Knowing what sours generally are, it’s not hard to guess what a whiskey sour specifically is. Add citrus like lemon juice, sugar (maybe in the form of simple syrup), and a whiskey together, and you’ve got yourself a whiskey sour, per VinePair. To prepare it, one must simply shake that combination with ice until it’s cold, then remove the ice and shake it again to disperse the ingredients evenly. After, strain the drink into a glass, on the rocks, and decorate it with garnishes such as bitters, cherries, or lemons.
Back in the day, this simple formula was perhaps even more well-known than it is today. Difford’s Guide notes that the first mention of whiskey sours comes from the Waukesha Plain Dealer, a religious Wisconsin newspaper. Therein, circa 1870, it’s alluded to in a vague manner, implying that there was simply no explanation needed; everybody already knew what whiskey sours were. Other records from that same decade speak of it as if it were the quintessential American cocktail at the time.
Despite its simplicity, or because of it, the whiskey sour can easily be adapted. According to Arcadia Publishing, the Boston Sour, for example, adds egg white to the mix, creating a frothy top. Simply swapping out the liquor also mixes things up, like in the case of the amaretto sour with its amaretto liqueur. Then, there’s the Daily Meal’s own rhubarb whiskey sour recipe, as well. And who could forget the New York Sour?