What Is a Brandy Sour?

Veronika Lazabal

A brandy sour is a mixed alcoholic cocktail that is typically made with brandy and citrus juice. The drink originated in the Mediterranean, on the island of Cyprus in the 1930s. It is the national drink of Cyprus, making use of one of the island’s most prolific exports — brandy — as well as the native bitter lemons found there.

A brandy sour is a cocktail made of brandy and citrus juice.
A brandy sour is a cocktail made of brandy and citrus juice.

During the 1930s, visiting King Farouk of Egypt requested an alcoholic alternative to the iced tea being served in his hotel. Despite being Muslim, the young king had an affinity for alcoholic cocktails. He was trying to be discreet, however, so he requested that his drink be made in such a way that any onlookers would think he was simply sipping a glass of iced tea. Bartenders at his hotel created the drink, and it wasn’t long before other restaurants, hotels and clubs across the island were copying the recipe.

Brandy sours were originally made to look like iced tea.
Brandy sours were originally made to look like iced tea.

There are several variations of the original brandy sour recipe. People who want to remain true to the Cypriot roots of the drink can find imported brandy from Cyprus at many liquor stores. There are four basic elements to a classic brandy sour: brandy, citrus, bitters and lemonade or soda.

When making a brandy sour, any brandy will do, but some people prefer to use one that has been imported from Cyprus to maintain the integrity of the original drink. Traditionally, a brandy sour starts with two parts brandy to one part citrus component. Some recipes call for freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice, but others list lemon squash as the citrus of choice. Squash, also referred to as cordial, is a non-alcoholic concentrated fruit syrup.

Occasionally, a recipe that calls for sweet-and-sour mix instead of cordial or lemon juice. This is a premixed, non-alcoholic citrus juice combination. It can be found at many grocery stores and liquor stores.

Bitters are alcoholic beverages flavored with herbal extracts. They get their name from their bitter or bittersweet flavor. Depending on the recipe, the brandy sour will be topped off with lemonade, lemon lime soda or soda water.

There are other variations of this type of drink. Using apricot brandy or triple sec, for example, gives the entire beverage a different flavor. Subtle changes such as the addition of powdered sugar or orange juice can provide variation without compromising the original concept. Recipes for brandy sours can be found on many popular cocktail websites.

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