To trace the history of the sour, you’ll need to go back 300 years, to the other side of the Atlantic, aboard a British Royal Navy vessel where sailors were contracting scurvy before they ever reached their destination. A Scottish man by the name of James Lind discovered that citrus was an effective way to prevent this disease, and limes and lemons were put aboard Navy ships (hence why Brits are still sometimes referred to as “limeys”) for the sailors to consume. It didn’t take the sailors long to realize that lemons and limes by themselves are awful and that lemons and limes mixed with alcohol are, in fact, not awful.
But the drink the sailors were making back in the 1700’s was mixed with whatever alcohol they had on hand, usually watered-down beer or rum, and no sweetener was added. However, the popularity of the drink still managed to drift inland and it eventually became a common bar staple once the rum was replaced with whiskey and sugar was added to soften the bitterness. The first known written example of an official “sour” recipe comes from what some consider the most important publication in cocktail history, Jerry Thomas’s 1862 How to Mix Drinks: the Bon-vivant’s Companion. Thomas’s version was served in a wine glass with shaved ice, and we can’t disagree with that application.
“The sour,” although most popular with whiskey, really just refers to any liquor mixed with citrus and lightly sweetened with sugar. It is popular for many reasons. First off, it’s an easy drink to make as most recipes just call for the three primary ingredients: liquor, citrus, sugar. Secondly, it’s tasty. Really tasty. The perfect mix of bitter, citrus and sweet, the sour can appeal to a lot of people. Finally, the base drink is easily adapted, improved upon and customized for the liquor, citrus and other ingredients you want to feature.
In our version of the Moonshine Sour, our 100 proof premium moonshine is softened out by an egg white and simple syrup and gets kicked up a notch with the addition of yellow chartreuse. The foam the egg creates when the drink is poured into a wide-mouthed coupe glass gives the drink-maker the opportunity to add a little art with just a few drops of bitters and a toothpick. It’s a drink even the saltiest sailor would love.
1.5 oz 100 proof Belle Isle Premium Moonshine
.5 oz lemon juice
.5 oz simple syrup
1 egg white
.5 oz yellow chartreuse
Combine all ingredient in a shaker with no ice, and shake vigorously for 20-30 seconds. Pack shaker with ice, shake for another 20-30 seconds. Double strain into a chilled coupe glass. Add 5-6 drops of bitters and create your design with a straw or toothpick.
Photography by Ash Carr
Recipe courtesy of Adam Pitts / Gregg Brooks