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Mastering the Gin Sour – A Guide to the Perfect Gin Cocktail

The Gin Sour Cocktail Recipe: Simplicity and Balance in a Glass

The Gin Sour is pure cocktail perfection. With only three ingredients and a little technique, you will be rewarded a well-balanced drink with perfect acidity and pleasantly light sweetness. 

Essential Ingredients for a Gin Sour Cocktail 

Gin Sour Cocktail Recipe 

2 oz. Highclere Castle Gin 

1 oz. lemon Juice 

1 oz. simple syrup 


Your perfect cocktail cannot be created without fresh lemon juice. Using our royal technique, peel the skin from the lemons before juicing, and hold them aside. Note: One lemon will yield you two cocktails. Each Lemon half is roughly equivalent to an ounce, the necessary amount for one beverage. 


Simple syrup is to cocktails as salt is to food. A cocktail without it is thin, tasteless, and forgettable. Even if one favors sour cocktails, simple syrup is needed to properly release the notes of tartness in a balanced drink. 

I plead with you-NEVER buy simple syrup from the market! It contains preservatives that do nothing but add a weird aftertaste. All one needs is boiling water and sugar in equal amounts (using a scale renders better consistency than measuring by volume. The hot water will dissolve the sugar with a few quick stirs and last about a month in the refrigerator. 

Elevate Your Gin Sour Cocktail

In our citrus covenant post, we made oleo saccharum (sugar oil) from our held lemon peels. That oleo can now be used to make a real conversation starter-English sherbet. 

Lemon sherbet instead of simple syrup brings the beverage from “good” to “world-class”: 4 lemons; 1½ cups granulated sugar. 

  • Prepare an oleo-saccharum with lemon peels and sugar. Refer to our previous post, “A Citrus Covenant.” 
  • Combine the oleo-saccharum and lemon juice in a small saucepan over medium heat below boiling. 
  • Slowly stir to dissolve the sugar. 
  • When the syrup has thickened, remove it from the heat. 
  • Fine strain into bottles. 
  • The sherbet will keep for 2-3 weeks in the refrigerator. 
  • We have our ingredients, but at this point, they’re simply just three liquids. How do we get them to transform into one perfect cocktail? 

Shaking Techniques for the Gin Sour Cocktail

The industry standard tool for shaking cocktails is the Boston Shaker. Two tins, one large and one small, are used to homogenize, chill, and, most importantly, dilute ingredients. Our mission is to use brute force to render liquids of different viscosities to a uniform body and weight, and it is at the heart of the bartender’s toolkit. I highly suggest using only tin on tin, as tin on glass has the propensity for accidents and injury (I’ve got quite an impressive scar to prove it.) 

In a pinch, a blender bottle or snap ware container can get the job done, but investing in a proper Boston shaker is the sine qua non of home bartending. 

A Hawthorne Strainer 

Straining our cocktail separates it from the now wet and diluted (or spent) ice. This small metal tool with a coil spring fits nicely atop either side of our Boston shaker and will eliminate the majority of solids from the beverage. 


Traditionally, the gin sour cocktail is served straight up. Let me clear up a bit of confusion-straight up does NOT mean what it suggests, which is simply liquid poured directly into a glass without being chilled or mixed (the proper term for this is “neat,” and I implore you to try a few sips of Highclere Castle Gin that way.) Straight-up refers to a cocktail that has been chilled (via shaking, in this case) and strained into a stemmed glass. The “coupe” glass is the most classic and iconic. If you prefer a rocks glass, the cocktail is now served “down.” Same technique, different vessel. 

Variations on the Gin Sour Cocktail

-Egg white became a part of the classic gin sour, and while not needed, it adds a silky mouthfeel and a lovely foam. 

-To make a Tom Collins, strain our sour into a tumbler-style glass, add ice, and top with seltzer water. 

-All manner of fruit flavors can be employed by blending our simple syrup with fruit. Berries are the easiest, as more fibrous fruits and delicate herbs will increase the labor. 

Gin, lemons, and sugar create a quickly executed foundation for the sour cocktail category, and the edition of soda evolves into the Collins category. The beauty of our garden party is that the simplest things put together thoughtfully result in infinite possibilities and enjoyment.