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How to Make the Refreshing Bourbon Sour Cocktail

How to Make the Refreshing Bourbon Sour Cocktail

Not all warm-weather drinks are created equal.

Some spirits feel designed for summer. Pisco comes to mind. Or blanco tequila. Things like cachaça and rum are practically made of sunshine and wait for the first day of summer like school children. Whiskey, meanwhile, is sulking in the corner, and recoils from the sunshine like a vampire. With its richer profile, elevated proof and heavy blanket of oak and spice, whiskey is much more at home in the cold, and the darker the better. 

All of this puts whiskey drinkers in a bit of a dilemma. The weather is getting warmer, and the sun is setting later, and trying to fit whiskey into a pair of flip flops requires a bit of mixological trickery:

One way to do this is with charm—specifically the charm of egg whites, which, as with something like the Whiskey Sour, binds to the oak tannins in the spirit, neutralizing the astringency and making it all smooth as silk. Another way is with fruit, like in the New York Sour—throw a bunch of red fruit at whiskey and it provides a lovely misdirection from the oaky bite. Yet another is with some herbaceousness, to add complexity to the sweet-sour pull and entice the palate, like in the excellent Paper Plane.

RELATED: The 50 Best Bourbons of the 21st Century So Far

Or, you could do literally all three of these in a single drink, in which case, we’re talking about a Napoleon. The Napoleon is bourbon, fresh lemon juice, and sugar—very much a whiskey sour—which is then fruited up with some fresh raspberries, made herbaceous with blanc vermouth and Campari, and smoothed out with an egg white. It is bright, refreshing, fruity, and slightly bitter, and it’s great gift is that if you use the right bourbon (more on this below, under the recipe) it transforms the whiskey into a full-fledged summer banger: It opens with raspberry and lemon accenting the whiskey’s grainy spice, then transitions in the midpalate to blanc vermouth spicing the whiskey’s corn and fruit, and then finishes with Campari lightly bittering the whiskey’s oaky texture. Each phase of the tasting experience features a trait of the bourbon, and in each phase, the cocktail reframes that trait so as to be bright and refreshing. It’s like a magic trick. It really is remarkable.

The Napoleon is the creation of Sam Penton, who runs the Manor Bar, in the Rosewood Miramar Beach, in Montecito, Calif. The Manor Bar does concept menus: The current one is called “Villains” and is devoted to great antagonists of literature, and so the Napoleon is named not for the diminutive French general but rather the scheming Marxist pig in George Orwell’s Animal Farm. 

The Rosewood is coastal and just outside Santa Barbara and is open all year but seems designed for the type of warm weather, sunshine, and cocktails vibing for which the Napoleon is so perfectly suited. In fact, the Napoleon so excels at warm-weathering the whiskey that perhaps, true to the eponymous pig, we need to rewrite the opening: Maybe all warm-weather drinks are created equal, it’s just that some are more equal than others.


  • 1.5 oz. high-proof bourbon
  • 0.5 oz. blanc vermouth (or “blanco” or “bianco”)
  • 0.75 oz. Simple Syrup 
  • 0.75 oz. lemon juice
  • 3-4 fresh raspberries
  • 1 tsp. Campari
  • 1 egg white

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker without ice. Seal the shaker, hold tight, and give it a “dry” shake without ice for three to five seconds. Then add ice, seal again, and shake for eight to 10 seconds. Fine strain into a coupe or cocktail glass, and garnish with a couple drops of Angostura bitters or a raspberry, on a pick.


Maker’s Mark

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Bourbon: Penton uses a cask-strength version of Maker’s Mark made specifically for the Rosewood Miramar Beach and bottled at 54.1 percent alcohol. I tried this with 40 percent bourbon, 45, 50, and 55, and I liked the 55 percent most—too low-proof and it’s still great and worth making, but it doesn’t have that persistent whiskey character that I so enjoyed. Also, Maker’s Mark does make a delicious Napoleon, though it must be said I also really liked the flavor of rye spice that Maker’s Mark doesn’t have (it uses wheat instead of rye as a flavoring grain). What all that means is that if you, like me, don’t have the Rosewood’s unique form of Maker’s Mark at home, the best bourbon brands to use here would be something high proof and rye-forward like Stellum, Bulleit Cask Strength, Knob Creek, or others.

Blanc Vermouth: Most cocktails call for either “sweet” or “dry” vermouths, but this is for blanc, a style that’s pale in color like dry vermouth, but richer on the palate like sweet. Dolin is called for by name and it’s a great bottle that’s widely available. I’m also an enormous fan of the Yzaguirre Blanco, which would also work, and the wonderfully spiced Cocchi Americano, which isn’t a blanc vermouth per se, but it acts like one. Any of them would be great.

Raspberry: Penton makes a raspberry syrup, which is cleaner (no pulp in the shaker) and, once made, simpler (raspberries start to rot on the drive home from the grocery store, so keeping fresh raspberries around is a minor pain). That said, as with something like the Clover Club, I love the bright electricity of fresh berries, so if you’re only making one or two, don’t worry about the syrup, just throw a few in the shaker and let the ice to the work.

Simple Syrup: Equal parts, sugar and water, and stir until the sugar dissolves. Simple.

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