Today, on the way to work, my car told me it was up for a service. The electronic dumping control – or something like that – wasn’t working. When I got to work, I called the garage while I made a coffee with a new machine. Just as I was adjusting the temperature and selecting whether my coffee was long, normal or ristretto, the garage answered and I got confused. I ended up with a scolding hot coffee. I booked the car in hurriedly and, feeling irritated, went to the cafeteria. I ordered a coffee and a typical Brazilian chocolate – brigadeiro. Then the cashier asked me which brigadeiro I wanted. “I don’t know, aren’t they all the same?” I answered. “No, now we have a selection of more than ten different flavoured ones, there’s peanut, Belgian chocolate, pistachio, dulce de leche, coffee…”
You know, I don’t miss disaffection, but on that day, I just wanted a bit of simplicity. An espresso, a traditional brigadeiro and a car that can’t talk and doesn’t pull parts with odd names out of its metaphorical, electronic hat. I know, however, that this is the way things are going in today’s society. They start simple, but as time goes by become more complicated. It is not only true of coffees, cars and chocolates, the Whiskey Sour is a very clear example in the world of cocktails.
The first recipe ever written for a Whiskey Sour was in the book The Bartender’s Guide, by Jerry Thomas. With the simple grace of everything that is beginning to take shape, it only contained three things: simple syrup, the juice of half a lemon and a glass of bourbon and rye whisky. Over time though, the drink became more sophisticated – or rather more complicated – gaining versions. Cherry sauce, lemon rind, sparkling water… The addition of these elements actually had one clear function: to stand out from the crowd. They were ways of getting away from the ordinary and creating an identity. That’s what everyone wants nowadays.
But the most controversial thing added to Whiskey Sour was, without shadow of a doubt, egg-white. This, which many now claim is characteristic of the cocktail, only figured in its recipe almost a century later and to this day is much debated. For example, the version of the cocktail illustrated in Joy of Mixology by Gary Regan (2003) doesn’t contain egg-white and The Essential Cocktail by Dale DeGroff (2008) says it is optional. The egg-white doesn’t alter the taste of the cocktail, but it improves its texture.
The controversy over the egg-white has nothing to do with the originality of the recipe, but with health. Raw egg can cause salmonella, an unpleasant strain of bacteria that causes vomiting, diarrhoea and all kinds of gastro-eschatological symptoms. In some cases, salmonella can be fatal. It turns out however, that we are pretty resilient creatures and – provided a bar respects hygiene standards – the risk of salmonella is very small for most of us. It’s only relevant if you’re in poor health or for children. Incidentally, let me add, if you are very ill or if you’re a child – don’t drink cocktails. With or without raw eggs.
Originally, Whiskey Sour was made with rye whisky as the base spirit. The choice was not for the flavour or aroma, but because it was the easiest product to get when it was created. A creation which is associated with that of Gimlet and Grog. At that time, many sailors on long sea voyages suffered from scurvy, caused by a lack of vitamin C in the body. Since there were no dietary supplements back then, the best solution was to eat fruit. Fruit however, can go off. Alcohol therefore acted as a preservative, while the sugar made the blend more palatable. Incredibly, and wonderfully – in my opinion – one complemented the other in flavour too and so the panacea became a success. The British navy invented the Gimlet (with gin) and Grog (with rum), while the Americans used rye whisky and came up with the beloved cocktail that is the theme of this post.
So, without further ado, my dear readers, here is the recipe of one of the most famous cocktails of all time. Please note, that the recipe below is not the classic one. It is however, in the opinion of this canine, the one that perfects the drink’s simplicity. No frugalities, coffees, chocolates or talking cars. Just a little bit of egg-white, sugar syrup, whisky and lemon.
- 2 measures bourbon whisky
- 1 measure lemon juice
- 3/4 measure of sugar syrup (1:1) – (learn how to make it here)
- 1 dessert spoon egg-white
- cocktail shaker
- Put the bourbon, lemon juice, sugar syrup and egg-white in a cocktail shaker. Shake well. This is called a dry shake – the idea is to make the foam characteristic of egg-white.
- Open the shaker carefully and add ice. Shake well.
- Pour the contents into a tumbler, with some ice cubes – or preferably one big ice cube.
- Enjoy and drink to simplicity.