The History of the Whisky Sour: From the 19th Century to Today

The Whisky Sour is a classic cocktail that has been enjoyed for well over a century. It’s a simple yet delicious drink that consists of just a few ingredients: whisky, lemon juice, and simple syrup. However, the origins of this popular drink are shrouded in mystery. In this article, we’ll delve into the fascinating history of the Whisky Sour, from its humble beginnings in the 19th century to its modern-day resurgence.

The History of the Whisky Sour

The exact origins of the Whisky Sour are unknown, but it’s believed to have originated in the United States in the mid-19th century. Some historians believe that the Whisky Sour was originally created as a medicinal drink to cure scurvy, a common ailment among sailors. Lemon juice was added to whisky to provide a source of vitamin C, while the simple syrup helped to balance out the sourness of the lemon juice.

Another theory suggests that the Whisky Sour was created as a way to make cheap, low-quality whisky more palatable. The addition of lemon juice and simple syrup helped to mask the harsh, unpleasant taste of the whisky.

Regardless of its origins, the Whisky Sour quickly became a popular drink in the United States, and it remains one of the most beloved cocktails to this day.

The Golden Age of the Whisky Sour

The Whisky Sour rose to even greater popularity during the Golden Age of cocktails in the 1920s and 1930s. Prohibition had forced many bars to close their doors, but the Whisky Sour remained a popular drink among those who could get their hands on illegal booze.

During this time, bartenders began experimenting with the classic Whisky Sour recipe, adding their own twists and variations. Some bartenders added egg white to give the drink a frothy texture, while others used different types of whiskies to create unique flavor profiles.

The Decline and Resurgence of the Whisky Sour

In the decades following the Golden Age of cocktails, the Whisky Sour fell out of favor. The rise of vodka and other clear spirits in the 1960s and 1970s led to a decline in the popularity of darker spirits like whisky.

However, in recent years, the Whisky Sour has experienced a resurgence in popularity. Bartenders and cocktail enthusiasts have rediscovered this classic cocktail and are putting their own unique spins on the recipe. Some bartenders are using high-quality, artisanal whiskies, while others are experimenting with different types of citrus and sweeteners.

Today, the Whisky Sour remains a staple of cocktail menus in bars and restaurants around the world. It’s a versatile drink that can be enjoyed in many different variations, from the classic recipe to more innovative, modern twists.


The Whisky Sour is a cocktail with a rich and fascinating history. While its origins may be shrouded in mystery, there’s no denying the enduring popularity of this classic drink. From its early days as a medicinal tonic to its modern-day resurgence, the Whisky Sour has stood the test of time and remains a beloved cocktail for whisky lovers around the world.