Keep homemade sour mix on hand to make tons of cocktails, from the margarita to the whiskey sour. Great for parties or cocktail mixing whenever you feel like it!
If you’ve ever stumbled across a recipe calling for sour mix, sweet-and-sour mix or margarita mix, and then picked some up at the store, then you should know a secret:
Homemade sour mix is way easier and more delicious than store-bought sour mix. Why?
Commercial sour mix typically contains other ingredients like artificial flavors and citric acid. Making your own ensures you are using natural ingredients for the freshest flavor.
Homemade sour mix recipe
Here’s why many bartenders and home mixologists alike love sour mix:
- Homemade sour mix is easy to make for use in many cocktail recipes, like the whiskey sour. Bet you can memorize the recipe!
- It’s inexpensive to make, too. It will likely only cost you a few dollars to pick up all the ingredients — and less than the store-bought stuff.
- It’s versatile. You can mix it into many favorite cocktails! It’s wonderful to keep on hand or mix up any time you need it.
Trust me: This is next-level stuff that will help you step up your home bartending game.
What is sour mix?
Also known as sweet and sour mix, sour mix is a drink mixer used in cocktails. It is essentially simple syrup that has been flavored with sour citrus juices, typically lemon and lime.
It is beloved in bars around the world because it saves time when mixing drinks because it combines the sweetener and the citrus into one ingredient.
Saving time matters greatly when you’re behind a bar making a lot of drinks, whether they have a short ingredient list, like a whiskey sour recipe, or a long list of ingredients, such as the Long Island iced tea.
If you’re the type of person who likes to mix up your own cocktails, either for yourself or for a party, then knowing how to make your own sour mix will save you time, too.
Oh, and you’ll also save some money. You can make a lot of sour mix for only a few dollars, whereas you’ll spend a lot on just one bottle of sour mix at the store.
Here’s what you need to grab at the grocery store to make this sour drink mix:
Use cane sugar or granulated white sugar. This will keep the syrup clear and colorless.
However, you can use brown sugar, but keep in mind it will have a much darker, caramel color and won’t be as pretty in lighter-colored cocktails like the margarita.
Tap water will work just fine, but I recommend using filtered water or bottled water for an even purer taste.
At our house, I keep a Soma water pitcher at the ready in our kitchen because it is faster, purer and tastes better than what comes out of our fridge.
If you can take the time to use fresh lemon juice, you won’t be disappointed. Fresh ingredients always go a long way with cocktails. Fresh juice offers a more natural, zingy lemon taste.
Use regular lemons for a more traditional flavor or use Meyer lemons for a more floral flavor.
You will need about 6 lemons to yield 1 cup of juice.
However, you can absolutely use bottled lemon juice, especially if you are making a big batch of sour mix.
As with the lemon juice, juice from fresh limes is best for more of the natural, tart lime flavor.
As for the type of lime, regular limes are great. Key limes will give off a more tart and aromatic taste.
You will need about 8 limes to yield 1 cup of juice.
The bottled stuff tends to be sourer than fresh juice, but it is totally fine to use if you prefer or need to scale this recipe.
How to make homemade sour mix
Sour mix is incredibly easy to make.
To start, we’ll make an easy simple syrup.
Combine equal parts of water and sugar on the stove over medium heat. No need to bring this mixture to a boil (or more liquid will evaporate off — which we don’t want).
Stir until combined then remove it from heat. Let the mixture cool for about 10 minutes.
While it’s cooling, juice the lemons and limes if you’re using fresh citrus juice. I like to use this electric juicer. It doesn’t take much time at all to juice them. However, I also love a citrus squeezer because they don’t take up much storage.
Then, stir the juices of the lemons and limes into your simple syrup mixture until combined.
If you need to use it right away, you can stir in a few ice cubes if it’s still warm. Otherwise, decant it into a bottle or mason jar and store it in the fridge.
Now you have sour mix to mix into tons of amazing cocktails!
Variations and substitutions
There are a number of ways to make this recipe all yours.
Play with the ratios
You may prefer your sour mix to be more tart or sweet. Here are a few ways you can mix things up:
- Make yours with all lemon juice for a slightly sweeter taste.
- Or, mix it with all lime juice for a more bitter and tart flavor.
- Add some grapefruit juice for more tartness or orange juice for more sweetness. Try replacing ½ cup of either the lemon or the lime juice, or use ⅔ cup of 3 types of juices.
- Try other types of citrus, such as key limes, Meyer lemons, blood oranges, pomelos, tangerines or clementines.
Feel free to play around with this recipe until you find your favorite combination. Let me know how it goes in the comments below!
Make margarita mix
Sour mix and margarita mix are virtually the same, but margarita mix typically only uses lime juice whereas sour mix traditionally uses lemon and lime. You can throw either one into your cocktail shaker and your guests likely won’t tell the difference.
Feel free to make this recipe with 2 parts lime juice, 1 part sugar and 1 part water for more lime flavor to use in your favorite margarita recipes.
My favorite way to make margarita mix is to use agave nectar instead of simple syrup. Because the agave plant is what’s used to make tequila, these two play off of each other really beautifully.
Add egg whites
For some cocktails, like the whiskey sour, you may wish to add egg whites to give the drink a luscious, foamy layer on top. Store-bought sour mix sometimes has egg whites or another ingredient that helps make it foam up when shaken.
If you’re planning to make lots of cocktails with that signature foamy texture, you can add egg whites straight into to your sour mix if you plan to make a bunch. After the mixture has cooled completely, simply stir in one egg white for every 2 cups of sour mix.
However, adding egg white changes the shelf life; make sure you use it up within 1 or 2 days. Make sure you refrigerate the sour mix when not in use.
Raw egg warning: Consuming raw or lightly-cooked eggs poses a risk for food-borne illness.
Substitutes for sour mix
You can use any citrus juice, such as lemon, lime, orange or grapefruit — or a combination — to mix with a sweetener like simple syrup, honey syrup, agave nectar or even maple syrup.
Anything labeled “margarita mix” will also work.
What to make with sour mix
The beauty of sour mix is you can use it to make so many great cocktails!
- Add a splash of sour mix to a vodka soda or a gin and tonic for a little extra sweetness.
- Try it in sour cocktails, such as a tequila sour, whiskey sour, an amaretto sour or a midori sour. Sour drinks are a class of classic cocktails and they are always a hit.
- Replace the syrup and citrus juice of any cocktail with a single shot of sour mix, like the classic margarita, a Tom Collins or a mojito.
Sour mix can be used in alcohol-free drinks as well. You can also simply add it to an ice-filled glass and top it with club soda for an easy mocktail or use an all-lemon version as a base for homemade lemonade. Simply add 2 parts water to 1 part sour mix.
More homemade drink essentials
For cocktails like the tequila sunrise, homemade grenadine syrup is a tasty syrup to keep on hand.
There’s nothing like a homemade cocktail cherry to garnish your old-fashioned, whiskey sour or Manhattan.
My homemade Bloody Mary mix makes a big batch of everyone’s favorite savory cocktail to serve alongside delicious brunches.
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup lime juice
- 1 cup lemon juice
- 2 egg whites, optional
- Combine sugar and water over medium heat. Stir until combined and remove from heat. Let cool for 10 minutes.
- Stir in lemon juice and lime juice until well combined.
- If using right away, stir in 1-2 ice cubes to reduce the temperature. Otherwise decant into a jar or bottle and store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
- If a frothier sour mix is desired (such as for whiskey sours), you can mix in 2 egg whites to the cooled mixture. Shake well to combine. If adding egg whites, use within 2 days.
Use fresh lemon and lime juice for the freshest taste, but the bottled concentrate will work perfectly fine.
For fresh lemon juice, you will need about 6 limes. For fresh lime juice, you will need about 8 limes.
Feel free to mix and match with the ratio and/or try other citrus juices.
This recipe is easily scaleable up or down. Use ½ cup measures for a smaller batch, or double it if you are planning a party.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 16 Serving Size: 2 ounces
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 57Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 12mgCarbohydrates: 15gFiber: 0gSugar: 13gProtein: 1g