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Whiskey Sours (And Not A Bottle of Sour Mix In Sight)

Fun fact: today is National Whiskey Sour Day

Not like I really need “a day” for whiskey drinking—anyone who knows me personally knows that whiskey-, rye-, and bourbon-based drinks are my jam—but sadly it’s not just any day that you can find a good whiskey sour.

A “sour” is a family of drinks that includes the Daquiri, Margarita, and Sidecar. The formula to make a sour cocktail is simple: spirit + the “sour part” (like lemon or lime juice) +  the “sweet” part (like simple syrup).

Easy as that. In theory.

I say “in theory” because a simple, three-part recipe should be hard to screw up but yet I hate ordering whiskey sours at restaurants. Actually, I hate ordering most mixed drinks at most restaurants, with chain restaurants and sports bars being the biggest offenders: The sour and sweet parts of mixed drinks are usually co-mingled here in the form of sickeningly-sweet, nuclear yellow-colored bottled sour mix. Yuck.

Fortunately, changing preferences are helping to shift this tide. People are demanding better quality, better-tasting drinks to go with their experiences, whether in-home or at bars and restaurants. Craft cocktails are popping up in unlikely places, like baseball stadiums. Beverage makers have created mixers that ditch artificial colors and include less-processed white sugar, like honey or agave nectar.

Now. I don’t hate all bar mixers—some are perfectly fine and very enjoyable!—but I doubt I would ever use one for a recipe as simple as the Whiskey Sour. In honor of Whiskey Sour day, you may just want to skip a bottle, too, and mix one up from scratch.

There are tons of recipes out there for whiskey sour cocktails but no matter what recipe you use, it should start with a homemade sour mix for best results, IMHO. As the cliche saying asks, is the juice worth the squeeze? In this case, the answer is a resounding yes!, if you care about how your drinks taste.

Homemade Sour Mix

Sweet-tart sour mix made with fresh citrus juice, no food coloring or corn syrup added. I like pouring the finished mix into a Pyrex measuring cup so I know how much I have as I'm making cocktails, but a squirt bottle or plastic container with a lid works too.

Course: Drinks
Cuisine: American
Keyword: alcohol, alcoholic drinks, bar, citrus, cocktail, lemon, lime, orange
Servings: 2 cups
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1-2 large navel oranges
  • 1-2 large lemons
  • 1-2 large limes
  1. Remove 1-2 thick strips of peel from each citrus fruit, being careful to just take the peel and leave the white pith behind, and set aside.

  2. Juice each of the citrus fruits to yield approximately ½ cup orange juice, ¼ cup lemon juice, and ¼ cup lime juice.

  3. Add the citrus peels to a small saucepan with the sugar, water, and citrus juices.

  4. Heat until the sugar has melted, swirling or stirring the pan occasionally. Simmer mixture until reduced slightly (it will be thicker and syrupy), about 15-20 minutes. Let cool completely and store, covered, in the refrigerator until ready to use.