Now, I’m not here trying to suggest that the whiskey sour is a drink that is at all unfamiliar to readers of these august pages. A venerable classic of the first cocktail age, and a drink that has survived many affronts to its decency in a 145 year history cannot be a stranger to the denizens of Bourbon & Banter. How could you guys resist the cool, refreshing and easily balanced combination of whiskey, lemon and sugar syrup?
But, have you ever considered the other flavors that play well with these? The sweetness of the whiskey enhanced by the woody notes of lavender; or the tartness of lemon tamed by the silken, nutty flavor of elderflower? What do these all suggest? That a combination of whiskey, lemon and something floral will be one to please your senses.
This recipe was in fact created by happy accident. I have long been a fan of using the subtle flavors of tea to enhance my cocktail experiences. Green tea infused in dry vermouth for a complex, Oriental Martini, or chai tea in sweet vermouth for a rich and spiced Manhattan. It is not a stretch from here to think that clearly the soft, floral notes of camomile would work well with lemon, so it is a mystery that I first thought to use camomile infused bourbon in a Manhattan. It doesn’t really work. I wouldn’t recommend it.
But the whiskey sour. Now that’s different. The soft silky mouth-feel provided by the gently inflated egg white. The initial blast of lemon juice that slowly fades into hay-like, juicy camomile, and underneath it all, keeping quiet, minding its own business, the sweet complexity of a good bourbon, carrying the entire earthy, entrancing concoction through to a rich finish.
I wouldn’t necessarily call it a spring time drink – the brown spirits lend themselves more easily to brooding cold weather brews – but it is certainly a drink that seems to fit the last days of winter, when the first tentative shoots of Snowdrops appear in the local woodlands and we can just about begin to dream of the thaw.
You have two options for adding camomile flavor to this drink. An infusion if you have a whole bottle of bourbon and 24 hours to wait, or a syrup for a quicker recipe and a more intense camomile hit:
- Infusion: Add ¾ cup of camomile flowers to a 700ml bottle of bourbon and leave to infuse for 24 hours before straining.
- Syrup: Use the camomile flowers to brew 200ml of tea according to the instructions on the packet. Combine the tea with 1 cup of granulated sugar and warm in a saucepan over a low heat, and stir until it has dissolved. Keep refrigerated in a sterile bottle and it will keep for up to a month.
Once one of these is ready, proceed:
- 1 oz [bourbon]
- ½ oz fresh lemon juice
- ¼ oz sugar syrup*
- ½ oz egg white (optional)
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and fill with cubed ice. Shake well and, if using the egg white, strain back into the shaker and ‘dry shake’ (no ice) or blitz with a stick blender. Strain into a chilled rocks glass and enjoy – it’s so full of antioxidants that it’s practically good for you.