What is a New York Sour? In layman’s terms, it’s a Whiskey Sour with a red wine float — but it’s also so much more than that. Oddly enough, the New York Sour (a.k.a. the Continental Sour, the Southern Sour, and the Brunswick Sour) was believed to be invented in Chicago in the late 1800s. After numerous recipe tweaks and a fall into relative obscurity by the mid- to late 1900s, the drink was rediscovered during the second wave of the modern cocktail renaissance in the early 2010s.

Nowadays, while orange juice is no longer the sour component of choice, one ingredient has remained a constant since day one: the signature red wine float. Though it may be a difficult trick to master, topping this drink with a thin, quarter-inch layer of vino — poured over the back of a bar spoon — provides the New York Sour with both a unique garnish and a tannic, drying quality that clings to the drink’s sour-sweet backbone. As such, the type of red wine one opts for has the potential to make or break this pre-Prohibition classic.

Today on the “Cocktail College” podcast, Tim McKirdy is joined by Frank Caiafa, legendary bartender, consultant, and singer/songwriter, to discuss the New York Sour. The two break down sours without egg whites, the delicate art of the red wine float, and orange juice — the unsung citrus of the cocktail world. Tune in for more.

Listen Online

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Listen on Spotify

Frank Caiafa’s New York Sour Recipe


  • 2 ounces 86 proof rye whiskey
  • ¾ ounce simple syrup (1:1)
  • ¾ ounce fresh lemon juice
  • Garnish: red wine, such as Bordeaux or Rioja


  1. Add rye whiskey, simple syrup, and lemon juice to a cocktail shaker with ice.
  2. Shake until chilled.
  3. Strain into a footed stem glass.
  4. Float a small amount of red wine on top (no more than ¼ inch) over the back of a bar spoon.