Bourbon Sour

Make your Sour smoky and smooth with the spicy taste of an old Kentucky tradition, bourbon.

Bourbon Sour

In 1996 the Heaven Hill Distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky was said to be struck by lightning. Overnight, two percent of the world’s bourbon was lost in one of the most devastating disasters to hit the spirits industry. With winds gusting up to 70mph, the storm that was brewing on November 7th was a strong one, and once that bolt hit one of Heaven Hill’s wooden warehouses, it immediately went up in flames. Inside were thousands of barrels of aging bourbon, and once those caught fire, the inferno was impossible to stop.

Other warehouses soon ignited, and as firefighters rushed to the scene they were met with walls of flame so high there was nothing any amount of water could do. Most of the brave first responders had no choice but to drop their equipment and run for their lives. The windy conditions just made things worse, blowing the giant flames all over. A literal river of burning bourbon ran through the grounds, torching everything in its path. When employees and nearby residents were able to survey the damage the next day, they all said it looked like a “warzone”. Miraculously, no one was hurt or killed but seven warehouses full of bourbon was destroyed. All that was left behind were thousands upon thousands of charred and smoking barrel rings.

There’s good news to this story. Heaven Hill Distillery still operates and produces fine Kentucky Bourbon to this very day, and is the largest independent and family owned maker of distilled spirits in the United States.

Today’s cocktail is the Bourbon Sour, a tasty and robust riff on the classic whiskey version. An old-school mixture that includes lemon and sugar, the Whiskey Sour first appeared in Jerry Thomas’ 1862 book, The Bartender’s Guide. I recount the story above, not just because I find it fascinating, but also because I feel that from time-to-time we should stop and appreciate the folks who work hard to bring us some fantastic spirits. A toast to them!

What is the Best Bourbon to Use in a Bourbon Sour?

You work hard, so why not play hard, right? Treat yourself to a nice, top-shelf barrel-aged bourbon when mixing yourself up this particular Sour. The smooth texture and feel of a good spirit is fine to sip on its own, but melded with the sweet of the simple syrup and tart taste of the lemons, you’ll be enjoying more than a few of these far into the evening, feeling perfectly relaxed and maybe even a little reflective.

Bourbon Sour
Servings 1 serving
serving 5 minutes


  • 2 ounces good-quality bourbon
  • 1 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 1 ounce simple syrup
  • 1-2 drops cocktail foamer or egg white optional
  • Maraschino cherry for garnish
  • Orange slice for garnish


  • Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice cubes.
  • Pour in the bourbon, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and simple syrup.
    Bourbon Sour
  • If desired for a frothy texture, add a couple of drops of cocktail foamer or an egg white.
    Bourbon Sour
  • Secure the lid on the shaker and shake vigorously for about 30 seconds or until the mixture is well-chilled and frothy.
    Bourbon Sour
  • Strain the mixture into a rocks glass filled with ice.
    Bourbon Sour
  • Garnish with a maraschino cherry and a slice of orange on the rim of the glass.


Calories: 229kcal | Carbohydrates: 23g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 0.1g | Saturated Fat: 0.01g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.01g | Sodium: 67mg | Potassium: 97mg | Fiber: 0.1g | Sugar: 22g | Vitamin A: 2IU | Vitamin C: 11mg | Calcium: 7mg | Iron: 1mg
Bourbon Sour

FAQs & Tips

I’ll mention this every time we make a drink that has the option of shaking up egg white for a nice frothy top… Don’t dry shake for more than fifteen seconds. Any longer and the contents will splatter all over the kitchen as well as you. There goes that expensive cashmere.

Bourbon Sour

Bourbon Sour Variations

Despite the name, a Sour cocktail is one the most delicious and satisfying beverages you can enjoy. The tart of the lemons mixed with the sweet of the sugar give way for a variety of spirits to feel right at home in this classic and historic concoction. Twist & Toast has a number of recipes for you to add to your repertoire, here’s a sampling:

  • Rum Sour – I had some pirate-style fun exploring the flavors of the tasty Rum Sour.
  • Amaretto Sour – Give your next cocktail a smooth and almond-flavored finish with the Amaretto Sour.
  • Maracuy√° Sour – I explore the exotic and tart flavors of this pisco and passionfruit-based mixture.
  • Gin Sour – A perfect and refreshing take on the classic drink, the Gin Sour is one of my go-to poolside companions.

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