For most of us, Rites of Passage are highly anticipated milestones that define life's progressive ladder. These mile-markers on the highway of our life provide a gauge of how far we have gone – or not.

They likely include our First Communion, first kiss, obtaining a driver's license, graduation(s) from a meaningful institution of learning, first sexual experience, birth of a child or any of several dozen other happenings – both pleasant and depressing.

When it came to proving how grown-up we were, one Rite was having a real cocktail. Not just a beer, or sneaking whiskey from our parents' liquor cabinet, but being offered and saying "yes" to a real adult mixed drink – one that required preparation and shaking.

Oh boy, look at how sophisticated I have become. Why yes, thank you, I think I will have one of those little sausages on a toothpick.

For me, that first taste of this particular Rite of Passage was a whiskey sour. Even now, I am tempted to order one from time to time. I don't and I guess I fear of what will happen if I tamper with the irrefutable law of nature: you cannot go back.

Yet that classification of cocktail, the sour, has been reborn to public acclaim. Bars now feature the Sour, but instead of just whiskey as the prominent base spirit, there are wide ranges of spirits bringing their unique flavors to the project. Preceding the word “sour” in the title can be Brandy, Pisco, Gin, Midori, Rum, even Tequila, or even going by another name, such as Daiquiri or Lemon Drop.

You are likely way ahead of me on this, but the classification “sour” is defined as any cocktail that features a base spirit, lemon or lime juice, and a sweetener; which may include simple syrup, Triple Sec, grenadine, or a fruit juice such as pineapple. Sours are one of the oldest classifications of cocktails, likely being mixed in the early 1800’s and were well described in Jerry Thomas’ classic and groundbreaking volume, How to Mix Drinks – published 1862, one of the first cocktail how-to books.

Some of the drinks, which you regularly enjoy, are actually sours going by another name, like the Margarita, Sidecar, Dark ‘n’ Stormy, Kamikaze and Bramble, among other names. Some sours, like a classic Whiskey Sour and the Pisco Sour, use egg whites to provide a frothy and creamy texture. There is discussion about the danger of salmonella whenever an uncooked egg is included, but the likelihood of ingesting the bacteria is very, very small and the solution of citric acid and alcohol in the drink will mitigate or kill the small amount present, should any at all be in the egg.

Keep in mind that if you are going to add egg to the drink, shake the ingredients without ice first; as egg whites do not take well to mixing with ice. After shaking without ice, then add ice to the shaker after all the ingredients have meshed together, and shake again, straining the mixture before pouring into a proper glass. At this point the drink will be cool, rich and the egg-induced foam will float to the top.


Whiskey Sour 

(Adapted from Salvatore Calabrese, Classic Cocktails, with thanks to


  • 1 3/4 ounces bourbon (or rye whiskey)
  • 2/3 ounces freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon simple syrup
  • 1 egg white (optional)


Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker over ice and shake briskly. If you include an egg, shake ingredients first with no ice. Then add ice for second shake. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a Maraschino cherry. Also garnish with fresh orange slice.


Pisco Sour

(Allen Katz,


  • 2 oz  Macchu Pisco or Porton Pisco
  • 1 oz  Fresh lime juice
  • .5 oz  Simple syrup
  • 1 Fresh egg white
  • Several drops of Angostura Bitters


Add all the ingredients to a shaker and shake.
Then fill the shaker with ice and again shake vigorously.
Strain into a highball glass or Champagne flute.
Garnish with a lime wheel and 3 gentle drops of Angostura Bitters, which will settle in the foam of the cocktail.
Artistic touch: using a straw, swirl the bitters into a simple design.


New York Sour

(Allen Katz,


  • 2 oz   Rye whiskey or bourbon
  • 1 oz    Fresh Lemon juice
  • .75 oz Simple syrup
  • .5 oz   Red wine


Add all the ingredients except the wine to a shaker and fill with ice.

Shake, and strain into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice.

Slowly pour the wine over the back of a spoon so that it floats on top of the drink.



Amaretto Sour

(Jeffrey Morgenthaler,


  • 1.5 oz   Amaretto
  • .75 oz   Cask-proof bourbon
  • 1 oz      Fresh Lemon juice
  • 1 tsp     Rich simple syrup
  • .5 oz     Egg white, beaten


Add all ingredients to a shaker and dry shake to combine.

Add fresh ice to the shaker and shake again until chilled.

Strain over fresh ice into an Old Fashioned glass.

Garnish with lemon peel and brandied cherries, if desired.



Oh, the joy of a simple cocktail, well-made and balanced. It does not have to be any more complicated than this.