We’re Dipping into the History of the Whiskey Sour

We’re Dipping into the History of the Whiskey Sour

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Did you know that August 25th is National Whiskey Sour Day? If you enjoy this classic cocktail, you’ll agree that it deserves a day to itself. If you’re visiting Concord bars, but you don’t know what’s good, a whiskey sour is always a safe order. It’s simple and hard to get wrong. It only needs three ingredients: whiskey, lemon juice, and sugar. But how much do you know about the history of this drink?

Drinks are important to the team at Area 23, so we’re here to answer all your whiskey sour-related questions.

Thank the Sailors

If you’ve ever enjoyed a whiskey sour, you can thank the sailors of the 19th century. Sea voyages often lasted months, and there were two things that were hard to come by: potable water and vitamin C. The first problem was easy to solve. Spirits like rum and whiskey were popular choices onboard ship, and having another drinkable liquid extended the water supply.

The lack of vitamin C led to scurvy, which is a dangerous and sometimes fatal disease. Luckily, citrus fruits like lemons, limes, and oranges are loaded with vitamin C, so sailors brought plenty with them on voyages. It wasn’t long before they started adding juice from the citrus fruits to their whiskey. And just like that, the whiskey sour was born.

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Whiskey Sour on Shore

Once the sailors brought their favorite drink off their ship and into the bars, recipes for this cocktail started popping up in print. One of the earliest places you can find the recipe is in The Bartender’s Guide by Jerry Thomas from 1862. The original recipe instructs bartenders to use a small bar glass and includes these ingredients:


  • One large teaspoonful of powdered white sugar, dissolved in seltzer or Apollinaris water
  • The juice of half a small lemon
  • One wine glass of bourbon or rye whiskey


The instructions then say to fill the glass with shaved ice, shake and strain, and ornament with berries. What kind of berries, it doesn’t specify. A whiskey sour is often garnished with cherries today. A few years later, in 1870, a similar recipe appeared in a Wisconsin newspaper called the Waukesha Plain Dealer.


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Sipping whiskey at your favorite Concord Bars.

If you’re out for a drink and don’t know what to order, it’s hard to go wrong with a whiskey sour. And there are many variations on the drink, too. A Boston sour has egg white, which gives it the foamy texture you often see. A New York sour has red wine poured over the top once the cocktail is mixed. If you’re checking out Concord bars, come to Area 23 and see how we make a whiskey sour here!

Visit Area 23 at the Smokestack Center on State Street in Concord!

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