The Whiskey Sour/Photos by Donna Turner Ruhlman

I had my first cocktail with an egg white in it at The Best Bar in the World, and it was a revelation. A Ramos gin fizz. The egg white gave it the kind of body I’d never felt. (And nutrition! If LA starlets can call an egg white omelet a meal, I can call my cocktail a meal!) I’ve since become a huge fan of what an egg white can bring to a drink. I even put the VTR Whiskey Sour in Ruhlman’s Twenty!

Herewith the Friday Cocktail Hour a classic whiskey sour. It’s typically made with bourbon, and that’s fine, as is scotch. But after last week’s Manhattan, which used Old Overholt Rye, I had a rye on the rocks to evaluate it and was impressed by how dry it was relative to the sweeter bourbon. I think this dryness is best suited to balance the sweet-sour nature of the whiskey sour.

The VTR uses the above technique of separating the white from the yolk: cracking the fat end of the egg and removing enough shell to allow the white, but not the yolk, to fall out (notice the two different parts of the white, the thin and the thick, the raison d’être for the badass egg spoon, bien sûr). The method is cool, and shows the customer they’re getting an actual egg white in their cocktail glass. But there are different ways to handle egg whites. I make a lot of custards, carbonaras, mayoHollandaise, and its derivatives, which leaves me with a lot of whites. Happily, whites freeze really well so that you can have them on hand at a moment’s notice, for cakes, cookies, and cocktails. Large eggs, by definition, weigh 2 ounces, or between 50 and 60 grams. So if you’re using frozen whites stored in a deli-cup (for easy removal), chop off and weigh out 40 grams, or 20 grams per serving. If you’re not using a scale, use the above method.

As far as mixing the white, I use a shaker, but you could also lightly whisk it, or use an electric frother, gently. You don’t want to make a meringue.

To finish the drink, I like to flame some orange zest oils over the glass, and finish it with a twist of orange—but garnish is up to you.

Since it’s Friday, I suggest we all stop work at 5 on the nose and have a couple of egg-white appetizers called The Whiskey Sour.

Rye Whiskey Sour

  • 40 grams egg white (1 large egg white)
  • 35 to 40 grams 1:1 simple syrup (1 tablespoon sugar dissolved in 1 tablespoon water)
  • 90 grams Old Overholt Rye, or whiskey of your choice (3 ounces)
  • 30 grams lemon juice (2 tablespoons)
  • 10 grams lime juice (2 teaspoons)
  • Ice cubes
  • Orange zest, or garnish of your choice
  1. Chill two martini glasses.
  2. Put the egg white in a cocktail shaker and shake thoroughly 20 to 30 times. Add the simple syrup, rye, and lemon and lime juices and shake again until well combined.
  3. Fill the shaker with ice and shake gently to chill the cocktail completely. Strain into the chilled glasses. Garnish as you please.
Serves two, and I recommend, unlike the martini, having a second, as it’s Friday.

If you liked this post on the VTR Whiskey Sour, check out these other links:

© 2012 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2012 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.

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47 Wonderful responses to “Friday Cocktail Hour: The Whiskey Sour”

  • Elsewhere

    While I certainly enjoy bourbon, my love for rye knows no bounds. For my taste, a Manhattan with rye rises into mystic goodness (and if you use a Luxardo or Le Parisenne brandied cherry — or one you have brandied yourself — you can elevate that into ethereal mystic goodness.)

    Sadly, much like my gin martini I find myself encountering confusion at the occasional bar. Yes, I want a Manhattan. Yes, with rye. Really. No, not with bourbon, thank you. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

  • Lora in Louisville

    Ruhlman, what about the mint julep in honor of The Derby this weekend…..”and down the gullet, oops stretch they come”…

    • Michael Ruhlman

      damn, that would have been a great call! I love a mint julep!

      • Julie

        You can easily rectify this by having a very special Saturday cocktail hour as well.

  • Sharon

    Mr. Ruhlman, you might be interested to know that virtually all the nutritional value of an egg (aside from a couple grams of protein) comes from the yolk, not the white. Didn’t you learn that while doing research for the egg chapter in your book?

    • claudia young

      FYI… an egg white has about 4 grams of protein, some calcium and lots of potassium. a yolk has the fat, cholesterol (neither of which i have a problem with), about half the protein of the white, along with less potassium and more calcium.

      • Sharon

        By weight, the yolk actually has more protein than the white, as well as virtually all the vitamins and iron.

    • Michael Ruhlman

      sharon, surely you will be interested to know, as I am writing a little something on the egg, this: “more than a dozen different proteins form the albumen, all of them serving specific functions in a developing creature—some feeding the embryo, some fending off large predators, others disabling harmful microbes, evolution at its most elegant”

  • Will

    One trick for shaking the egg white:
    1) Take the spring off a hawthorn strainer, and dry-shake the egg white along with the spring.
    2) Take out the spring, and continue making the drink as normal.

    You really have to shake the hell out of the drink to get a good froth on it.

    I really like flips, many of which are made with a whole egg, not just an egg white. It goes without saying that you should try to use fresh farm eggs for drinks featuring raw eggs (for both health and safety).

    • Michael Ruhlman

      good call on all those comments, and thanks especially for bringing up flips!

  • Tony

    Take out or leave the egg white, follow the recipe, but top with a little red wine and you get a NY Sour. Also quite tasty

  • Carly

    I don’t drink cocktails much, maybe because I am a bit lazy when it comes to drinking and I’m so happy with beer, wine, and neat scotch that I don’t much venture outside of that.

    I’ve only had a whiskey sour once. I met up with a guy I had just started seeing at a bar (actually, maybe it was a first date?) and he asked me what I wanted. I said whiskey, he asked what kind, I said it didn’t much matter. Never in a million years did I think that might lead to him coming back with a whiskey sour, but that’s what I ended up drinking nonetheless.

    I don’t think I had ever even heard of it before, and I’ve never gone back to that particular well since. I doubt the dingy Mission district bar we were in used anything other than sour mix. This… looks a lot better.

  • Ben

    Just made this, with Bulleit Rye bought at Zagara’s for the occasion. Outstanding, better than anything called “sour” I’ve ever had. The eggs add a lot in terms of both flavor and mouthfeel. Thanks for posting this.

  • Barbara | Creative Culinary

    I posted a margarita today for Happy Hour; out of deference to Cinco de Mayo which has a big celebration in Colorado but was also thinking I should have done a mint julep for the Derby; so think I’ll just punt and have a whiskey sour! I do love them; it’s on my lists of classics I love. With egg white, of course!

    • Carly

      It’s as simple as holding a piece of zest over your drink, holding a match or lighter up to it for a few seconds, then squeezing. Cut a big enough piece that you don’t singe yourself in the process!

  • Darcie

    Have you tried the new(ish) Bulleit Rye? I admit I’m new to bourbons and ryes but I do like the Bulleit brands. I will be making this soon, but afraid it’s too late tonight…and tomorrow it will be mint juleps.

  • Michael Ruhlman

    darcie and ben (and ben knows) bulleit is excellent

  • Attrill

    Templeton is another great Rye worth checking out. Oh, and the Julep oversight is unforgivable, UNFORGIVABLE! ;) I just poured my simple syrup over the mint to sit for the night.

    • John

      Templeton Rye is excellent but only available in Iowa (where it is extremely difficult to find), Illinois, New York (where it seems plentiful) and California. I’ve only scored one bottle with the help of a friend in Iowa but I usually order a cocktail with it when in Chicago or New York.

  • Carol Melancon

    Won’t flaming the orange oil burn away the oil you’re trying to get onto the cocktail? Unless, of course, you’re going for effect rather than flavor.

  • Kate Schmidt

    Am drinking this now, made with Bulleit rye. We usually make our sours with Canadian whiskey or sometimes Bourbon, but I think we’ve just permanently converted to rye. And it *was* helpful to use the scale for the eggs. We make sours fairly frequently – this might be the best one I’ve ever made!

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  • Evan

    I have a recipe for margaritas that uses egg whites. It gives it a foamy head – I usually tell no one what is in it. In a pinch, I use powdered egg whites if I’m concerned that someone is going to throw a fit about uncooked eggs.

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