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 at home, but if you’re pressed for time, or looking to batch out a number of cocktails for a party or gathering, there are plenty of pre-made options. They are not all created equal, however.
Mass-produced pre-bottled sweet and sour mix has a long-standing shoddy reputation. Up until the craft cocktail resurgence, cocktail mixers, more often than not, contained ingredients that had little to do with natural juice or ingredients and their technicolor hues often demonstrated this fact. We are now living in the golden age of spirits and mixes, with an abundance of options. We've selected our top picks to pair with your favorite sour cocktails, poolside, fireside, or for a night in.
Here are the best sweet and sour mixes to get right now.
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.
Price at time of publish: $15
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 for Whiskey Sours
Zing Zang Sweet & Sour Mix, 32 Oz
Bold citrus flavors
Shelf life may not be as long as others
Zing Zang’s Sweet & Sour Mix has a bit of a cult following. It pairs well with whiskey, tastes fresh and natural, and doesn't have a ton of ingredients. The flavors come from ingredients like real lime and lemon juice, orange bitters, and pure cane sugar. The natural sweetness is a draw, but 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.
This 32-ounce bottle is lightweight and unbreakable, perfect for taking on the go for outdoor adventures. Zing Zang also makes single-serving cans for an even more convenient mixing experience.
Price at time of publish: $10
Size: 32 ounces | Ingredients: Filtered water, cane sugar, natural flavors, blend of lemon and lime juice from concentrate, citric acid, natural orange bitters flavor, beta carotene (for color) | Servings: 8 | Calories: 90
Best for Margaritas
Filthy Margarita Mix
Convenient on-the-go pouch
2 servings per pouch
This all-natural mix from Filthy Foods is made from a combination of real Florida lime juice and organic agave nectar from Jalisco, Mexico. Filthy Foods, based in Miami, Florida is known for making top-quality craft mixers and garnishes in sustainable packaging.
This margarita mixer has the bright tang and sunshine-filled sweetness of your favorite sour cocktail, just add tequila. Each of these party pouches serves about 10 people and has a convenient screw-top cap. Because this is crafted specifically for margaritas, it may not pair as easily with other spirits, like whiskey, which tends to do better with lemon citrus. But if you're looking for a margarita party without too much packaging and an all-natural flavor, this is your new jam.
Price at time of publish: $10, 32 oz party pouch
Size: 32 ounces | Ingredients: Filtered Water, Fresh Lime Juice, Organic Blue Agave Nectar, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C) | Servings: 10 | Calories: 60
Best for Daiquiris
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 daiquiris, lemon drop shots, and whiskey sours. The perfect balance of sweet and sour makes it a great addition to a mai tai or tropical cocktail as well. Just add your spirit of choice and ice to a shaker, shake until frosty, pour, and enjoy.
Price at time of publish: $17
Size: 33.8 ounces | Ingredients: Purified water, sugar, raw blue agave nectar, lemon juice, lemon oil, lime juice, lime oil, lemon juice concentrate, lemon pulp, citric acid, natural flavor, 0.01 percent sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate (to protect color), turmeric (for color) | 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."
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.
Price at time of publish: $22
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.”
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.
Price at time of publish: $5-6, 1-liter bottle
Size: 1.75 liters | Ingredients: Water, cane sugar, 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 | Servings: 11 | Calories: 80
The Collins Sweet and Sour Cocktail Mix is a large, quality, and budget-friendly bottle for Long Island iced teas, whiskey sours, and more. The top option for margaritas, however, is a great alternative to too-tart sour mixes: Filthy Margarita Mix.
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.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
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.
Berk, Zeki. Shelf Life Of Citrus Products: Packaging And Storage. Citrus Fruit Processing, 2016, pp. 251-259. Elsevier, doi:10.1016/b978-0-12-803133-9.00012-6