Cocktail & Other Recipes By Spirit Bourbon Cocktails

Stone Sour

A rocks glass with star shapes holds a bright orange cocktail with a few large ice cubes. It’s garnished with an orange slice and a cherry on a silver pick.
Image: / Tim Nusog

Like many pre-Probhibition cocktails, the Stone Sour has a murky history—its exact origin and the reason for its name are both obscure. Its first recorded appearance seems to be in the pages of “The Ideal Bartender.” That book’s writer, bartender Tom Bullock, was the first Black American to publish a cocktail recipe book when he published this tome in 1917. His recipe for the Stone Sour called not for whiskey, but for Old Tom gin—this (often) barrel-aged gin is darker and sweeter than the more ubiquitous London dry style, and has only made a resurgence in recent years. Cocktail historian David Wondrich even suggests that the Stone Sour is the first published variation on a Gin Gimlet.

In essence, though, the Stone Sour is a Whiskey Sour with added orange juice. Unlike lemon or lime, orange juice isn’t always the best-suited for cocktails, sometimes bringing an odd balance of sweet and sour that can be challenging to mix with. But it shines here, especially when freshly squeezed (really, if you plan on using pasteurized or concentrate orange juice, you might as well make a different drink). It’s refreshing while still maintaining its boldness, making it even easier to drink than your traditional sour. Given the extra volume of juice, however, it’s advisable to stick to a higher proof bourbon—something in the 100-proof range will serve admirably. And, if you enjoy the Stone Sour made with whiskey, try using an Old Tom gin like Bullock first did, or even try using Amaretto—it’s definitely on the sweeter side, but the Amaretto Stone Sour is another popular version of the cocktail.

One confusing aspect of the Stone Sour is that it also goes by the moniker the California Sour. Dale DeGroff, yet another lauded cocktail historian and writer, wrote in his book “The Craft of the Cocktail” that the two names were for the same drink, which was from California (It’s DeGroff’s general recipe that is featured here). However, that statement is complicated by the fact that Bullock never seemed to have lived or bartended in California. In any case, the Stone Sour (or California Sour) faded in popularity with the arrival of Prohibition, only to make a brief resurgence in the 1990s before dipping yet again during the so-called Cocktail Renaissance. These days it’s not the most ubiquitous drink, but it does have its adherents.


  • 1 1/2 ounces bourbon (such as Wild Turkey 101)

  • 1 ounce orange juice, freshly squeezed

  • 3/4 ounce lemon juice, freshly squeezed

  • 3/4 ounce simple syrup

  • Garnish: cherry

  • Garnish: orange half-wheel


  1. Add the bourbon, orange juice, lemon juice and simple syrup into a shaker with ice and shake until well-chilled.

  2. Strain into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice.

  3. Garnish with a cherry and an orange half-wheel.