Having a good sour mix on hand is an easy way to make dozens of interesting cocktails. To make a great homemade sour, all you need is this recipe, a few lemons, some sugar, a little water, and the ability to stir.
Unfortunately, sour mix or as it is often referred to sweet and sour mix has gotten a bad reputation from the ridiculously sweet radioactive looking thing served at bars and sold in liquor stores.
In this piece
A Better Sour for Better Drinks
Traditionally sour mix is a variation on simple syrup made with freshly squeezed lemon and lime juices. One of the things we found developing this recipe is that our tasters universally preferred a mix made with lemon juice alone over versions that had both lemon and lime juice.
They found that the lemon juice version had a cleaner flavor profile and was packed with more of the lemon flavor they wanted, something that got lost when lime juice was added.
We also found the mix tasted fresher when it was made by combining the lemon juice, sugar, and water without the addition of heat. A lot of recipes add lemon juice to an already prepared simple syrup that is made by combining sugar and water on the stove. Also, as long as you use a juicer that keeps out the seeds, there’s no reason to strain the mix.
As we found in Does the Best Lemonade Come From Lemons, a Bottle, or Powder, one of the biggest advantages to using freshly squeezed lemon juice over bottled is that the small bits of lemon pulp create a depth of flavor and texture that elevate the drink beyond bottled juice’s wildest dreams.
Making this mix at home lets you use natural ingredients and play with the proportions to match your preferences and adjust the sour to fit with whatever you’re mixing it with.
Some easy ways to change this recipe are to add more or less sugar based on your preferences. If you want something closer to store bought mixes add a 1/2 cup of lime juice, which will sweeten the mix without adding any extra sugar.
It’s ok to substitute bottled lemon juice for the freshly squeezed juice in this recipe. A mix made with bottled will be a little sweeter, have less lemon flavor, and a smoother texture than one made with freshly squeezed lemons.
Cocktails to Make
There are a lot of reasons to learn how to make a sour mix or lemon sour as it is sometimes called. It’s a versatile ingredient that can be paired with vodka, whiskey, tequila, and more.
A few cocktails that highlight why sours are such a classic is this clean drinking Vodka Sour that gets its frothy top when it’s shaken with an egg white or the way the mix brings out whiskey’s complex flavors in this Whiskey Sour recipe.
Another one of our favorites is this Mezcal Margarita that uses a smoky mezcal and a pinch of salt to create a truly unique smooth sipping margarita that will make you feel like you’re lounging on a tropical beach.
This mix will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks. It’s also easy to make in large batches when you’re throwing a party and want to serve lots of drinks.
- 1 cup lemon juice, fresh squeezed
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 cups water
- This is pretty simple, so hold on and start by juicing 4 or 5 lemons to get 1 cup of lemon juice.
- Mix the lemon juice, sugar, and water until the sugar is complete dissolved. We usually mix everything in a large bowl with a whisk by hand or in a pitcher with a screw-on-top that we can shake without creating a mess everywhere.
- Serve with your favorite sour mixed drink.