Bourdon is the national director of bars for Thompson and JDV Hotels. Part of her responsibility is making sure the bartenders at every property can make an excellent version of every classic cocktail.
So what’s most important to the Whiskey Sour? “Balance and acidity,” says Bourdon. “The whiskey should shine through, without the egg overpowering the drink.”
Incorporating the egg white is the most treacherous part of making a Whiskey Sour. But Bourdon has a simple way to avoid letting the egg white dominate your sour: Add an aromatic garnish so the egg isn’t the first thing someone smells when taking a sip.
Bourdon also talks about the importance of creating a recipe that emphasizes your strengths behind the bar. That’s the surest way to stand out in the Gentleman Jack Whiskey Sour Classic.
“It’s obvious when a bartender is trying a technique they wouldn't regularly use in everyday service,” says Bourbon. “Practice and present a drink that represents who you are and where you came from and shows thoughtful inspiration.”
DeGroff set off a cocktail revival during the ’80s at the iconic Rainbow Room in New York City. Since then, he has won two James Beard Awards for wine and spirits professional and written two acclaimed and popular cocktail books: “The Essential Cocktail” and “The Craft of the Cocktail.” DeGroff has certainly earned his nickname, King Cocktail.
His inventive and playful approach to the Whiskey Sour—and many more classics—helped him reinvent the bartending profession. It’s something every competitor in the Gentleman Jack Whiskey Sour Classic should emulate.
“Once you’ve laid down the basic architecture, the sky's the limit,” says DeGroff. “You can finish it with smoke—add smoky mezcal or single-malt scotch. Try a different sweetener, like a touch of maple or an infused simple syrup.”
DeGroff’s point is that every element of the Whiskey Sour is an opportunity to add personality and flavor. You just need to articulate how an unconventional choice elevates the classic Whiskey Sour.
“You don’t have to stick with the classic formula, but use your words,” says DeGroff. “Tell me why you did what you did.”