The 3-2-1 Ratio For Perfectly Balanced Whiskey Sours

Ever think you've committed a recipe to memory, but when you go to make it, you can't remember the exact measurements called for? If that sounds familiar, then this tip is for you. Remembering a ratio is so much easier than trying to recall you need 1¾ ounces of this and 2 ounces of that. The 3-2-1 ratio for perfectly balanced whiskey sours is a simple formula that requires nothing more complicated than remembering the following mantra: 3 parts spirits, 2 parts sour, 1 part sweet. And this ratio works for other sour cocktails, as well, including the margarita and daiquiri.

The 3-2-1 that make up a whiskey sour are whiskey, of course (typically bourbon or rye), fresh lemon juice, and simple syrup (sugar and water). Sour drinks, in general, are believed to have originated in the 18th century with British Navy sailors, who spiked their spirits with citrus juice from the fruit they carried on board ship to ward off scurvy. A taste for that type of drink followed the sailors on shore, and once a bit of sugar was added to the mix, the sour became a staple at bars everywhere. Whiskey sours have risen and fallen in popularity over the years but are currently enjoying a renewed status as a classic thanks to the craft cocktail movement of the past few decades, which revived traditional cocktail recipes and eliminated pre-made sour mixes in favor of fresh ingredients.

How to apply the 3-2-1 ratio for a balanced cocktail

Bourbon is frequently the whiskey of choice for a sour, but every brand will add different notes to the flavor profile, so a little experimentation may be in order. Your local spirits shop owner may have a good recommendation. And while you probably don't want to go for the cheapest bottle, good quality bourbon doesn't have to be the most expensive, either.

For the "2 parts sour," always use freshly squeezed lemon juice. Stay away from bottled lemon juice made from concentrate, or even worse, pre-made sour mix. When it comes to the "1 part sweet," a simple syrup made with equal parts water and sugar will be sweet enough. (Don't forget, the drink is called a "sour" for a reason.) Warm the water in a saucepan and add the sugar, stirring on low for about five minutes until the sugar dissolves —  but don't allow the water to boil. Remove the pan from the heat and let the mixture cool. Any leftover syrup can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a month.

To make your whiskey sour, put all the ingredients without ice into a cocktail shaker and shake. Then add ice cubes to the shaker and shake again. Strain the contents into a nice glass and garnish with a slice of orange and a cocktail cherry.