The New York Sour Cocktail

The New York Sour Cocktail is a stylish and visually appealing drink that has been making waves on social media lately. However, this elegant two-toned cocktail has a rich history dating back to the 1880s. Combining whiskey, lemon, sugar, and red wine, the New York Sour is a perfect drink for any season or occasion. In this article, we will take an in-depth look at the history, ingredients, and preparation methods of the New York Sour Cocktail, as well as offer tips and suggestions for creating the perfect drink.

A Brief History of the New York Sour Cocktail

The New York Sour Cocktail is a classic cocktail with a misleading name. Despite its title, the drink actually originated in Chicago, nearly 800 miles away from the Big Apple. The story goes that the cocktail became popular in New York City bars, where it eventually received its current name after being called the “continental sour” and “claret snap.” However, the true origin of the cocktail’s name remains unknown.

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The Key Ingredients of a New York Sour Cocktail

The Base: Whiskey

The New York Sour is a variation of the classic whiskey sour, with a twist in the form of a red wine float. While a whiskey sour can be made from any type of whiskey, it is recommended to use rye whiskey for a New York Sour. The spicy nature of rye whiskey complements the rich wine and ensures that it does not get lost among the other ingredients.

Some popular rye whiskey options for mixing a New York Sour include Old Overholt, Redemption Rye, and Whistle Pig.

The Sweetener: Simple Syrup and Lemon Juice

A New York Sour requires a balance of sweet and sour flavors to create its signature taste. This balance is achieved through the use of simple syrup and lemon juice. Simple syrup is made by dissolving sugar in water, and it adds a sweetness that contrasts with the tartness of the lemon juice. The amount of simple syrup and lemon juice used in the cocktail can be adjusted to suit individual taste preferences.

The Star of the Show: Red Wine

The addition of red wine is what sets a New York Sour apart from a traditional whiskey sour. The wine adds a burst of berry flavor and creates the striking two-toned appearance that has made this cocktail so popular on social media.

When selecting a red wine for a New York Sour, it is best to choose a dry red wine, as the cocktail’s base is already sweet from the simple syrup. Malbec is a popular choice, but claret—a British term for Bordeaux red wines—is the traditional option. Other suitable red wines include Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Optional Ingredients for a New York Sour

Egg White (and Alternatives)

While the original New York Sour recipe does not call for an egg white, many modern versions of the cocktail include this ingredient. The addition of an egg white creates a pleasant mouthfeel and helps to meld the flavors together while toning down any sharpness from the whiskey and lemon.

If you prefer not to use egg whites or are looking for a vegan alternative, aquafaba can be used in place of the egg white. Aquafaba is the liquid found in a can of chickpeas, and it can be used as a direct substitute for egg whites in cocktails.


Some variations of the New York Sour include a dash of bitters to add depth and complexity to the flavor profile. Angostura bitters are a popular choice, but feel free to experiment with other types of bitters to find your preferred taste.

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The Art of Mixing a New York Sour Cocktail

Shaking and Straining

To create a New York Sour, combine the whiskey, simple syrup, lemon juice, and optional egg white or aquafaba in a cocktail shaker. Fill the shaker with ice and shake vigorously for about 20 seconds, or until the shaker becomes frosty. Strain the mixture into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice.

Layering the Red Wine

The key to achieving the stunning two-toned appearance of a New York Sour is the careful layering of the red wine on top of the shaken whiskey mixture. To do this, slowly pour the wine over the back of a spoon that is just barely touching the surface of the drink. This will help the wine to float on top of the whiskey mixture, creating the desired visual effect.

Don’t worry if your wine layering isn’t perfect—the taste of the cocktail won’t be affected, and practice makes perfect!

Glassware and Garnishes

The New York Sour is traditionally served in a rocks glass, but it can also be presented in a coupe or wine glass for a more elegant appearance. Garnishes for a New York Sour can include a lemon wheel, a cherry, or a sprig of fresh herbs like mint or rosemary.

Variations on the New York Sour

As with any classic cocktail, there are numerous variations of the New York Sour to suit different tastes and preferences. Some popular twists on the New York Sour include:

  • The Bourbon Sour: Substitute bourbon for rye whiskey for a smoother, sweeter flavor profile.
  • The Port Sour: Replace the red wine float with a ruby port for a richer, more robust taste.
  • The Tequila Sour: Swap out the whiskey for tequila and use a dry sherry in place of the red wine for a unique, Mexican-inspired take on the classic New York Sour.

In Conclusion: Savor and Share the New York Sour Cocktail

The New York Sour Cocktail is a timeless classic with a modern twist that is perfect for impressing guests or simply enjoying a well-crafted drink at home. With its striking appearance and balanced flavors, the New York Sour is sure to become a favorite among cocktail enthusiasts and novices alike. So gather your ingredients, don your bartender’s hat, and start shaking up a delicious New York Sour to enjoy and share with friends. Cheers!

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