How to Make Your Whiskey Sour Better: The New York Sour

October  3, 2013

You'll no longer have to buy a plane ticket to get in on the cocktails at Seattle's Essex: Owners Brandon Pettit and Molly Wizenberg (a.k.a. Orangette) will be sharing their favorite recipes with us, every other week. Drink up, people.

Today: Dress up your rye in autumn's finest.

New York Sour from Food52
Playing around with booze and inventing new cocktails might be the best job a person could have, but the truth is, it’s hard to top an old classic like the New York Sour. It’s the kind of drink that belongs in every repertoire: balanced, handsome, good on its own and with food, complex but eminently sluggable. Basically, it’s a whiskey sour, but made with rye whiskey, always, and finished with a red wine “float,” or a small amount of wine poured carefully into the glass at the very end, so that it floats in a tidy layer on top.

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New York Sour from Food52

It sounds fancy, and it looks even fancier, but it’s not hard to get the hang of the float. The easiest way to do it is to hold a spoon upside down over the glass, either just above the surface of the drink or barely touching it, and pour the wine over back of the spoon, so that it cascades gently into the drink without sinking. Ta daaa: a two-tone cocktail, straw yellow below and crimson above. It’s a good party trick. (Though you’ll want to drop in a cocktail straw and suggest that your guests stir before drinking -- that’s how it tastes best.)

According to cocktail authority David Wondrich, the New York Sour is not actually from New York, but rather from Chicago, where, in the 1880s, a bartender began dressing up his sours by adding a “snap” of claret. But it was particularly popular in New York during Prohibition, when the wine, lemon, and sugar were handy camouflages for the not-so-hot whiskey of the era, and at some point, the name stuck. Whatever its origins, you could drink a New York Sour anytime, anywhere, and it would feel right. But we’re partial to it for early fall, the way the puckery lemon swirls together with spicy rye and dark, warming red wine.

New York Sour from Food52
New York Sour
Adapted from Kenaniah Bystrom

1 3/4 ounces rye whiskey, preferably 90 to 100 proof
3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 ounce rich simple syrup
1/2 ounce dry red wine (such as Malbec or Syrah)
Lemon twist for garnish

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Molly Wizenberg

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Scott Dillan
    Scott Dillan
  • Jessica Hansen
    Jessica Hansen
  • Marian Bull
    Marian Bull
  • LittleKi
  • Kenzi Wilbur
    Kenzi Wilbur
Brandon and Molly met because of a mutual interest in food - or, more specifically, when Brandon read Molly's food blog Orangette and sent her an e-mail that included some very effective compliments. The better part of a decade later, they co-own and run the restaurant Delancey and its sibling Essex, in Seattle. Brandon is the chef of both, and when he's not manning the wood-burning oven, he likes to make things from scratch that more sane people would probably buy, like mustard, vinegars, pretzels, and obscurely flavored liqueurs. Molly is the manager / Organizer of All Things at Delancey and Essex, and she is also the author of the New York Times bestseller A Homemade Life and the forthcoming memoir Delancey. They have a young daughter named June, who is excitedly crawling toward the refrigerator as Molly types this sentence, and two dogs named Jack and Alice.


Scott D. April 7, 2016
Dear friends,

like the New York Sour drink? well take a few extra min.. and visit the new york sour gallery.!!!! www.newyorksourgallery.com My posters cost 24$ and are created in the highest quality. Thank you, and feel free to leave some feedback.
Jessica H. November 9, 2013
A few weekends ago we took a trip north from Portland to Seattle to eat our way around. The drinks at Essex were a highlight. SO well crafted. The space, brilliant. Nice work Brandon and Molly. Oh...and the pizza next door ain't bad either :)
Marian B. October 4, 2013
This makes me <3 NY even more than I did previously.
LittleKi October 4, 2013
I <3 Delancey. Will have to try this at home. :)
Kenzi W. October 3, 2013
Counting the hours until I can make this.