When you wander down the whiskey aisle, the choices can understandably feel overwhelming. The easiest option can be to grab your favorite bottle, whether or not it'll work for the whiskey sour you have in mind, then dash away home. But I did some digging and found the best whiskey for a whiskey sour. Now all you need to do is locate that bottle on the shelf.
Best Whiskeys for any Whiskey Sour
Best for Traditional Whiskey Sours: Elijah Craig Small Batch BourbonThe best choice for the original whiskey sour flavor. Read more.
Best House Whiskey: Four Roses BourbonA whiskey that'll make any whiskey cocktail go from good to great. Read more.
Boldest Flavor: Rittenhouse Rye 100For when you want a bold rye flavor in your whiskey sour. Read more.
Best Flavored Whiskey: Traverse City Cherry BourbonThe ideal whiskey for a subtly flavored whiskey sour. Read more.
Best of Mash Whiskeys: Jack DanielsFor those who want a whiskey that pairs well with sour. Read more.
Best of Canadian Whisky: Lot 40 Canadian Rye WhiskyIf you want something other than an American whiskey, this is for you. Read more.
Best Budget Pick: Old OverholtThe best pick for a great whiskey without breaking the budget. Read more.
Best for a Bite: Wild Turkey RyeThis whiskey if for those who want their sour with a spicier bite. Read more.
Best of Ryes: Bulleit Rye WhiskeyAn ideal pick for when you want a rye that isn't too bold but just right. Read more.
Best of Blended Whiskeys: Old Elk Blended Straight Bourbon WhiskeyFor those who want a more complex whiskey flavor. Read more.
Best of Aged: Uncle Nearest 1884For a whiskey that isn't shy about its bite. Read more.
Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon
A spicy yet rich and full-flavored whiskey, the Elijah Craig Small Batch delivers in a big way. The sharp palette holds firm in the whiskey sour, making itself known without being the only flavor.
The singular flavor of warm spices with the subtle smoke, due to charred oak barrels, makes it an everyday whiskey for a memorable whiskey sour. Smooth and slightly toasty with a gentle bite, don't mistake this whiskey for simple.
Four Roses Bourbon
Four Roses deliver an incredibly smooth bourbon for an exceptionally small price. It's one of my favorites to keep on hand for experimenting or trying out new recipes. It has a gentle spice and sweet nose, with a soft yet crisp and smooth taste.
It has the subtle hint of fruit, including apple, with an easy, mellow finish, lingering just long enough. It holds up well in a whiskey sour, adding a slight fruit flavor to an otherwise sour citrus cocktail.
Rittenhouse Rye 100
Rittenhouse Rye packs a spicy, biting flavor into every sip. Its flavor verges on domination in every drink, held back by the mixed ingredients only just enough to remind you it's a cocktail and not straight whiskey with a hint of sour.
Rittenhouse's notes of caramel and rich cocoa, dusted with spices including cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla, pave the way for the lingering maple flavor that's quickly followed with its signature spiciness and strong bite. But there's a memory of smoked wood that lingers after each sip.
Traverse City Cherry Bourbon
A sweet whiskey may seem an unusual profile for a whiskey sour, but the Traverse City Cherry Bourbon delivers an unimaginably flavorful whiskey sour. The subtle yet sweet fruit taste balances the sour citrus juices with the tart and juicy cherry, blending for a new cocktail.
The cherry flavor is second to the bourbon flavor, setting a firm line that this isn't similar to a flavored vodka. Its flavor is closer to a tart cherry that's been infused with whiskey after sitting on the bottom of your glass. Overall, it gives an earthy whiskey flavor with layers of cherry carefully woven in.
This Tennessee sour mash whiskey is made up of corn, rye, and barley malt, which is distilled then charcoal filtered. It's a whiskey that is mildly sweet with notes of caramel and vanilla on the surface and a strong whisper of charred wood. It delivers a crisp flavor, with only a gentle bite.
What Jack Daniels gets right is its sweet and oaky flavor, those shadows of spice and charcoal separating it from other whiskeys on the market. It's the whiskey that plays best with citrus flavors, making it an incredible pairing with whiskey sours.
Lot 40 Canadian Rye Whisky
While it's quick work to reach for an American whiskey when you're building a whiskey sour, don't overlook Canadian options. Lot 40's whisky has flavors of baking spices and stone fruits, with a strong statement of spice and citrus.
The zest on the nose leads to bold oak and toffee flavors with a sweet yet refreshing finish. It's a well-rounded, approachable rye that skips the usual bite.
Old Overholt is a flavorful and budget-friendly rye whiskey. It has a sweet nose, with hints of graham cracker and vanilla floating to the surface, and a subtle spiced nuance.
Compared to other whiskeys, the body isn't as bold, but it makes its rye background known. There's a quiet taste of orange citrus, spices, and wood with a quick finish, and just the smallest of lingering flavors.
Wild Turkey Rye
Ryes sometimes teeter between the bold and the brave. Wild Turkey's rye confidently strides into the brave territory. One of the spiciest ryes on the market, the bite is tempered by the vanilla and spices, with layers of smoke and warmth throughout.
The nose has a citrus, albeit spicy, feel, complementing the sour in the cocktail. The finish is crisp and clean, with bold rye and spice flavors, lingering until the next sip.
Bulleit Rye Whiskey
Bulliet is a familiar name with whiskey, but their rye is the best option for a whiskey sour. Despite the size of their operation, Bulliet Rye is made from locally sourced ingredients.
The whiskey isn't bottled until it has aged a minimum of five years, allowing the flavors of vanilla, citrus, and spicy oak to truly shine. As it finishes, flavors of spice and caramel provide a sweeter taste to contrast the bite of rye.
Old Elk Blended Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Old Elk uses nearly four times the amount of malted barley compared to other distilleries, resulting in a lighter and slightly sweeter whiskey than others. In combination with the rye and corn, a robust flavor is born.
The sweet vanilla and caramel nose, with a touch of almond, is followed by the taste of maple syrup, more almond notes, as well as a chocolate and wood flavor. The whiskey lingers after each sip, but is a smooth extension of the first sip.
Uncle Nearest 1884
Aged for 8-14 years, Uncle Nearest isn't a whiskey for the faint-hearted. Although smooth, its potent bite will certainly keep the sour from overpowering the spirit.
Each blend is personally and carefully curated. The resulting whiskey a blend of citrus notes and light flavors making a stark contrast to the bite it imparts on the finish. The nose of white pepper and honey is a warning of the spicy and sweet flavors to come. A dry palate with a short but smooth finish rounds out this whiskey.
The best whiskey for a whiskey sour is the one that matches the flavor profile you're searching for. There's a whiskey for all budgets: those that want a stronger bite, those that want a mellower sip, and those that want something unique or conversation-starting. There's a whiskey and whiskey sour for all.