DIY Sour Mix Recipe

A glass bottle of homemade sour mix. A half a lime and a whole lemon are next to the bottle.
Photograph: Liam Boylan

Sour mix is a combination of sugar, water, lemons, and limes. One homemade batch can give you a whole party's worth of margaritas, whiskey sours, or daiquiris without much effort. A bottle of sour mix may call you from the store shelf with a siren song of good times and an easy-pour spout. But if you want to elevate your party and the drinks you serve your guests, make a batch or two of homemade sour mix with fresh, real juice and sugar, which is what you want in a cocktail.

Sour Mix: What's On the Shelf?

There are dozens of commercial sour mix available at grocery and liquor stores, sometimes called sweet and sour, margarita, Collins mix, or lemon-lime mix. Sometimes it comes in a big plastic jug, small artisan-looking bottle, or bag of powder, but however it comes, store-bought sour mix compromises on flavor and freshness.

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.)

Why Make a Homemade Sour Mix?

The true beauty of making a homemade sour mix is having a fresh, versatile, and easy cocktail mixer for parties. However, it's also great to have on hand for lazy-night-at-home whiskey sours or an impromptu afternoon margarita with neighbors.

There's no reason to buy sour mix when in 10 minutes you can make something almost as convenient and infinitely more delicious. You just can't beat real, fresh ingredients. Making your own sour mix isn't an elaborate project, simply juice a few lemons and limes and combine with sugar and water. Like all DIY ingredients, there's room for fun experimentation—try adding a little orange or grapefruit juice, or using raw sugar or agave syrup. If you're just going to use your mix for margaritas, agave syrup with a combo of lime and orange juice could be just right.

How to Use Homemade Sour Mix

There's a whole family of drinks called "sours" that are liquor plus some form of sugar and citrus. You can make any of these drinks using your homemade sour mix—and they will be better for it. Mix equal parts whiskey and sour mix and serve it over ice for a whiskey sour. Or use the same formula to make a daiquiri, using rum instead of whiskey. Try it for margaritas or sidecars, adding Cointreau or triple sec and tweaking the formula to your taste. If you're feeling fancy, shake up a couple ounces each of pisco and sour mix along with an egg white and a few drops of bitters to make a pisco sour. For something a little lighter, try a Tom Collins by pouring a shot each of gin and sour mix and topping off with club soda.

Recipe Facts

4.5

(12)

Active: 10 mins
Total: 20 mins
Makes: 2 1/2 cups

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup (200g) sugar

  • 1 cup (8 ounces) water

  • 1 cup (8 ounces) freshly squeezed lemon juice

  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) freshly squeezed lime juice

Directions

  1. Make simple syrup by bringing the sugar and water to a boil and stirring to dissolve sugar, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

  2. While syrup is cooling, strain freshly squeezed lemon and lime juice into a resealable bottle, discarding the pulp. Pour in the cooled simple syrup. Shake and use immediately or refrigerate.

Special equipment

Juicer, fine-mesh strainer

Notes

If you'd like to use oranges, grapefruits, or agave nectar, keep in mind they are sweeter than the ingredients in this recipe so you'll have to adjust the quantities to taste. Store mixture in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks. You can tell it's turning if it starts to get cloudy. Adding a little vodka will allow you to keep it a month, but it won't taste as fresh after a long storage.