The Drink Ina Garten Used To Test The Worthiness Of Cocktail Bars

If you've ever tried mixing cocktails at home, you know how tricky it can be to nail even the simplest recipes. Beyond just using top-notch liquors, factors like ice dilution and ingredient balance play crucial roles in crafting the perfect drink. A whole bunch of variables can influence the final taste of a cocktail, which is why professional bartenders have to go to classes and get certified to serve at high-end joints. And, for savvy drinkers like Ina Garten who frequent such bars, they have quite a few tricks to test the bartender's skill level to see if they'd come back for a second drink in the future.


For Ina Garten, the test is simple: Order a Whiskey Sour and see how they handle it. One obvious reason is that it happens to be her favorite cocktail. In an interview with Punch magazine, when asked to choose only one drink, Ina unequivocally opted for the Whiskey Sour. With her devotion to the recipe, she can surely discern whether a bartender has the finesse required to whip up this drink. But, as you'll soon find out, a Whiskey Sour has quite a few characteristics that make it a good skill check for bartenders.

A whiskey sour is deceptively simple

A classic whiskey sour is one of the simpler cocktails to make. All you need is some whiskey (bourbon or rye will do), lemon juice, simple syrup, and maybe a cherry for the garnish. Blend them, and voilà! You get a nice drink that balances the rich flavor and aroma of whiskey, the tartness of the lemon juice, and the syrup's sweetness. But achieving that delicate balance? It takes real skill, especially when mixing for someone like Ina Garten, who's sampled her fair share of whiskey sours — both stellar and subpar.


The mark of a top-notch cocktail bar also hinges on the quality of its ingredients. Opting for bottom-shelf whiskey, for instance, can result in a rather harsh-tasting mix. Given that most whiskey sour aficionados anticipate a drink that's both intricate and easy on the palate, skimping on quality ingredients won't cut it.

Good bars are willing to go beyond the classic

To be clear, there's nothing wrong with the classic whiskey sour recipe. Albeit rather simple, it's still a great, tasty sip on the weekend. However, a top-notch cocktail bar shouldn't be afraid to venture beyond the classic. If they're willing to offer customers a more unique tasting experience by experimenting with new ingredients or techniques, that's a good sign.


A whiskey sour can be made frothy by whisking into the mix some egg white. Adding raw egg into anything can be a pretty uncomfortable thought for some people, but in the right hands, the cocktail will be extra creamy and doubly awesome.

And last but not least, you have to consider the garnishing, too. Ina Garten, in a panel discussion with The New York Times, mentioned that she likes to upgrade her whiskey sour with a few bourbon-soaked cherries in the drink. The cherries' sweetness, combined with the extra flavor from the bourbon marinade, makes the drink far more interesting.