Ring the bell, it's time for Last Call, where JK Grence, bartender at Shady's, serves up booze advice and recipes. Got a burning question for your bartender? Leave it in the comments and it might be answered in a future column.
I've been wondering: Who the hell creates national food and drink days? The list is positively staggering. It runs the gamut from broad topics (National Cold Cuts Day, March 3) to highly specific items (National Chocolate-Covered Cashew Truffle Day, April 21); from breakfast (National Pancake Day, September 26) to dinner (National Taco Day, October 4); literally from soup to nuts (you get the idea by now). Someone somewhere came up with each one, either on a whim or as a marketing ploy, and by unexplainable circumstances, it caught on. Now, almost no matter the day, there's something to eat or drink in celebration.
It's all pretty silly. But, when someone told me that Saturday is National Whiskey Sour Day (and that it's reprised on Monday), I couldn't help but smile. So many bartenders, both amateur and professional, make godawful whiskey sours. And now, I have an excuse to write about how to make a great one.
There is one huge secret to a good Whiskey Sour: Throw away your sour mix! Have you ever read the ingredients on a bottle of the stuff? It's an unholy blend of high fructose corn syrup, citric acid, and natural flavorings and colors. The closest an actual piece of citrus comes to it is when sour mix and lemons are on the same grocery store delivery truck. Do yourself a favor, and exorcise that demonic brew from your bar.
I can hear some of my brethren at highly esteemed watering holes protesting "But we make our own sour mix from scratch daily at our bar!" Well, stop it. By mixing together lemon, lime, and sugar, you have a combination that does a middling job of everything, but can't do a great job with anything. You're reaching for the same bottle whether you make a Margarita (which should have lime) or a Whiskey Sour (which should have lemon), and that's a crying shame. Juice the lemons and limes separately, and add simple syrup to each drink to taste. In the case of a Whiskey Sour, a ratio of 3 parts whiskey, 2 parts lemon, and 1 to 2 parts simple syrup is ideal. And remember, since there's citrus, shake it well before you serve it.
The tips above are going to give you a Whiskey Sour that's better than at least 98 percent of the bars in this town. There's a little trick to turn a darned fine Whiskey Sour into a positively ethereal one. All you have to do is take a spent lemon half, and drop it in the shaker before you shake the drink. The agitation gets some lemon oil into the drink, and adds a delectable extra dimension.
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The Whiskey Sour is ripe for variation. A popular variation is the Whiskey Stone Sour, which adds 1½ ounces of orange juice. A little bit of egg white adds body to the drink, and creates an attractive head of foam. You can also get a little extra intrigue by replacing ¼ ounce of the simple syrup with orgeat.
Whiskey Sour 1½ oz whiskey (preferably a North American bottling, but any whiskey will work) 1 oz fresh-squeezed lemon juice (one spent lemon half reserved) ½ to 1 oz simple syrup (to taste; start with ½ oz and add as necessary)
Combine everything plus one spent lemon half in a shaker. Add ice to fill. Shake well. Strain over fresh ice into a double rocks glass. Garnish with a lemon wedge and maraschino cherry.