The Whiskey Sour has recently been bashed for being ‘too easy to drink’ or a drink ‘for beginners’. But let’s move away from that because who really cares if it’s easy to drink or is popular with beginners? The whiskey sour is delicious, and no one should make you feel bad for enjoying something. But where did it come in order to have this kind of stigma behind it? Well, if people knew the story, theywouldn’t think so poorly of the humble whiskey sour.

While we don’t quite know the exact date of the whiskey sour, we do know that the first recipe appeared in The Bartenders Guide by Jerry Thomas that came out in 1862. So, it’s an old drinkbut it might be even older than that. Sailors in the British Navy were allegedly drinking something similar for ages before Jerry Thomas wrote anything down. Why were the sailors drinking whiskey sours? It comes down to an illness called ‘Scurvy’.

Just quickly,though, what exactly is scurvy? Scurvy is a disease linked to a lack of vitamin C and can cause anaemia, exhaustion, and spontaneous bleeding that eventually leads to death. Sounds like something you’d rather avoid, yeah? But how do you avoid scurvy? Citrus fruits are the most common and simple way to prevent scurvy so ships were often supplied with them. And that is basically all you need to prevent scurvy but who just wants to eat a lemon?Not the sailors. So, they decided to get creative.

ii. British sailors in the 1890s | Credit: Getty Images

Safe drinking water wasn’t always easy to come by. To combat this, the ship was always supplied with rum, whiskey, or gin so that there was something safe to drink when water was unavailable. Eventually, the sailors put two and two together and decided to make a delicious drink that also prevented scurvy.

The original recipe was simple – liquor, lemon, and sweetener. It has evolved since then and has even spawned variants such as the Boston Sour or the New York Sour.

The whiskey sour is a humble, delicious drink with a rich history. Head on down to your closest bar and enjoy a piece of history. Alternatively, you can try the recipe here for yourself:

iii. Credit: Culinary Hill

A Whiskey Sour


45ml bourbon or rye whiskey

30ml of lemon juice

15ml sugar syrup

1 lemon sliceand/or cherry for garnish

3 or 4 drops of Angostura bitters for garnish

30ml of Fresh Egg white (key Ingredient)


  1. Add all ingredients, excepting Angostura bitters& the lemon slice/cherry, into a shaker and dry shake (no ice)for 30 seconds. This helps produce the foam 😊
  2. Then add ice in the shaker and shake until well-chilled
  3. Strain into a chilled tumbler glass
  4. Garnish with Angostura bitters and lemon