Sour Mix: Just Say No - Daiquiri Cocktail

As the saying goes, when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. For bartenders, that “hammer” can come in the form of “sour mix”.



For sour style cocktails (such as Daiquiri, Margarita, Sidecar, Cosmopolitan, etc.), the proper balance between sweet and sour is important to achieve. You can add just a quarter ounce too much tart citrus juice to a cocktail and send it over the cliff. So imagine the value of getting that “just right” balance ahead of time, in bulk, and then being able to turn out well-balanced drinks that much quicker, without having to be as concerned about getting the recipe right. One of the problems of course is that not all sour style cocktails are created equal. Even a great sour mix, made from scratch, won’t work well in multiple recipes.



Probably the only time that a sour mix “batch” is appropriate, is for a catering type of operation or event. This would be where you either know you are going to be slammed all night with people ordering a specific cocktail, or you have to use untrained staff. In such a situation you can have the “right” sour mix for the couple of drinks you’ll be offering, make it easier for untrained staff to get the recipe right, and take a little less time doing it.



Sour mix was not created as a cocktail ingredient, but as a cocktail shortcut. The next time you see a recipe that calls for “sour mix”, realize that you will be far better off looking for another recipe.

Ingredients

2 oz white rum

3/4 oz fresh lime juice

3/4 oz simple syrup

Instructions

Shake ingredients with ice.

Strain into a chilled cocktail coup.

Comments

George R. Welch 23 Oct 2014
11:26 am

Robert,

Great series of episodes!

Where do you get the nice bottles you have your lime juice and simple
syrup in?  I would love to squeeze up some fresh juice in advance of a
party and have something attractive like that to to keep it in.

—George

Robert Hess 23 Oct 2014
11:30 am

George,
I think I got those at a thrift store. It’s great to peruse through the various glassware and housewares they have. There are some great finds to be had. You can also simply search for “small glass carafe” and probably find something similar.
-Robert

a10tive1 23 Oct 2014
12:56 pm

Fantastic.  I love the hammer/nail analogy!

Oliver H. 24 Oct 2014
6:17 am

Hi Robert,

I’m curious how long you’d say fresh lime or lemon juice would qualify as “fresh” if kept in, say, a squeeze bottle or a carafe like the one you use in this video? I wouldn’t want to compromise flavor, but of course, having some readily available would be convenient in some cases.

Thank you for the great videos, by the way!

Danny 24 Oct 2014
12:50 pm

Robert, you are being too kind when describing sour-mix.  I’ve never tasted any mix marketed for a particular drink taste as if fresh juice was used.
Great show!

Shawn9er 28 Oct 2014
6:13 pm

Robert,

Do you know where you got those coupe glasses?
Also, how many ounces are those glasses. I like how you have a little room for error at the top, instead of filling the glasses to the room.

Robert Hess 29 Oct 2014
11:19 am

Oliver,
Regarding the freshness of juice… There are those who will swear by citrus juices needing to be the freshest possible for the best result. However there are others, and with some evidence to back them up, that lemon and lime juice are actually better if they age for a few hours. Squeezing enough juice at the start of a shift I think is a perfectly fine option and I doubt will affect quality. You might actually want to try your own blind tasting on this.

Here is what you want to try (and I recommend this to any bars/bartenders out there who might be reading this). Try this at the end of the evening once things are winding down.

1. Have somebody secretly measure out old lime juice into two identical glasses, and also squeeze some fresh lime juice and similarly measure that into two glasses identical to the first two. They will then randomly label the glasses “1”, “2”, “3”, and “4” and record what type of juice each glass had in it on a piece of paper.

2. Now another person will secretly use the juice from THREE of those glasses to make a cocktail like the Daiquiri (or something else that is still a simple sour style). And randomly label these drinks “A”, “B”, and “C” and mark down which juice (1, 2, 3, or 4) were used in those drinks on a piece of paper.

NOTE: the person from step 1 shouldn’t know what juices the person from step 2 is using, and vice versa. Nor should anybody else.

Now anybody who wants to participate can taste the drinks and the first thing they need to decide, is which two drinks were made with the SAME juice, and then see if they can decide which drink they like the best, and by how much.

Once everybody has recorded there opinions, the two folks who mixed up the drinks compare their records in order to reveal which drink had which juice in it.

This is what I call a “triple blind” test. It starts out being “double blind” because neither the test givers or the test takers know what is what. And then it gets another blind because you don’t know which two drinks are the same.

If you do give this a try, please drop back here and let us know how things went!

And here is a little extra reading material:
http://www.cookingissues.com/2010/10/01/fresh-lime-juice-wtf/

Robert Hess 29 Oct 2014
11:23 am

Shawn,

In most of these episodes I am using the Leopold Coupe from Cocktail Kingdom. Typically I use the 6oz. coup. I think these are great all-purpose cocktail glasses and just the right size for most drinks. I also have some of their 3.5 oz glasses.

http://www.cocktailkingdom.com/all-glassware/coupes.html

-Robert

Oliver H. 31 Oct 2014
6:20 pm

Thank you for the reply, Robert – I’ll certainly be trying that soon. It seems like a fair and thorough way to settle the matter once and for all.

Another citrus-related question for you: What are your thoughts on the use of organic vs. non-organic lemons and limes in cocktails? I’ve heard many times that you should only worry about using the peel, but would this include extracting oils when squeezing the fruit or using wedges in the drink as garnish, for example?

I don’t mind spending a little extra buying organic fruits, but they tend to be harder to come by where I live and often seem to be inferior in quality, for some reason.

—Oliver

Robert Hess 4 Nov 2014
3:43 pm

Oliver,
Organics… I guess part of the answer really depends on what you are asking. If you are simply concerned about reducing or removing the possibility of being exposed to pesticides on the skin… Then yes, using organically grown citrus would do this, but so would (for the most part) washing the fruit in a proper fruit rinse (there are organic products for this available in most supermarkets). But the pesticides sprayed on citrus doesn’t just sit on the surface, it also can work its way into the fruit as well, and there are also all of the other chemicals used throughout the growing process which are going to be systemic into the fruit too.
So whenever possible, it is always good to go with organic products for a variety of reasons. It is true that sometimes they will appear to be of inferior quality. Often this is simply cosmetic, since they haven’t been sprayed with the chemicals that are designed to keep away the various insects or such which can cause blemishes and such, but the fruit itself should be just as good, if not better, than non-organics.

blair frodelius 6 Nov 2014
3:59 pm

I’ve never used sour mix in my cocktails.  Mainly because like a chef, I want to cntrol the amounts of what is going into my cocktails.  That being said, when making a punch pre-batching ingredients will save time. 

Oh, and lemons and limes are completely different animals.  You’d think they might be interchangable, but no.  They each depend in different amounts of sweeteners.  So, a lemon-lime sour mix is doubly annoying.

Cheers!

Blair Frodelius
GoodSpiritsNews.com

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