How to Make Sour Mix

An essential mixer for cocktails and a great shortcut in the bar

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

Sweet and sour mix goes by a few names, including sour mix, bar mix, and sometimes simply lemon sour or lime sour. It is a nonalcoholic drink mixer that's useful in the bar and found in many cocktail recipes. Margaritas and other tropical or sour drinks use it on occasion, and it forms the base for homemade lemon-lime soda and lemonade. Additionally, it's a convenient substitute for syrup and citrus juice when a recipe calls for the separate ingredients. Sour mix is also incredibly easy to make from scratch, simultaneously saving money and creating fresher tasting drinks.

What Is Sour Mix?

Sour mix is a simple syrup flavored with sour citrus fruit. It's often a combination of lemon and lime juices, though it can be made with either alone. With this single ingredient, you can add both sweet and sour elements to a variety of drinks.

Sour mix also tends to be a little thinner than standard simple syrup. Though you can adjust the recipe, it's typically made with a 3:1 ratio of liquid (water and juice) to sugar.

While you can purchase sour mix at many liquor stores, the options are typically not great. Most are either too sweet or too sour and it's not uncommon for them to include artificial flavors and sweeteners. As with almost every drink mixer, fresh is best and you'll find that a housemade sour mix produces better tasting cocktails.

Making your own sour mix is also cost-efficient. You can make as little or as much as you need and the raw ingredients are inexpensive. Generally, a batch of fresh sour costs less than $2 to make and takes no more than 20 minutes of your time. Considering all the benefits, there really is no reason to avoid this simple recipe!

1:26

Watch Now: Two Simple Ways to Make Sour Mix

Sweet and Sour Mix Recipe

There are a few ways to make a fresh sour mix. They all begin with simple syrup, which is nothing more than sugar and water. These recipes can be adapted to suit your personal taste or the drinks you're making at the moment. You can also double or triple them to create a larger batch.

  • Method 1: Make simple syrup by combining 1 cup each of sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in 1 cup each fresh lemon juice and lime juice. Allow it to cool before bottling. Store it in the refrigerator.
  • Method 2: Combine 1 cup each of sugar and water in a cocktail shaker or a bottle with a tight seal. Shake until the sugar is dissolved (it takes some time and effort) to create a simple syrup. Add 1 cup each of lemon and lime juices, bottle, and refrigerate.
  • Method 3: Combine one part of pre-made simple syrup with one part lemon or lime juice (or equal parts of the two fruits). This makes a great last-minute sour mix if you already have the syrup in stock. It's also convenient when making a large batch of simple syrup because you can divide it to create sour mix at the same time.

No matter which method you choose, you can adjust the lemon and lime juice ratio to fit your specific taste. Some people prefer 1 cup lemon to 3/4 cup lime for general use.

You can also make it with either lemon or lime juice exclusively by using 2 cups (or parts) of either juice. For instance, you might want to use a lime sour mix in a frozen lime margarita to enhance that fruit's flavor. In a similar fashion, the cable car recipe specifically calls for fresh lemon sour.

Tips

  • Homemade sour mix should be bottled in a well-sealed container and stored in the refrigerator. Its shelf life is two to three weeks.
  • The best sour mix uses fresh citrus juice. This adds to the natural taste and many bottled lime and lemon juices are already sweetened. If you use one that is, slightly reduce the sugar when making the sour.
  • While lemon and lime are the standard citrus fruits used in a sour, any citrus juice will work. Consider making a grapefruit sour or an orange sour, or try less common citrus fruits like blood oranges, key limes, pomelos, and tangerines.

Add Eggs

Many classic cocktails call for egg whites because it gives the finished drink a luscious, foamy texture when shaken. If you're making a few rounds of a specific style of drink, such as the whiskey sour, you can add the egg white directly to your sour mix. When you're ready for a drink, you'd simply have to shake whiskey with your custom sour.

If you opt for this version of sour mix, make sure that your eggs are fresh. There is an easy water test that ensures you're not drinking raw eggs that are too old.

To make this sour mix, add one egg white for every 2 cups of sour mix after it has cooled completely. Shake very well until the egg is fully incorporated. Refrigerate it whenever you're not mixing drinks. The egg significantly reduces the syrup's shelf life and it should be used within a day or two.

Using Sour Mix in Drinks

Once you have a sour mix, there are many fun ways to incorporate it into your drinks, both spiked and nonalcoholic. Naturally, you can use it in any cocktail recipe that calls for sour mix. These include old favorites like the Long Island iced tea and apricot sour, as well as many margarita recipes, including the gummy bear margarita.

Use sour mix to adjust any drink's flavor when you want to give it a spark of both sweet and sour flavors. For example, a splash of sour makes a livelier gin and tonic and sweetens it just ever so slightly. Lime sour is particularly good with gin, while a lemon-lime sour is great with vodka soda drinks.

Sour mix is also a shortcut for cocktails that call for simple syrup and either lemon or lime juices separately. It's useful for many of the classic cocktails that were developed before sour mix was widely used in the bar. For instance, you can replace the syrup and lemon juice of the Tom Collins with a single shot of sour mix. The New Orleans Fizz is another great example because the recipe uses both lemon and lime juices along with syrup. 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.

With a bottle of sour mix in the fridge, you can pour club soda over 1 or 2 ounces sour to create the freshest lemon-lime soda that rivals 7-Up or Sprite. Similarly, sour mix is essentially a concentrate for homemade lemonade. Add water to taste (typically 2 parts water to 1 part sour), and you have an instant glass of lemonade.