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Whether you know it or not, sweet and sour mix has likely been in hundreds of cocktails sipped throughout your life. It finds its way into whiskey and amaretto sours, Long Island iced teas, Tom Collins, margaritas, and more. Made with simple syrup, lemons, and limes, it’s a relatively easy mixer to make it at home, but if you’re pressed for time, plenty of pre-made options exist.
Here are the best sweet and sour mixes.
Best Overall: Collins Sweet & Sour Cocktail Mix
When it comes to budget and quality, Collins’ sweet and sour mix checks all the boxes. Not only does it come in a generous 32-ounce container, but it also features expertly balanced sweet and sour flavors for an easy-drinking, low-effort mix.
Keeping this mix on hand is the secret to having cocktails in a snap. Pour it over ice and tequila for a quick margarita or grab egg whites and bourbon to make a whiskey sour. Instead of limes, each mixer is made with orange and lemon juice with real sugar to sweeten the mixture.
Best Budget: Mr & Mrs T Sweet & Sour Mix
A big draw of this mix is that it’s pre-sweetened, so drink makers need not add sugar or agave syrup to balance out the spirit. It's also very concentrated compared to other options, so build your cocktails with care to balance out the sweetness and tartness. Adding a splash to tequila will go a long way. In the case of a tequila sour, add a hint of triple sec, too.
If you need recipe suggestions for leveraging this sweet and sour mix, which comes in a 1.75-liter bottle, the brand offers an array of quirky recipes on the bottle, including a California lemonade with grenadine, orange juice, vodka, gin, and brandy.
Best for Margaritas: LAVA Sweet and Sour Mix
LAVA’s coveted large-format mixes cater to drinkers looking for a healthier alternative. The brand's sweet and sour mix is made without the addition of artificial sweeteners, colorings, or flavorings, and each batch is made in small doses by way of fresh lemons and limes, raw blue agave, and pure cane sugar.
Try this mix in margaritas, lemon drop shots and martinis, and whiskey sours. The perfect balance of sweet and sour makes it a mean addition to a tropical mai tai or daiquiri. Just add your spirit of choice and ice to a shaker, shake until frosty, pour, and enjoy.
Best for Long Island Iced Teas: Owl’s Brew Citrus and Sweet Tea Mixer
Owl’s Brew doesn’t craft a standard sweet and sour mix. Made by a female tea sommelier, the artisanal brand leans on flavors of tea combined with 100 percent organic botanicals, fruits, and flavorings. This mixer is made with English breakfast tea, lemon peel, and lime juice, giving it flavors of tea and citrus, similar to a concentrated Arnold Palmer. Bottles of Owl’s Brew are 16 ounces in size and hold enough liquid for eight drinks.
The best part about this mix is it's versatile. Each container provides a series of suggested spirit pairings. A 2-ounce pour complements vodka, gin, tequila, bourbon, or even soda water for non-imbibers. Use a smaller amount to top off a Long Island iced tea or margarita, or add a dash to wheat beer. Owl’s Brew citrus and sweet tea mixer is gluten-free, vegan, and low in sugar.
Best Single Serving: Zing Zang All Natural Sweet and Sour Mix
Zing Zang’s 8-ounce cans are convenient because you can crack one open and sip a single serving or use it to mix cocktails in an outdoor setting, like at the beach or a campsite. Thanks to its small size, you don’t have to worry about an open bottle going bad. Plus, they're pretty convenient for drinking on the go because you don’t have to lug around a large bottle.
The flavors in this petite can come from natural ingredients, including real lime and lemon juice, orange bitters, and pure cane sugar. They're completely free of unsavory additives, like high-fructose corn syrup and saccharine sugars.
While the small serving and the natural sweetness are draws, it’s the flavor of Zing Zang’s sweet and sour mix that makes it appealing. The bold citrus flavors lend well to everything from a whiskey sour to a simple vodka over ice.
Best Artisanal: Morris Kitchen Preserved Lemon Syrup
Each one of Morris Kitchen’s hand-batched syrups is carefully crafted in Brooklyn, New York. The ingredients are simple—all free of GMOs and sourced responsibly—but don’t expect the flavors to be basic. This bright citrus syrup isn’t your traditional sweet and sour mix. Instead, the concentrated syrup combines lemon puree, cane syrup, and lemon juice with filtered water, sea salt, cardamom, and pink peppercorn for a floral, slightly saline flavor. The taste is similar to preserved lemons: funky and salty.
Use a spoonful in Prosecco at your next at-home brunch or drop some into a Tom Collins or whiskey highball. This preserved lemon syrup even shines in edible applications, like a lemon mousse. Expect the product to be slightly separated when it arrives, so shake well before opening. It has a shelf life of two years.
Best Herbal: Hella Cocktail Co. Rosemary Collins
Hella Cocktail Co. founder Jomaree Pinkard won over the hearts of bartenders around the world with his line of carefully crafted bitters in a range of flavors. He’s now appealing to the home bartenders with a line of premium cocktail mixers.
If you’re looking for the fresh citrus flavors of sweet and sour mix, consider this iteration, which combines lemon juice and cane sugar with a hint of rosemary herb. Add a few ounces to the spirit of your choice with a splash of club soda for a refreshing summery drink. The hint of rosemary cuts the sweetness of a standard sweet and sour mix while giving it underlying herbaceous notes. Every order comes with a set of three bottles. Each one holds 12 servings per bottle.
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Kate Dingwall is a freelance writer whose work focuses on food, drinks, and travel. She is based in Toronto and holds a Wine & Spirits Education Trust Level III qualification.