How to Make and Use Sour Mix in Cocktails

Sour Mix is a Great Shortcut in the Bar

How to Make Sour Mix illustration
Illustration: Catherine Song. © The Spruce, 2018

Sweet and sour mix is often called sour mix or bar mix and is a popular drink ingredient that should be present in every bar. You will find that a number of sour and tropical drinks, such as margaritas, use sour mix.

Sour mix is used to add both a sweet and a sour element to drinks via a single ingredient. It is a simple combination of sugar and lemon or lime juices (sometimes both) and it is very easy to make yourself.

Essentially, sour mix is a simple syrup that uses the combination of sour citrus fruit for flavoring and is a little thinner because it typically uses a 3:1 ratio of liquid to sugar.

While you can purchase sour mix at almost any liquor store, these are often either too sweet or too sour and commonly include artificial sweeteners. As with almost every drink mixer, fresh is best and you will find that a housemade sour mix produces better-tasting cocktails.

Making your own sour mix will also save money, so there is no reason to avoid learning this simple recipe.

To make sweet and sour mix:

Method 1:
Combine 1 cup sugar with 1 cup water until sugar is completely dissolved. Add 1 cup fresh lime juice and 1 cup fresh lemon juice and refrigerate.

This can be done over heat by bringing the sugar and water to a boil and simmering for about 5 minutes before adding the juices and allowing the mix to cool before bottling.

Or, you can simply combine the sugar and water in a cocktail shaker (or a bottle with a tight seal) and shake until the sugar is dissolved.

Tip: Adjust the lemon and lime juice ratio to fit your specific taste. You can also make it with either lemon or lime juice exclusively by using 2 cups (or parts) of either juice.

Examples of this include the Global Warmer, which calls specifically for "lime sour mix," and the Honey Bun, which uses "fresh lemon sour."

Method 2:
Mix one part simple syrup with one part lemon juice. Optionally, add two egg whites for every liter of mix to make cocktails slightly foamy.

Tip: The best sour mix uses fresh citrus juice. Any citrus juice will work, and you might want to try a grapefruit sour to add a twist to your drinks.

Using Sour Mix in Drinks

Once you have a sour mix, store it in the refrigerator and use it in any cocktail recipe that calls for sour mix. It can also be used to adjust any drink's flavor if both sweet and sour elements would make a significant improvement. 

Sour mix can also be used as a shortcut for many cocktails that call for simple syrup and either lemon or lime juices individually such as the popular Whiskey Sour. If you do this substitution, you may have to use more or less sour mix than the recipe calls for to obtain a balanced cocktail.