How To Layer A New York Sour Cocktail

A whiskey sour is among the most basic and delicious whiskey cocktails. It has existed since the mid-1800s and is an uncomplicated combination of whiskey, simple syrup, and lemon juice. An egg white can be added for frothiness. The whiskey sour is a brilliant and balanced cocktail, but that doesn't mean it can't be improved.


One of the most photogenic spin-off cocktails is the New York Sour. The New York Sour is thought to be nearly as old as the whiskey sour and uses the same delicious base but adds a striking crimson layer floating on top. The look is impressive, but many are intimidated to attempt the cocktail for fear of messing up the signature float. Do not worry, though. A layered effect is easy to achieve at home with no prior experience. You don't even need a specialty cocktail spoon, though having one doesn't hurt. In no time, you can learn how to layer your cocktail like a pro and impress your guests.

The science behind the layers

While layering can be intimidating, it is essential to remember you do not have to pour perfectly to get a clean result. That is because as long as the layers are poured relatively smoothly, they will even out.


Layered effects are achieved by taking advantage of liquids having different weights. Think about how when you put oil and water in a cup. The oil naturally floats to the top because it has a lower density than water. The same principle is applied to layered cocktails. The heaviest and more dense part of the drink goes on the bottom and is topped with the lighter parts. Things such as sugar and alcohol content help determine the density of an ingredient. It can take a little while to master the balance between liquid density but rest assured, for cocktails such as the New York Sour, the layering order was chosen with intent. 

Common New York Sour mistakes

The most common mistake when making a New York Sour is simply pouring the wine on top of the whiskey sour base and expecting the two to separate like oil and water. They will not. Remember that, unlike oil and water, wine and whiskey will mix. The different densities will help keep them apart but will not prevent mixing. Similarly, pouring too quickly will cause the two to mix.


Finally, remember that while egg whites are not required, incorporating them into your whiskey base adds viscosity, making it easier to add the red wine float on top. The cocktail can be successful without it, but it may be a helpful step, especially when starting out.

What you will need

To make a New York Sour, you need some ingredients and supplies — a few you may even have in your house right now. For the cocktail itself, you will need red wine, whiskey, lemon juice, simple syrup, and an egg white if using. For whiskey, bourbon and rye are both popular choices. For the wine, a dry and fruity red works best. Simple syrup is made by dissolving equal parts sugar and syrup. It can be made at home, more can be purchased in a store. Typically, simple syrup is clear. Our simple syrup has a golden hue as it is made with organic, unbleached sugar.s


You will also need a cup, a jigger or shot glass for measuring your ingredients, a cocktail shaker or mason jar for shaking the cocktail, ice, and a spoon. A bar spoon is ideal, but any small spoon, such as a teaspoon, will work.

Gather sour ingredients

First thing is first — gather all your ingredients and supplies and have them ready. Cocktail making is quick work, and you want to ensure everything is ready in hand. This means juicing your lemons and having simple syrup and egg whites ready.


Shake it up

In your cocktail shaker or mason jar, combine whiskey, lemon juice, simple syrup, and egg white if using, over rocks and vigorously shake. This step mixes all ingredients to create a homogenous base on which to pour the wine. This step will also add a layer of froth if using egg whites.


Strain into glass

Strain the whiskey mixture into a rocks glass with new ice in it. A rocks glass is a short tumbler and is traditionally used for whiskey. If you do not have a cocktail strainer, you can use a small mesh sieve or a fork to ensure no ice or potential pieces of lemon make their way into the final cocktail.  


Grab your spoon

Take a bar spoon or a teaspoon and turn it upside-down so the arch is up. Place the upside-down spoon into the glass, hovering just above the liquid level.

Pour the wine slowly

Slowly and gently pour red wine over the back of the bar spoon, creating a soft waterfall of wine into the whiskey sour. The trick is to do this slowly and steadily so as not to create too strong a stream and mix the liquids inadvertently.


Sit and sip

Finally, admire your handy work. Take pictures for social media if you want. Sit back and sip on your cocktail, and appreciate the new skill you have mastered.