A direct descendant of punch, the basic sour forms the template for a host of modern drinks—from classics that wear the sour badge proudly (the Whiskey Sour, the Gin Sour, the New York Sour) to countless modern drinks that have built on the family’s simple structure.
The first mentions of the sour—which was originally made from a base spirit, citrus, sugar and water and served neat in a small bar glass—can be traced to the mid-19th century. Today, the category is mostly commonly associated with a core of classic drinks, like the Whiskey Sour, arguably the most recognizable iteration of the drink, and one PUNCH prefers to embellish with the addition of an egg white (which is commonly referred to as the Boston Sour) for extra fluff.
The sour, knowing no bounds, is also the template from which South America’s most beloved cocktail, the Pisco Sour—a frothy spur off the family tree made with pisco, lemon juice, simple syrup and egg white, topped with Angostura bitters—was born. In the early-20th century, around the same time the Pisco Sour’s supposed creator, Victor Morris, was shaking up drinks in Peru, British colonials were sipping on sours at the Pegu Club. One of the many social clubs that sprung up in 1920s Myanmar (then known as Burma), the Pegu Club’s house cocktail—a mix of gin, curacao, lime and bitters—has become one of the most beloved drinks in the sour category.
Of course, as with any cocktail category, there’s always one black sheep—a drink that’s often been co-opted by college students or coaxed down the tubes by things like bottled sour mix or canned juice. In this case, that drink is the Amaretto Sour, a ’70s throwback that tends to skew sweet like many of that decade’s classics. But every cocktail deserves a second chance, and that’s exactly what Jeffrey Morgenthlaer’s balanced, bourbon-spiked version has given it.
From Peru to Burma to New York and back again, what these drinks all share in common is an affection for citrus and a signature bite that knows no seasonal bounds.