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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
On the sweeter side
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.
Size: 32 ounces | Ingredients: Water, sugar, orange juice concentrate, lemon juice concentrate, citric acid, natural flavors, sodium benzoate (preservatives), xanthan gum, beta carotene, sodium metabisulfite (preservatives) | Servings: 6 | Calories: 120
Best Budget: Mr & Mrs T Sweet & Sour Mix
No need to add simple syrup
Great with tequila
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.
Size: 1.75 liters | Ingredients: Water, high fructose corn syrup, citric acid, sodium citrate, sodium hexametaphosphate, acacia Gum, potassium sorbate (preservative), natural flavors, polysorbate 60, ester gum, sodium metabisulfite (preservative), yellow 5, yellow 6, blue 1 | Calories: 80
Best for Margaritas: LAVA Sweet and Sour Mix
Versatile in cocktails
No artificial sweeteners or flavorings
Could use a squeeze of lime
LAVA’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.
Size: 33.8 ounces | Ingredients: Purified water, cane sugar, raw blue agave nectar, key lime juice, lemon pulp, triple sec, ascorbic acid, citric acid, 0.01 percent potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate | Servings: 11 | Calories: 60
What are the benefits of a sweet and sour mix? "Sweet and sour is an old-school mixture designed specifically for cocktails that require shaking or mixing," describes Alejandro Ibanez of Dilworth Tasting Room (formerly a bartender at Employees Only). "It's excellent if you're making drinks in a high-volume bar or at a party—you don't have to juice citrus every time you craft a drink (though watch out for how much sugar is in your mix). I also recommend making your own."
Best for Long Island Iced Teas: Owl’s Brew Citrus and Sweet Tea Mixer
Gluten-free and vegan
Great for mocktails
Not a traditional sweet and sour mix
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 and vegan.
Size: 16 ounces | Ingredients: Fresh-brewed organic tea (water, black tea, lemon Peel), cane sugar, lemon juice concentrate, lime juice concentrate, citric acid, ascorbic acid | Servings: 8 | Calories: 25
“Most juicy drinks require a balance of the sweet and sour elements. By having a consistent mix, the bartenders can get drinks over the bar faster with greater consistency than free pouring the sweetener and the sour.” — Nick Madden, Lead Bartender at San Francisco’s Elixir
Best Single Serving: Zing Zang All Natural Sweet and Sour Mix
Bold citrus flavors
Not ideal for making big batches
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 ingredients like real lime and lemon juice, orange bitters, and pure cane sugar.
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.
Size: 8 ounces | Ingredients: Filtered water, pure cane sugar, natural flavors, pineapple juice from concentrate, citric acid, vegetable juice (for color), xanthan gum, salt, stevia leaf extract | Servings: 1 | Calories: 90
Best Artisanal: Morris Kitchen Preserved Lemon Syrup
Batched by hand
Not a traditional sweet and sour mix
Each one of Morris Kitchen’s hand-batched syrups is carefully crafted in Brooklyn, New York. The ingredients are simple, 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.
Size: 8 ounces | Ingredients: Cane sugar, lemon juice, lemon puree, filtered water, sea salt, cardamom, pink peppercorn | Servings: 8 | Calories: 70
Why use sour mix instead of making the mixture fresh every time? “Sugar takes time to break down into a soluble form, so making it into simple syrup creates a work efficiency behind the bar,” says Madden. “Juicing citrus at the time of service takes too much time. Pouring each ingredient separately takes extra time and allows for the chance of inconsistency from one drink to the next. Sour mix solves all of those problems.”
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.
Size: 750 milliliters | Ingredients: Water, pure cane sugar, lemon juice (lemon juice concentrate and water), citric acid, rosemary extract, lemon extract, ascorbic acid | Servings: 12 | Calories: 70
What to Look for in Sweet and Sour Mix
How long is your mix good for? If you’re planning on pouring for a party, chances are you’ll breeze through your bottle, but if you’re just looking to use an ounce or two at a time, opt for a mix that will last in your fridge for weeks.
Many premade mixes can be overly sugary, which in turn makes them almost syrupy to sip. If you don't want something with too much sugar taste, we suggest checking the label and opting for mixes that use alternative sugars (maybe that’s cane sugar or agave) or simply contain less sugar.
Where is the citrus coming from? Fresh squeezed lime and lemon do not stay fresh for long in a can, so producers have to source those fresh flavors elsewhere. Some use sugars and fake syrups to conjure those citrus notes, while others use citric acid—an organic compound found in citrus that replicates those bright, fresh notes of a lemon squeeze.
What is sweet and sour mix?
“Sweet and sour mix is simple syrup (sugar and water) mixed with lemon and/or lime juice and perhaps some water in order to create the house blend,” says Nick Madden, the lead bartender at San Francisco’s Elixir. “It is a tool for quick service in making juicy drinks where the core elements of sweet and sour components are mixed in a manner that provides balance and quick creation of the drinks built on that foundation.”
Is sweet and sour mix gluten-free?
Yes, sweet and sour mix is gluten-free. The ingredients are simply citrus, sugar, and water. If you are buying one of the above products, look through the ingredient list to confirm.
Does sweet and sour mix expire?
Yes! A fresh batch will go sour within a week. Bottled and canned options will depend on the producer.
Can you make margaritas with sweet and sour mix?
Yes, but expect that your margarita may be heavier on the lemon, depending on what recipe you use. That said, “Some venues will actually make a sour mix that is a blend of lemon and lime and use that for everything, whether it is a lime-based recipe or lemon-based recipe,” says Madden. He personally prefers Fresh Victor’s sweet and sour mix.
What else can you make with sweet and sour mix?
Sweet and sour mix can lend itself to a wide range of ingredients. Add a splash to make a whiskey sour or use it as a bit of brightness in a Long Island Iced Tea. Also, try it in a paloma or tequila Sunrise.
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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.