New York Sour – Original Recipe & History

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New York Sour

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Course: DrinksCuisine: American




Total time



Learn how to make a classic New York Sour


  • 2/3 oz 2/3 Simple Syrup

  • 2/3 oz 2/3 Lemon Juice

  • 2 oz 2 Rye Whiskey

  • 1/2 oz 1/2 Red Wine


  • Technique: Saxe Soda Shake
  • Combine all ingredients into a cocktail shaker except for the red wine.
  • Add one medium or two small ice cubes to the cocktail shaker and shake until the ice fully melts.
  • Without a strainer, pour the chilled and aerated drink into a glass.
  • Top with a dry red wine.

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The History Of The New York Sour

The oldest recipe for the New York Sour comes from H. O. Byron’s 1884 Book “The Modern Bartenders’ Guide.” Although he refers to it as the “Continental Sour.” The Recipe is:

  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 oz lemon Juice
  • 2 oz whiskey or other liquor
  • Shake, strain, and dash the top with claret

Byron’s recipe is too dry to float wine on top so the wine would simply mix in. The next appearance of the continental sour is from George Kappeler’s 1895 book Modern American Drinks. His recipe is a bit more open and only describes it as a sour topped with red wine. Depending on how sweet the sour cocktail is it would be possible to float a dry red wine on top. His Recipe is:

Make a plain sour of the desired liquor and top off with claret

Claret is the British term for Bordeaux or a blended Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Not that it really matters. More importantly, the wine should be dry so that it will float on top of the sour. Also of interest is that the continental sour can be based on any sour with a float of wine. The preference seems to be toward whiskey, but the main quality is the addition of red wine at the end. This reminds me of the earliest versions of the Manhattan that could be any base spirit as long as it was mixed with Angostura bitters and sweet vermouth. Making these more of a style than a specific recipe. Within a decade, the Manhattan officially became just a whiskey cocktail, and by the early 1910s, the continental sour officially became just a whiskey cocktail along with its name changing to New York Sour.

The earliest use of the name New York Sour comes from the 1913 book “The Cocktail Book A Sideboard Manual for Gentlemen” by Fredrick Knowles. This is also a whiskey cocktail, but his recipe is impossible to float wine on top of because it has very little sugar. The recipe I am proving here is scaled to let the red wine float on top.

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