to help English sailors prevent scurvy (a disease caused by Vitamin C deficiency) while crossing the vast seas. Of course, lemon by itself is hard to swallow, but add some liquor and you’ve got an enjoyable drink. The sailors brought it to the mainland and – as a play on the famous line – the ‘sour’ was born.

It has the perfect combination of citrusy tartness, mild sweetness and warmth from the alcohol. I personally prefer it shaken and served straight up (with the egg white), so it stops the dilution. Some like it on the rocks. Whatever floats your boat!

Classic Whisky

As with all the classics, we need to be reminded that these serve as the foundation for the newer, more complex drinks out there. When all else fails, the whisky sour is an old reliable. Sounds boring, I know. But like the solid groundwork for unusual and innovative architecture, we can use the whisky sour as the basis for some really amusing and unexpected twists.

Restaurateur, expert drinker, creative proprietor of steam punk bar Hooch, SMITH Butcher and Grill Room, Ebeneezers, Poulet Manille, and Ampersand. She wrote The Standard newspaper’s Tipple Tales cocktail and spirits column and co-hosted the Manila episode of the Travel Channel show Booze Traveler with cocktail connoisseur Jack Maxwell. She is DrinkManila’s resident mixology expert.

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