Call us skeptics, but we've never found a packaged sour mix—or any cocktail mix—that we've really loved. Juice concentrates, preservatives, sweeteners, and whatever makes up the "natural flavors" have never really stacked up to freshly made for us. Do you know of any brands that are actually worth buying?
'sour mix' on Serious Eats
Cheap sour mixes are made from artificial lemon and lime flavoring along with corn syrup, coloring, preservatives, and stabilizers. Higher-end mixes are made with juice from concentrate, citric acid, and sugar. Despite its appearance, commercial sour mix is not made with radioactive citrus and will not give you super powers. (Though if it did, you would be able to thwart criminals by shooting a mildly irritating yet pleasant-smelling acid into their eyes.)
The true beauty of making this mix is having a fresh, versatile, and easy cocktail mixer for parties. There's no reason to buy sour mix when in 10 minutes you could hand-make something that's infinitely more delicious.
Why, during this supposed golden renaissance of mixology does commercial sour mix persist? This mix usually sneaks up on you, like a mullet seen from the front. And you usually spot it too late, once you've settled onto the bar stool. It's a hot day, and you're maybe thinking about a Tom Collins, and suddenly you hear someone down the bar order an Amaretto Sour or a Long Island Iced Tea, and out of the corner of your eye you see the bartender reach for the artificial sour mix in all its glowing-yellow, high-fructose glory.