Sour mix is a gateway drug. It can lead you down a very dark path, or it can open up a new world of fresh flavors or ingredients. As proof of this, I submit to you two examples:
One scenario involves the novice bartender using prepackaged mix as a medium for all sorts of vile concoctions. Let’s face it: bland, weak, artificially-flavored sour mix is the vodka of non-alocholic mixers. Add some raspberry to it, it tastes pretty much like raspberry. Add some whiskey and it’s, uh, flavored whiskey. I guess.
But this other path is one that I’ve been asked a lot about lately, and is the subject of this article: how do you make and properly apply fresh sour mix to cocktails?
I have a simple question. Why is it that 90% of the time when I order a whiskey sour I get a giant glass of Country Time Lemonade with a shot of Jack Daniels in it? Or worse, Squirt with some Black Velvet? Sour mix is just lemon and sugar right? I don’t understand why this is such a hard drink to get made correctly. Maybe it’s because I live in Nebraska.
I’ve been reading your blog for quite some time now (since well before the layout changed) so I’ve come to learn through and through that you despise pretty much any premixed cocktail mixers; Sour Mix, Bloody Mary Mix, etc… there are places online that offer ways to make “homemade” sour mix etc… but seeing as I haven’t developed with them one of those creepy checking-their-blog-for-updates-everyday thing that I have with your blog, I thought I would ask your advice on making homemade equivelents. For example, a good whisky sour from scratch, or even just simple syrup.
How do you personally prepare these cocktail mixers ahead of time on the job or on a drink-to-drink basis at home?
Anyways, thanks for the good reading.
First of all, it’s not just Nebraska, it’s everywhere. The reason you’re getting something that tastes like Country Time Lemonade is because that’s pretty much what bottled sour mix is. Bars in this country use bottled sour mix for a variety of reasons:
- It’s cheap.
- It never spoils.
- It doesn’t require any preparation time.
- Nobody remembers how to do it the right way.
- It tastes delicious.
Just kidding. It actually tastes like shit.
So the question is, how do we do it the right way? Well, first I want you to make yourself some simple syrup. That’s right, one part hot water, one part sugar. Stir it until it’s clear, put it in a nice-looking bottle, and away you go.
Now get yourself some sort of juicer, any kind. There are hand juicers, motorized juicers, attachments for your KitchenAid, crank/press juicers, just about every imaginable method for extracting juice from a piece of fruit awaits you at your local MegaMall. Just make sure you pick up a little strainer, too, because bits of pulp in your drink are a big no-no.
With your new juicer, that bottle of simple syrup, and a bag of lemons at your side, you’re just about ready to go. Squeeze and strain that lemon juice into a pretty bottle and meet me back here when you’re done.
I’m going to show you how to make a whiskey sour today, but you can substitute any primary liquor for the bourbon. Yes, even Midori. I guess.
There are a lot of conflicting whiskey sour recipes on the internet right now. Most will tell you to use one part lemon juice to one part simple syrup. That’s pretty standard but it’s a little sweet for me and I think bourbon is sweet enough already, so here’s my whiskey sour recipe:
2 oz bourbon
1 oz fresh lemon juice
.75 oz simple syrup
Shake ingredients with ice and strain over fresh rocks in a short 8 oz glass. Garnish with a lemon wedge.
That’s it! Just remember: as with any recipe you’ll find, it’s open to interpretation. If this one’s too sour for you, just add a little more syrup.
Now, what about a more versatile “sour mix” that you can make in larger quantities and use in place of Country Time Lemonade?
2 parts simple syrup
2 parts lemon juice
1 part lime juice
Make as much, or as little, as you want. Bottle it and use it anywhere, in place of the crap you find at the supermarket. Want a whiskey sour? 2 ounces whiskey, 2 ounces sour mix, on the rocks. Margarita? 2 ounces tequila, 1 ounce triple sec, 2 ounces sour mix. Pisco sour? 2 ounces pisco, 2 ounces sour mix, .5 ounces egg white. Enjoy, baby.
Now that you know how easy it is to make your own freshly-squeezed cocktails, maybe you’ll start demanding more from the bars you frequent. Tell them how easy it is and maybe we can all be on our way down a brighter path.