Sour Drinks All Bartenders Should Know


Sweet-n-sour mix has many names in the mixer aisle of your local store. It can be called sour mix, margarita mix, and whiskey sour mix and all of them are pretty nasty because they have artificial colorings, flavorings,and words no one can pronounce. By far, the best is to make your own so that it's fresh. Your taste buds will not believe the difference.

The first thing you should know is that there are basically 2 types of sour mixes. One has a lemon base and the other lime. Lemon based sour mixes are used for a Whiskey Sour, Amaretto Sour, Tom Collins, Long Island Iced Tea, etc. Lime based mixes are mostly just used for Margaritas.

Lemon-based sour mix is fresh lemon juice and simple syrup (sugar water). You can learn to make it here. Lime-based is lime juice and simple syrup.

In recipe books you may see that the recipe calls for 1 oz juice and 1 oz simple syrup...That's sour mix made-to-order! You can pre-make it in batches so when a recipe calls for let's say 1 oz lemon juice and 1 oz simple syrup you can just pour 2 oz of your pre-made sour mix. If you see sour mix on this page then that's what it means.

Sadly, most bars use a concentrated, powered, or commercial sour mix. But there's hope because there are bars that are making the change because the public is demanding freshness. I will add a list of these bars soon.


Whiskey Sour


Glass: Highball, Old-fashioned, or whatever your establishment requires.

1 1/2 ounces of whiskey
1 ounce lemon juice
1 ounce simple syrup

Mixing Method: Shake and strain over ice (optional)
Garnish: Flag, with the minimum garnish being a cherry.



One Spirit Sour Family

Amaretto Sour: amaretto, lemon juice and simple syrup.
Vodka Sour: vodka, lemon juice and simple syrup.
Scotch Sour: scotch, lemon juice and simple syrup.
Apricot Sour: apricot brandy, lemon juice and simple syrup.
Midori Sour: Midori, lemon juice and simple syrup.


Tom Collins


The Tom Collins was the very first drink I ever had in the very first nightclub I ever walked into. I can’t remember the name of the club, but I do remember the name of the song playing as I entered. It was Le Freak.

Glass: Collins glass or tall thin glass.
1 1/2 ounces of gin
Fill with equal parts of sour mix and soda water.
Mixing Method: Shake the gin and sour with ice then strain over fresh ice. Top with the soda water.
Garnish: Flag, with the minimum garnish being a cherry.

Note: Most guests prefer the taste of half soda water and half sprite or 7up. Sadly, America has a sweet tooth.



Collins Family

Vodka Collins: vodka, sour, soda water.
John Collins: whiskey, sour, and soda water.
Singapore Sling #1: gin, sour mix, soda water, bitters and a cherry brandy floater.
Singapore Sling #2: gin, Cherry Heering, Cointreau, Benedictine, pineapple juice, limejuice, grenadine, and bitters.
Sloe Gin Fizz: sloe gin, sour mix, half soda half sprite or 7 up.



Long Island Iced Tea

The Long Island Iced Tea is a controversial drink
. Bartenders hate to make it and guests think that they can catch a buzz from drinking only one. It became famous in the late 1970s disco era and is said to be invented by a man named Robert Butt from Long Island, NY. The gimmick of the drink is that it looks and tastes like non-alcoholic Iced Tea. It’s had some pretty good staying power because it’s still popular into the 21st century.

When bartenders talk amongst themselves they often shorten the name to Long Island Tea and Long Island and the reason that they hate making it is because you have to pick up 5 bottles of booze, only pouring a half-ounce from each. Some establishments only allow you to pour 2 ounces of alcohol into a drink, so one of the clear liquors are usually eliminated.

1/2 ounce vodka
1/2 ounce gin
1/2 ounce rum
1/2 ounce triple sec
2 ounces of sour mix
1/2 to 2 ounces of cola depending
Mixing Method: Shake if using fresh squeezed ingredients before adding the cola, otherwise roll.
Garnish: lemon wedge

Note: Some guests like more cola than sour and vice versa. The #1 mistake bartenders make is pouring in too much sour. When guests taste a lot of sour they think that you cheated them by not putting in much alcohol. A lot of bartenders have learned to pick up two bottles in each hand (four at one time) to make this drink.

For a low carb LIIT, you can use fresh squeezed lemon juice, Splenda or Equal, and diet cola.

LIIT Family


Texas Tea; same as a LIIT just add Tequila.
Long Beach Tea
(also called California Tea); vodka, gin, rum, tequila, triple sec, sour, and cranberry juice.
Miami Iced Tea; vodka, gin, rum, triple sec, peach schnapps, cranberry juice and sprite or 7 up.
Electric Iced Tea; vodka, gin, rum, gin, tequila, blue Curacao, sour and sprite or 7up.


Lynchburg Lemonade

I tried to get some information
on this long cool drink from the Jack Daniel’s company, but I got the runaround for about a month and gave up. Then someone sent me this information about this lawsuit and it all made sense.

Apparently, a man named Tony Mason created a drink and named it Lynchburg Lemonade in 1980. As a bartender he made the drink for his Jack Daniel's rep in 1982. Basically, the rep took the drink and the recipe and never gave Tony Mason credit.

Glass: Tall
1 1/2 ounces of Jack Daniel’s
1/2 ounce triple sec
Fill with equal parts of sour and sprite or 7up
Mixing Method: Shake if using fresh squeezed ingredients before adding the soda, otherwise roll.
Garnish: lemon wedge.



Okay. Here’s the deal with the Daiquiri. The name comes from the name of a beach in Cuba. A man named Jennings Cox was working in an iron mine as an engineer near Daiquiri Beach. One weekend, while entertaining some Americans, he ran out of gin and quickly mixed up some rum, fresh limejuice and sugar (sounds like a rum sour, huh?). The drink became a hit and was then served at the Army and Navy Club in Washington D.C. The rest is history. It was Ernest Hemingway’s favorite drink.

Glass: Cocktail
1 1/2 ounces of rum
1 ounce simple syrup
1 ounce fresh lime juice

Mixing Method: Shake and strain into a chilled glass.
Garnish: None, but some add a lime wedge.



Note: Most guests think that a Daiquiri is a term for a frozen drink and or most often, a Strawberry Daiquiri. Honestly, I didn’t know what it was until I worked on a cruise ship and I had to make trash cans full of Daiquiris for 1500 passengers at the Captain's party. Be prepared, because many guests will walk up to your bar and ask for a Daiquiri and you will have to ask them what flavor they want. 99% of the time, they will not want this drink.





This is by far the most popular drink worldwide and many people claim to have invented it. If you’re currently working as a bartender then you probably make around 5000 Margaritas a year. Double it if you work in a tropical location and triple it if you work in a Mexican restaurant. Also, know that there are many that claim to be the inventor of the Margarita ranging from the 1930s to the 1950s. When you think about it it’s just a Daiquiri spin-off.

Glass: Many glasses can be used and some establishments even use real Margarita glasses that have a unique shape.

The Original Margarita
The basics of a Margarita is simple: Tequila, orange liqueur, and lime juice. Using only these three ingredients equals a true Margarita. The best ratio is 3:2:1. Shake and strain that into a glass with or without ice. The sweet orange liqueur should be all the sweetness a true Margarita needs.


Margarita that you'll find in bars that don't use fresh juice
1 1/2 ounces of tequila
1/2 ounce of triple sec
1/8 ounce Rose's lime juice
4 ounces commercial sour mix
Mixing Method: Margaritas can be served up, on the rocks, or blended.
Garnish: A salted rim and a lime wedge. For presentation sake some establishments will use lime wheels.

Margarita Tips

A lot of bartenders are confused about flavored Margaritas
. Understand that a Margarita is tequila, orange liqueur, and lime juice. To make flavored Margaritas you simply replace the orange liqueur with another flavored liqueur or mixer. For example if you use Chambord (sham-BOARD) instead of the triple sec (orange liqueur) you’ve made a Raspberry Margarita, if you use Midori you’ve made a Melon Margarita and if you replace the orange liqueur with strawberry mix then you’ve made a Strawberry Margarita.


Bartenders will develop their own style when making a Margarita on the rocks. When you’re just beginning, it helps to make the Margarita in the glass first so you get a feel for the portions in the glass that you use at your bar. Next, you can pour it into a shaker tin and while shaking, you can dip rim the glass with salt with the other hand then pour in the drink. Experienced bartenders will rim the glass first and pour the perfect amount of ice, spirit, and mixer into a shaker tin from the beginning, shake then pour it into the glass.
If you’re not sure if a guest wants their glass rimmed with salt or not, then just rim half of it.


Know that Margaritas can be made straight up, on the rocks or blended (frozen). Also know that most guests don’t have a clue about Margaritas. They hear about it in a song or see it in the movies and TV and then walk up to the bar and ask, Can I have a Margarita? You then will have to ask a series of questions. So, try to smile and without attitude say, sure, how would you like it? When you see the deer-caught-in-the-headlight eyes you’ll know that you are looking at an inexperienced Margarita drinker. The choices they will have to make are up, rocks, frozen, salt, no salt, well or top shelf.
To make unforgettable blended/frozen Margaritas, blend the non-alcoholic portions and pour into the glass leaving room to pour the alcohol on top. When you blend with the alcohol the melted ice waters down the drink.

Know that Cointreau is the true upgrade of triple sec. A lot of bartenders think Grand Marnier is the upgrade. Grand Marnier is orange flavored, yes, but it’s a Cognac based orange liqueur, meaning you are putting Cognac in your Margarita, making it a cross between a Margarita and a Sidecar.

Course salt called kosher salt is used for Margaritas, not table salt.

Margarita Family

Top Shelf Margarita: means to use any premium tequila and triple sec that the guests call or that your establishment says to use.
Golden Margarita: means to use gold tequila.
Golden Grand Margarita: means to use gold tequila and Grand Marnier.
Blue Margarita: means to substitute the triple sec for blue Curacao.
Sidecar: brandy or Cognac, triple sec, and sour mix. Can be served with a sugared rim.

Miss Charming's Margarita page gets more hits than any other page. Click here to view it.


Lemondrop Martini


Glass: Martini.
1 1/2 ounces citrus flavored vodka
1/2 ounce triple sec
2 ounces sour mix
Mixing Method: Shake and strain.
Garnish: sugared rim with a sugar coated lemon wedge.




Sour Apple-tini


Glass: Martini
1 ounce citrus flavored vodka
1 ounce sour apple liqueur
2 ounces sour mix
Mixing Method: Shake and strain.
Garnish: dropped cherry, however handmade cocktail bars will actually use a slice of green apple.

Note: There are slight variations on this recipe. Some bartenders add triple sec, others add apple juice and others leave out the sour mix bumping up the alcohol portions.

Sour Apple Family

Caramel Apple-tini: vodka, sour apple liqueur, butterscotch schnapps, and sour mix.
Washington Apple-tini: Crown Royal, apple Pucker, and cranberry juice (some bartenders use Southern Comfort instead of Crown Royal).


The Top Sour Drinks You Must Know


Amaretto Sour
Long Beach Tea
Long Island Iced Tea
Lynchburg Lemonade
Midori Sour
Sour Apple-tini
Tom Collins
Whiskey Sour


The Juicy Family The Shot Family
The Creamy Family The Classic Family
The Sour Family The Highball Family
The Tropical Family The Stick Family
The Hot Family Misc. Family