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How to Make a New York Sour

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New York Sour - Whiskey sour with red wine float and lemon garnish
New Your Sour

It’s National Wine Day so let’s celebrate with a whiskey drink and a wine float, the famous New York Sour. I love this cocktail. Even though I don’t really drink wine any more this cocktail is the best use of wine I can possibly endorse: floating on a whiskey cocktail.

Makes me wonder if I can freeze wine into cubes to use in whiskey cocktails. Let me make a note for a later post.

This week I’m covering whiskey sours, from part 1 where I covered an easy classic whiskey sour recipe to part 2, where we went all in on the Boston Whiskey Sour with a Vegan Whiskey Sour option (my favorite). We wrap up the basics with this post on the New York Sour as the third most popular whiskey sour.

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What is a New York Sour?

It’s a simple variation on the standard whiskey sour. It’s the usual sour mixture of whiskey, citrus and sweetner, but it adds a finishing touch: a beautiful red wine float.

The kind of wine used for the float can drive the flavors of the cocktail. It provides the initial nose and flavors you’ll pick up on those first sips and adds that gorgeous red layer atop the cocktail.

Use a fruity wine and you’ll pull out stone fruit or berries out of the whiskey used as the base. Proceed with a dryer, more tannic wine and you’ll push oak notes from the barrel to the forefront. Since both whiskey and wine are aged in barrels, there are a lot of similarities one can play with in terms of flavor.

The whiskey sour can be a classic whiskey sour or a Boston sour with that foamy top, but the key to the New York Sour is that float atop the cocktail.

History of the New Your Sour

New York Sour - Whiskey sour with red wine float and lemon garnish
New York Sour

It’s believed to have originated in Chicago as the Claret Snap in the 1880s. The term “Claret” referred to any red wine at the time, and snap was a term that meant a float on a drink. The bartender who invented it also claimed to have invented the Manhattan, but that’s been debunked. He was not the creator of the Manhattan.

However, he did, in fact, create the New York Sour cocktail under a different name and as drinks do, they migrated from city to city. It spread from Chicago to other cities, and it’s probably that because it was a hot ticket item in New York when it came to national attention, that’s where the name came from. Prior, though, it was also referred to as a Continental Sour or a Southern Sour before the cocktail gods settled on New York Sour as a standard name.

How to Do a Red Wine Float

floating red wine on a New York Sour
New Your Sour

The red wine float for this whiskey sour cocktail is no different from a normal float. You’ll use a barspoon to softly drop the red wine onto the surface of the finished whiskey sour.

You can either drizzle the red wine (usually ½ oz) off the back of the barspoon held close to the surface or you can pour the wine down the long stem of the barspoon itself.

Both methods gently pour the red wine onto the cocktail in a way that leaves that lovely red hue at the top.

Variations on a New York Sour

There are a few ways you can play with the New York Sour:

  • Make a reduction of the wine, turned into a simple syrup and use that as the sweet of the whiskey sour
  • Use a sparkling red, or for that matter, a non-red wine. You wouldn’t have the gorgeous color gradient but you could play around with more wine terroir that way.
  • Use a simple made of champagne or prosecco and you’ll still retain that gorgeous color.
  • Use a simple created from a rosé, and you’ll have a lovely red to pink gradient going down the glass.
  • As with any sour, you can play with the sweet element or the sour element, exchanging for different syrups or playing with different sours.

Make that New York Sour

Now you know the basics, how to do the float, stop procrastinating. Go see what bottles of red wine you have laying around the house and make a batch of whiskey sours. See what the application of different types of wine do to the same cocktail.

The best cocktail experiments include plenty of taste tests, so have a bite to eat first.

Two versions of New Your Sour garnished with flower and lemon
Two versions of the New York Sour

Recommended Bar Tools

You don’t need every slick, beautiful bar tool out there, but there are several I’ll recommend. (As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. However, that does not affect the cost of the items below.) My favorite pieces usually come from the Cocktail Kingdom section of Amazon:

You may already have these bar essentials, but just in case:

Two versions of New Your Sour garnished with flower and lemon

New York Sour

Picture of Heather Wibbels, Cocktail Contessa, pouring a cocktailHeather Wibbels
Top off your favorite iteration of the whiskey sour with a red wine float and you have the easiest riff on a classic cocktail you’ll make all day. Remember that the kind of red wine you choose will need to play well with the other ingredients. You may want to focus on fruity wines to pair with the sweet in the whiskey sour, but you might decide to go dry and let the tannins/oaky qualities pair up with the aged whiskey. It’s your choice.
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Course Drinks
Cuisine Bourbon Cocktail
Servings 1


  • 2 oz rye (you can use bourbon if you want, but I'd stick to 90 proof or higher)
  • ¾ oz fresh lemon juice
  • ¾ oz simple syrup
  • 3 dashes Old Forester Hummingbird bitters
  • ½ oz red wine
  • ¾ oz aquafaba or egg white optional – only if you want to make a Boston Sour
  • Garnish: lemon twist/fancy cherry


  • Combine bourbon, lemon juice, simple syrup and bitters in a cocktail shaker and fill with ice. Shake vigorously until very cold (If you’re doing a Boston Sour, do a reverse dry shake – see instructions at the link). Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice. Float red wine atop the cocktail. Garnish with a fancy cherry and a lemon twist. Try to drink slowly.
Keyword bitters, bourbon, lemon, new york sour, red wine, rye, simple syrup, whiskey cocktail, Whiskey Sour
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
By on August 28th, 2020
Picture of Heather Wibbels, Cocktail Contessa, pouring a cocktail

About Heather Wibbels

Heather Wibbels is a whiskey and cocktail author (Executive Bourbon Steward, no less) with a passion for cocktails. She loves researching and designing cocktails, drinking cocktails, and teaching cocktails. Mostly whiskey cocktails, given her Kentucky location.

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