Hussar Sour

Bullets and grenades was what I was thinking when I whipped up this cocktail. As samples arrive on my desk, they sometimes gather into little groups. The Bulleit Bourbon and Zwack bitters were hanging out, which looked like they were plotting a coup or something. For those in the dark, Zwack is a Hungarian company that makes a range of bitters and sells them in bottles that resemble an M67 hand grenade. The Bulleit should speak for itself. So what do you get when you combine bullets and bombs?

The first thing you should know about this cocktail is that it’s pretty close to a bourbon sour, but with added complexity.  Secondly, Zwack is not Unicum. Even though the bottles are just about the same, Zwack is much less bitter, and more fruity with a mildly spicy finish. It is sold as Unicum Next in some regions. The traditional Unicum is boldly bitter and stands a little ahead of Fernet Branca in the potency category.

When I was thinking about making a drink, it had been a while since I had a good whisky sour. So, it seemed like a good opportunity to try to fiddle with a classic recipe.

The name “Hussar” is a reference to a military unit comprised of highly mobile, lightly armed troops, basically what we now call “Light Calvary”, was first used by the Hungarians. I thought it made a good tie in with Zwack being a Hungarian liqueur. Another irrelevant fact is that the Canadian military still has a number of militia units that are called Hussar’s, including the 1st Hussars in London, Ontario (the city where I live).

A bourbon sour can be great if made properly. The trick is to get the sweet/sour ratio right. This recipe comes out on the dry side, which is good. Once you go to far to the sweet side, the flavours don’t commingle as well as the dry side and it gets a little bit harsh.

The one thing I don’t like about Bourbon is that if you mix it with fruit juice (lemon) and egg white, you get an ugly looking drink. There’s nothing really wrong flavour wise, but serving a murky brown liquid isn’t going to get the “wow, what’s that” orders. Nor is it very photogenic, hence no picture today.

This isn’t a spectacular drink by any stretch of the imagination, but there is a combination waiting to happen between Bulleit Bourbon and Zwack. I just need to go back to the “drawing bar” and figure it out.

Hussar Sour

Bourbon 1½ oz
Lemon Juice ½ oz
Egg White 1 oz
Sugar ½ tsp
Soda Water 1 oz
Mint 2 each


Combine bourbon, Zwack, lemon juice, egg white and sugar in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a traditional stemmed sour glass. Add a splash of club soda and garnish with a sprig of mint.

2 Comments on Hussar Sour

By JohnTheBastard on March 22, 2009 4:26 PM

Heh. Very clever. I have some Zwack on the way, so maybe I’ll take a shot at this one. Alice should be pleased.