How did New York manage to hang its name on this drink? I have no idea—but before it did, this simple twist on the whiskey sour made the rounds for several decades during the late 19th century under an assortment of names. As cocktail historian David Wondrich wrote in Imbibe!, the drink was also known as a "Continental Sour" and a "Southern Whiskey Sour" during the 1880s, but the "New York Sour" name mostly settled on it by the early 1900s (though I've recently seen this very same drink pop up on bar menus as a "Greenwich Sour").
It's easy to see why there was so much vying for the name: this is an extremely pleasant drink. A base of American whiskey (rye is the desired variety here) is fleshed out with a little fresh lemon juice and smoothed over with a touch of sugar; the crowning touch comes with a float of dry red wine (think Syrah or Malbec, or try whatever dry red you have at hand), which gives a layered, red-headed appearance to the finished drink. And to make this already agreeable drink even better suited for a range of appetites, it can be served over ice in a rocks glass, or straight up in a chilled cocktail glass, depending on your mood.
A whiskey sour is a drink of sublime simplicity, and the New York Sour takes the whole thing one extra step, with the tart bite of the sour goosed up with a crisp snap from the wine, which also lends a complex, dry finish to this most satisfying drink.
- 2 ounces rye whiskey
- 3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
- 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar (or 1/4 to 1/2 ounce simple syrup), to taste
- Splash chilled club soda (optional)
- 1/2 ounce dry red wine
Add sugar and lemon juice to a cocktail shaker and stir to dissolve (if using simple syrup, skip this step).
Add whiskey to lemon/sugar mixture and fill cocktail shaker with ice.
Shake well for 10 seconds, and strain into either an ice-filled rocks glass or a chilled cocktail glass. Add splash of club soda (optional).
Carefully pour the red wine over the back of a bar spoon so it forms a layer atop the drink.