Sour Mix, the Not-So-Hard Way

I’ve done just about everything legal for money that doesn’t involve pasties or board certification. One of those things included bartending. Behind the bar, I learned the proper way to make a martini (easiest thing ever, more so if you Hitchcock it), the secret to giving beer a good head of foam (hint: it involves straws), and that sour mix is simultaneously the ubiquitous mixer and the most vile thing you will ever drink.

Do you have a bottle of sour mix in your house? No? Good for you. You’ll never need one again after this post. If you do, though, go get it. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Got it? Good. Look at the ingredients.

Sour Mix IngredientsHigh fructose corn syrup (sugar), citric acid (I’m hoping lemons and limes, but when it’s listed this way it always seems odd), sodium citrate, sodium hexametaphosphate, acacia gum, potassium sorb ate, polysorbate 60, “natural flavors” (that’s a legally useless term and hysterical in a depressing way), ester gum, sodium metabisulfite, calcium disodium EDTA (to protect flavor, although god knows why), yellow 5, and yellow 6.


Now, look, I’m not about to climb onto my soap box about how unhealthy some of those things might be, because, really, we’re about to add it to tequila, whiskey, or whatever, which are not exactly health foods. However, I will make the argument that sour mix is one of the simplest things in the world to make, doesn’t cost much more to make (depending on the season and where you live), and tastes tons better when you do. Why ruin a good bottle of tequila with crap?

So here’s what you do: go buy lemons (eight should do it) and limes (six should suffice) and juice them. You want juice in a two-to-one ratio; shoot for one cup of lemon juice and a half-cup of lime juice.

At the same time, boil your sugar of choice with the same amount of water. Because El Cap uses sour mix in his margaritas and that’s the only way it gets used in this house, I chose agave nectar. If you intend to use your sour mix in other types of drinks, start with plain sugar, (although if you could get it grown somewhere other than Florida, you’d be making this Florida girl very, very happy.)  To keep the proportions in line with the juices, boil one cup of sweetener with one cup of water. Let it cool.

Note: This is how you make simple syrup, a fancy way of saying you dissolved sugar in water and kept it dissolved. I could get into the chemistry (colloidal suspension, I think), but for now, let’s just say you’re going to boil equal parts sugar with water.

After the simple syrup cools, mix it with the juices, shake, and serve. That’s it.

I produced a bottle of my own sour mix, using agave nectar, for under $5, but citrus isn’t in season in Florida right now, and, even considering that, I overpaid for the lemons because I wanted to do this RIGHT NOW. Is it cheaper than sour mix in a bottle? Not necessarily, but it’s not sufficiently more to stop you. Also, El Cap liked it better, and he is not the sort of man who lies to me about what I cook. If he didn’t like it, I would know.

Thanks to Serious Eats for the recipe, although the sanctimonious crap is all me. You’re welcome.

Simple Sour Mix

1 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup lime juice
1 cup sweetener of your choice (honey, agave nectar, sugar)
1 cup water

Boil water and sweetener together for five minutes or so (this is simple syrup).
Juice the limes and lemons.
Let simple syrup cool. Mix with juice.
Shake and serve.


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I write. I take pictures. I love my dog. I love Florida. My 2016 book, 'Backroads of Paradise' did really well for the publisher and now I feel a ridiculous amount of pressure to finish the second book.

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