The weather this summer has been all over the place. Scorchingly hot, pelting with rain, muggy and cloudy, thundering like mad, and just about everything in between. Thankfully, my favourite cocktail pairs well with all weather and all seasons!
I’m a big fan of bourbon sours and I think I’ve perfected the proportions: two parts booze (bourbon), one part sour (lemon juice), and one part sweet (simple syrup).
I like them with just about any bourbon, from pricier options (like Woodford Reserve, which might be my all-time favourite) or common duty-free finds (like the Jack Daniels currently in my cupboard), to relatively inexpensive bottles (like Jim Beam).
The secret to matching the sour to the season is in the garnish.
Summer, with its plethora of produce, calls for raspberries or blackberries, a few leaves of basil, or (best of all) the rummed cherries from the recipe below. Fresh cranberries or a slice of apple are perfect for autumn. While maraschino cherries, a twist of orange zest, or a slice of lemon carry the drink into winter. And spring means a sprig of mint, a wedge of grapefruit, or an early strawberry.
Amp up the impact of any garnish by including some with the liquids, letting it rattle around and infuse as the drink comes together, straining it out with the shaker ice, and then anointing the final product with a non-shaken specimen.
The process of making a bourbon sour is pretty standard:
- Put a few cubes of ice in a shaker (or Tupperware container if your kitchen isn’t bar-focused)
- Add two parts bourbon and one part each lemon juice and simple syrup – along with a flavour-enhancer if desired
- Shake thoroughly and strain into a glass with a couple ice cubes
- Garnish as seasonally appropriate or enjoy unadorned
I always add the bourbon to the ice first and let it chill while I juice the lemon and measure the simple syrup, but I suspect there’s no wrong order – I just love the smell of bourbon when it hits the ice!
Freshly squeezed lemon juice is essential. Use room temperature lemons and roll them on the counter first to help release the juice. Then squeeze like the dickens. Do not use purchased lemon juice (like RealLemon) or, god forbid, bar lime (aka lime cordial). I once ordered a bourbon sour at a bar and it came out bright green – turns out bar lime was to blame. Ick.
The simple syrup really is simple to make:
- Pour a cup of white sugar into a clean jar
- Add a cup of very hot water
- Slap on the lid and give it a mix
- Let sit until the sugar is fully dissolved – shaking a few times
- Store in the fridge
Making the rummed cherries is just about as easy… pitting the cherries is the hard part!
- 50g (1/2 cup) soft brown sugar
- 125ml (1/2 cup) water
- 50ml (1 & 2/3 oz) fresh lemon juice
- 1 cinnamon stick
- Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
- Half a vanilla pod, scored
- 450g (1 pound) sweet cherries
- 250ml (1 cup) rum (amber or dark work best)
- Wash and pit cherries (cursing as cherry juice splatters everywhere)
- In a saucepan, combine all ingredients except cherries and rum and bring to boil; when liquid begins to boil, reduce heat to a light simmer
- Add cherries and simmer for 5 minutes
- Remove from heat and add rum
- Transfer cherries to jars and cool completely at room temperature, about 2 hours
- Refrigerate up to 2 weeks (they’ve never lasted beyond a weekend in my fridge!)
The cherries are a fantastic boozy topping for ice cream, an excellent garnish for drinks beyond sours (like piña coladas), and great paired with anything chocolate. The liquor makes a wonderful cocktail when mixed with a splash of vodka (or vanilla vodka for a sweeter concoction) and topped up with sparkling water.
Some drinks only seem appropriate at certain times of the year (like piña coladas on tropical vacations or rum and eggnog at Christmas), but I find a bourbon sour is perfect regardless of the season! They’re pretty simple to make, fun to garnish, and easy to drink… sometimes maybe a little too easy!