Cocktail

A Refreshing Bourbon Sour, Starring the Season's Last Plums

We'll be sipping it through the end of summer and into fall.

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October  2, 2020
Photo by Elliott Clark

We've partnered with Basil Hayden's®—makers of smooth, spicy-sweet Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey that's perfect for mixing into cocktails or sipping neat—to celebrate moments of togetherness, even though they might look a bit different this year. All season long, we'll be sharing delicious ideas for enjoying bourbon with your closest loved ones at small, intimate gatherings, from low-key backyard hangouts to special holiday dinners with family.

Here, we're sharing our Resident Bartender Elliott Clark's recipe for an end-of-summer cocktail to sip outside with friends: a refreshing bourbon sour made with fresh plums.


With its warming bite and rich notes of spice, you might think of whiskey as a sip-by-the-fire spirit. Think: curled up on an old leather armchair as the fireplace crackles and a fresh blanket of snow coats the ground.

But actually, whiskey—especially a bourbon like Basil Hayden's—isn't meant to be enjoyed alone, or exclusively during winter. It's perfect for serving at all sorts of late-summer or early fall occasions (and all year round, really). I for one like to mix it into cocktails for my friends; this year, that means on the back patio or sprawled out on blankets at the park from a safe social distance.

A bit sweeter and less smoky than other types of whiskey, with aromas of vanilla and dried fruit, Basil Hayden's is a versatile bourbon that plays nicely with citrus and fresh herbs. That's why it works so well in classic warm-weather drinks (think: the Kentucky Derby's mint julep).

It's also the base of the cocktail I'll be mixing up for my family (and myself of course), from now until the beginning of October: a bourbon sour with end-of-season plums, straight from Elliott Clark, our resident bartender.

"This drink is perfect for the last days of summer, and the ushering in of a new season," Elliott says. "The base spirit—I chose Basil Hayden's Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, which is light-bodied with a spicy flavor profile—is always the inspiration for any crowd-pleasing cocktail. This specific spirit meshes with many different ingredients, but for a light, late-season cocktail it works well with citrus and other bright fruits." The combination equals a highly sip-able drink just about anyone would enjoy.

"Plums are not only great for this time of year (with their still being in season), but as we get toward the end of summer and into the fall and winter months, bourbon becomes such a prominent spirit," Elliott says—and the two ingredients just so happen to make a great pairing. "Plum goes really well with flavor profiles like vanilla, cinnamon, honey, and hazelnuts, and Basil Hayden's bourbon pulls a lot of those same notes as it ages in oak barrels," he adds.

There's more than one way to incorporate the plum flavor into the cocktail, but here, Elliott goes for a plum-infused syrup sweetened with honey. Making it is simple: Just simmer fresh plum slices in water to release their juice, stir in the honey to combine, then let cool and strain. Another easy-but-effective option is to muddle a few fresh plum slices in the cocktail shaker and use a plain simple syrup instead. (Both will taste wonderful.)

While some whiskey sour recipes call for egg white, which gives the drink a delicate layer of foam on top, Elliott decided to forgo it in this drink. "The egg white provides a velvety texture to the cocktail, so when you don't use it, it's gonna be a little more citrus-forward and refreshing," he says.

By skipping the egg white, you can also batch up the drink and add ice, which makes it a low-maintenance yet delicious option for backyard hangouts with family or socially distanced picnics with friends. To scale it up, simply multiply the amount of each ingredient the recipe calls for by the number of cocktails you want to make.

Of course, if you do want to add an egg white (it certainly looks impressive), you can. One of Elliott's go-to methods for achieving that silky, stable foam is known as the "reverse dry shake," where you "wet shake" (meaning, with ice) all the ingredients except the egg white, strain out the ice, then put everything back in the shaker with one fresh egg white and "dry shake" (sans ice) the whole thing before straining into a glass. Pro tip: Before you serve, twist a squeeze of lemon peel (to release the oils) over the top of the egg white foam to make the drink super aromatic.

Either way you make it, though, you'll want to stick with good-quality bourbon—like Elliott's pick, Basil Hayden's—and ingredients. Elliott also recommends using fresh citrus when making sours, so the bourbon and other flavors really sing (in other words, skip the prepackaged lemon juice). Aside from that, this cocktail's about as foolproof as it gets.


What are you sipping these last few days of summer? Tell us in the comments below.

We've teamed up with Basil Hayden's—makers of artfully aged whiskeys, like smooth Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey and a more complex, ruby-hued Dark Rye—to highlight our favorite ways to share whiskey with close friends and family all year long. Think: creative recipes for serving up at small gatherings, cocktail-making tips for elevating your homemade sips, our favorite tools for stocking your bar cart, and more.

Basil Hayden's® Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, 40% Alc./Vol. ©2020 Kentucky Springs Distilling Co., Clermont, KY

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Erin Alexander is the Associate Editor at Food52, covering pop culture, travel, foods of the internet, and all things #sponsored. Formerly at Men’s Journal, Men’s Fitness, Us Weekly, and Hearst, she currently lives in New York City.

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