The idea of a sour mix is simply one of the efficiencies in a fast paced work environment, such as a bar or a big party. By premixing simple syrup and fresh squeezed citrus juice, and then bottling the mixture, you can avoid doing this repetitively for each drink. For most people, making sour mix is not something they need to do unless they drink a lot, or they have people coming over for a party. The only other reason to make a batch of sour mix is to experiment. The best method for the aspiring home based mixologist is to make it using equal parts citrus juice and simple syrup (2:1). For the professional, there is a sour mix recipe that follows that can help with efficiency and still taste great. Also, if you want the whole in-depth story on Sweet and Sour Mix, purchase a copy of Mixologist: The Journal of the American Cocktail, where I wrote a lengthy research-based article on sour mix.
If you work in a bar, the following sour mix (sometimes called sweet and sour, bar sour, bar mix, margarita mix, etc.) recipe is good for two reasons. First, it tastes way better than anything you could buy that is commercially produced. Second, it is cost effective. For one litre of this “bar sour,” the cost is approximate $2.50 per litre or less. Finest Call premixed bar sour has a price of approximately $3.50 to $5.00 per litre and the powdered stuff (Franco’s) costs about $3.25/L. Basically, with the freshly prepared bar mix, you get better quality at a lower price, but there is a slight amount of labour required to make it from scratch. The benefit is that a better quality drink will pay for itself in a short period, both in tips for the bartender and increased business.
The sour mix recipe is a little more complex than the standard citrus juice / simple syrup mixture, but that’s because it is working on more than just flavour. This recipe also looks at “texture” in the cocktail. This is accomplished by adding some natural sugars (maltodextrin) that increase the viscosity (body) of the sour mix. Also, egg white (optional) is used to give the sour mix the ability to foam. The maltodextrin will provide some foaming capability if you skip the egg white. The zest of the lime gives the sour mix some extra flavour because the oils in the peel are incorporated into the mix. The lime peel also provides some natural green colour for the sour mix. The citric acid helps keep the costs reasonable, and the sour mix consistent. Fruit can be notoriously inconsistent. The corn syrup is to help prevent any re-crystallization of the sugar.
Sour Mix Recipe
1½ Cup (360 ml) Sugar
¼ Cup (60 ml) Corn Syrup
¼ Cup(120 ml) Maltodextrin
4 oz (120 ml) Fresh Lemon Juice
4 oz (120 ml) Fresh Lime Juice
2 tbs (30 ml) Lime Zest
2 tsp (8 grams) Dehydrated Egg White (Optional)
1 tbs (12 grams) Citric Acid
2 Cups (480 ml) Water
Instructions: Mix water, sugar, glucose, maltodextrin and zest in a pot and gently heat until all the sugars have dissolved. Turn off the heat and add the remaining ingredients, stirring until dissolved. Strain the mix into a 1-litre bottle.
If you want to create separate Lime Sour Mix and Lemon Sour Mix, just follow the same recipe and use only lemon or lime. I rarely use lemon sour, so I will just squeeze fresh lemons with simple syrup to make the lemon sour.
Since you now have a good understanding of what sour mix should be, understanding simple syrup is a great next step to making impressive cocktails.