Whiskey Sour – Classic 1862 Jerry Thomas Recipe

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To Add Egg Whites Or Not To Add Egg Whites

This has been the absolute single hardest cocktail to document and I try to keep my sources to only published books. Sometimes I use newspapers but I don’t give them much weight. The conclusion I have come to is a traditional whiskey sour, all sours for that matter, do not have eggs whites. Yes there were cocktails like the clover club or pink lady that had egg whites, or you can go back even further to the Fizz style cocktails from the 1880s that had egg whites. But not until the early 1950s am I able to find anyone use egg whites in a cocktail labeled a Whiskey Sour. Sour cocktails prior to the 1950s that used egg whites in this way all seem to have fun names and were presented as cocktails for the ladies. In the 1930s or 40s if a man ordered a whiskey sour and he was handed one with egg whites in it, he would probably be offended or think the bartender mixed his drink up with some woman’s at the bar. I looked through maybe 100+ books ranging from the 1880s to the late 1960s and this was pretty consistently what I found.

The earliest use of egg whites in a standard sour I could find was from King Cocktail by Eddie Clark. Who in 1947 was the successor head bartender to Harry Craddock at the Savoy. The 1955 official British Bartenders union cocktail book, The UKBG, also mentions using egg whites in sours, but both books say they are optional and not traditional. Assumedly egg whites were added upon request and not the normal way a whiskey sour was made. Keep in mind Harry Craddock, 1920 – 40s, did not make his sours with egg whites. All those cocktails had different fun names. Eddie Clark even grouped those fun cocktails in the “For ladies only” section of his book. Is this an example in”toxic”ated masculinity?

The Whiskey Sours Origins

While the standard American style sour is most likely as old as the country itself, it actually traces its origins to the Age of Exploration. In the mid 1500s the Spanish Navy began preserving concentrated lime juice in high proof spirits that could last on long voyages as medication to fight prevent scurvy. These medications were known for being super sour and not tasting good. In the early 1800s there were attempts at improving these into actually good drinks. Along with crustas and daisies, the sour was one of these attempts. The sour cocktail is simple and follows a structure of 2 oz base spirit, 1 oz citrus, and 1/2 oz simple syrup. This standard recipe still has its roots in the overly sour medication and I find this ratio to be still a bit too sour personally. By reducing the citrus to 2/3 oz or 20 mLs, I have found you end up with a tastier drink that the majority of people find pleasant. Please enjoy this early whiskey sour pulled from the 1862 edition of the Bar-Tenders guide by Jerry Thomas. Jerry Thomas’s sour recipes stayed essentially unchanged till the 1950s when cocktail books started saying you could add egg whites for a more velvety texture. The books stressed that adding egg whites was optional and not traditional.

The Most Important Ingredient

The most important ingredient in the whiskey sour is for sure the kind of whiskey you use, obviously. First off don’t use scotch. While great for sipping its not great for mixing and the lemon and sugar are so strong they kinda overpower the more mellow smooth flavors of most scotches. Second, Don’t use Irish whiskey. The smoky, mossy flavor doesn’t pair well with the sweet and tart lemon flavors. The two whiskeys to consider are bourbon and rye. Bourbon is the more common and traditional choice. Its corn, vanilla, toasted oak, etc flavor pair well with the other two ingredients. I really like using rye for mixing though and I think a nice rye whiskey is perfect for this drink. Rye is spicy and sharp and when it’s mixed with sugar and lemon the combination is really good. I personally feel rye is awful to sip (I don’t like most rye whiskeys straight), but when it’s used to mix it makes great drinks.


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Whiskey Sour – Classic 1862 Jerry Thomas Recipe

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Course: DrinksCuisine: American






Total time



Learn how to make a classic Whiskey Sour.


  • 2/3 oz Lemon Juice

  • 1/2 oz Simple Syrup

  • 2 oz Bourbon


  • Combine all ingredients in the shaker. Add ice to the shaker.
  • Vigorously shake till the shaker is ice cold and frosted.
  • Strain into glass to remove ice shards.


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