Updated: Apr 12, 2020
Perhaps the earliest mention of the Whiskey sour was in the late 1700s. Sea travel between North America and Europe was particularly difficult due to the lack of safe storage of food and water. Sailors were malnutritioned and often suffered from scurvy. In order to prevent the effects of scurvy, sailors were rationed with limes and lemons, as well as liquor, as that was safer to drink than water. It was suggested that they mix the citrus juice with the liquor so that ship crew was not drunk, creating an early version of sour mix.
The most common liquor on these ships was rum, usually picked up from Caribbean Islands. Rum was cheap and was produced by slaves on sugarcane plantations using molasses and other byproducts. Obviously, this rum did not have the cleanest fermentation and distillation process. Hence, it wasn’t the best tasting rum. Adding citrus or sour mix to this early form of rum helped cut the bite and the harsh taste.
Over the next few decades, the sour based cocktails became popular on boths sides of the ocean. Europeans mixed the sour mix with Gin, Brandy and Genevere, while the Americans used Bourbon and Rye Whiskey. In 1862, the first sour cocktail is published by Jerry Thomas in The Bartender’s Guide. The original recipe by Thomas:
1 tsp powdered sugar, dissolved into seltzer
Juice of half a small lemon
1 wine-glass of Bourbon or Rye whiskey
Later, the cocktail evolved even further with addition of limes, bitters, egg whites and brightly colored processed cherries.
For my version, I modified a recipe from the Sips, Nibbles & Bites blog. First, I made the sour mix using juices from charred and un-charred lemons and limes. I also added some Angostura bitters to complement the smokey characteristics from the charred citrus. Demerara added a nutty-woody sweetness to balance the sour citrus and finished with a strong 101-proof Rye whiskey.
Charred Sour Mix Ingredients:
3/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup lime juice
3.5 lemons, halved
2.5 limes, halved
1/2 lemon, sliced
1/2 lime, sliced
1 cup Demerara Simple Syrup
Sour Mix Directions:
Heat medium non-stick pan on low-medium heat and place lemon and lime halves, cut side down onto the pan for about 3 minutes until they are slightly dark
Squeeze the juice from the charred citrus and strain to remove any seeds and burnt residue
Wipe up any remaining residue from pan and char the lemon slices for 1 minute on a each side and save for garnish
This should produce about ¾ to 1 cup of juice
In a pitcher or serving container, mix in fresh and charred citrus juices along with the simple syrup
Sour Mix will stay in the refrigerator for 2 weeks
2 oz Rye whiskey (I used Wild Turkey 101)
1 oz Charred Sour Mix
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
1 charred lemon & lime slice for garnish
Pour Whiskey and Sour Mix into shaker over ice
Add in 2 dashes of bitters
Shake well and strain over fresh ice into Old-Fashioned glass
Garnish with charred lemon & lime slices