Making sour mix from scratch is an easy step towards next-level home cocktailing. Herein, three thoughts on why and how.
1. It’s like those pickles. Those precious little jars of bespoke pickles in my friend’s refrigerator. “I just had sooo many cucumbers left over from the farmers’ market,” she gushes. I stare into a fridge so proper and personal it looks designed for Pinterest-envy. I select a few slices of kosher dill. Damn, these are good, I think, why doesn’t my fridge look like that? My sandwich is remarkable. I can taste the extra effort.
Though I may dabble in homemade sauerkraut now and again, I don’t have the wherewithal to make accoutrements like that on a regular basis. Except one – a fridge staple that can deliver the same wow-factor for terribly little money and effort: sour mix.
With a couple of citrus fruits and some sugar, I can develop a unique cocktail mixer in less time than it takes to dry a load of laundry. The basic formula (thanks to Easy & Oskey for the initial inspiration) is to make a weak simple syrup (2 parts water to 1 part sugar) and mix it 2:1 with a blend of citrus juice. From there, it’s all up to you.
2. It gets personal. Sour mix is endlessly customizable. It can be made more tart or sweet, according to your tastes. It can easily take on floral, herbal and spice flavors.
For an interesting whiskey sour, what about using elderflower honey for the sugar and put some lavender in the boil? Or scrape a touch of vanilla bean into the mix to play with the oak flavor in your favorite bourbon. Why not steep a tea bag into the syrup before adding the citrus? (Maybe don’t do all three of those in the same batch, but you get my point).
Using this formula, the cocktail comes together from equal parts spirit and sour mix, shaken and strained. All you need to batch some incredible cocktails for a party is a single bottle of liquor, an equal volume of sour mix, and a bag of ice. And it doesn’t have to be good booze. I mean, what better way to cover up the sins of a rail liquor with an interesting sour mix?
And we’re talking any liquor. Only adjust the flavors to match. Ever had a gin sour? You’ll love it with grapefruit and thyme (pictured, above. recipe, below). Not sure what to do with that crappy old rum? Mask it with spices and molasses. With tequila, you’d best stick to Dan Oskey’s original lemon-lime sour like in the Cobra Kai. Perhaps an all-lemon mix would be best for whiskey, but you won’t know for sure unless you experiment.
3. It’s about trial and error. I like making sour in tiny batches. Primarily because the stuff only keeps for about a week or two in the fridge. But also because it’s fun to experiment based on the nuances of the spirit you have on hand. The recipes below are my personal favorites, and are by no means the authoritative “best” recipes. They make about 12 ounces of sour mix, enough for 6 good cocktails, so it won’t be in danger of spoiling. That’s certainly not two weeks in my world.
And why powered egg white, you ask? Check out that cap of foam on the gin sour. Good cocktails have texture, just like food.
Erik Eastman recommends 2 ounces of spirit mixed with 2 ounces of fresh sour. Shake and strain (double strain, using both a Hawthorne and fine mesh strainer if you have it) into a cocktail or Collins glass.
GIN SOUR MIX
1/2c. white sugar
1T chopped, fresh thyme
2-1/2oz. grapefruit juice
1-1/2oz. lemon juice
1 tsp. powdered egg white.
Heat the water, sugar and thyme until it boils for 1 minute. Let stand and steep for 30 minutes before straining. Add citrus and egg white, shake well.
RUM SOUR MIX
1/2c. brown sugar
2oz. lime juice
2oz. orange juice
7-8 whole cloves
1 small cinnamon stick
1 tsp. powdered egg white
Heat the water, sugar, molasses and spices until it boils for 1 minute. Let stand and steep for 30 minutes before straining. Add citrus and egg white, shake well.