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A Sour is not so much a drink as it is a concept. Lemon or lime juice, almost any liquor, and sugar—in proper proportion—form a Sour. Don’t even think about using a packaged mix for this cocktail. A simple but magical blend, the Sour was first made with brandy in the middle of the 19th century. Bartenders have flirted with and still have their occasional flings with numerous other base alcohols, but whiskey was the liquor of choice by the end of the 19th century, with rye on equal footing with bourbon. Bourbon is still favored by many, but blended whiskeys and Scotch have jockeyed for position. Add a dash of grenadine to a Whiskey Sour, and you have the sophisticated Ward Eight.
Always prepare Sours fresh. Here is a foolproof rule of thumb for making a perfect Sour every time: Mix 2 ounces of your chosen spirit with 1 teaspoon sugar and 3/4 ounce lemon or lime juice (the “sour” flavor), and shake with cracked ice. Substitute lime juice for lemon in a Scotch Sour. Shake a Sour well for a truly frothy drink, and serve it straight up in a cocktail glass, over the rocks in a hefty Old Fashioned glass, or in a Sour glass. Garnish with any assortment of seasonally fresh fruit.
Variations: Vodka, Gin, Rum, Brandy, and Pisco Sours may all be made by substituting the respective spirit for the rye or blended whiskey in a Whiskey Sour.