Sweet and sour mix is a popular cocktail ingredient used to add a balanced sweet and sour flavor to drinks. It’s typically made by mixing sugar, water, lemon juice, and sometimes lime juice. But since sweet and sour mix contains perishable ingredients like fruit juices, many people wonder if it has the potential to spoil. Here’s a look at whether sweet and sour mix can go bad, how to tell if yours has spoiled, and how to extend its shelf life.
Does sweet and sour mix go bad?
Yes, sweet and sour mix can go bad. The lemon and lime juices in sweet and sour mix contain natural sugars and acids that can ferment over time. The added sugar in the mix also provides food for microbes like yeast and bacteria. So eventually, sweet and sour mix will spoil if left at room temperature for too long.
Signs your sweet and sour mix has gone bad
Here are some signs that your homemade or store-bought sweet and sour mix has spoiled and should be discarded:
- Mold growth – You may see fuzzy mold growing on the surface of old sweet and sour mix. This is a definite sign it has spoiled.
- Fermented smell – Spoiled sweet and sour mix will have a sour, yeasty aroma from fermentation.
- Fizzing or bubbling – The citrus juices may react with the sugar and start to ferment, causing bubbles or fizzing.
- Change in color – The mix may change from clear to cloudy or yellowish.
- Off tastes – If your sweet and sour mix tastes more sour than usual, it’s likely gone off.
How long does sweet and sour mix last?
The exact shelf life of sweet and sour mix depends on how it was made and stored. Here are some general guidelines for how long properly stored sweet and sour mix will last before spoiling:
- Homemade sweet and sour mix: lasts 3-5 days refrigerated. It will start to spoil after about a week.
- Store-bought sweet and sour mix: lasts 1-2 weeks past the printed expiration date if refrigerated and unopened.
- Sweet and sour mix made with preserved lemon/lime juice: lasts 2-3 weeks refrigerated.
- Sweet and sour mix frozen: lasts 4-6 months in the freezer before quality declines.
No matter what form of sweet and sour mix you have, always inspect it before use. If it has any signs of spoilage like odor, appearance changes, or fizzing – it’s best to discard it.
How to extend the shelf life of sweet and sour mix
You can extend the shelf life of your sweet and sour mix by up to 2-3 weeks with proper storage methods:
- Refrigerate: Keep homemade or opened sweet and sour mix refrigerated at all times. The cool temperature slows fermentation.
- Use preserved juices: Make your mix with preserved lemon and lime juices which last longer than fresh-squeezed.
- Freeze: Freeze homemade sweet and sour mix in airtight containers for 4-6 months.
- Add vodka: The alcohol in vodka inhibits microbial growth. Add 1 oz vodka per cup of mix.
- Acidify: Add a small amount of citric acid or vitamin C powder to boost acidity.
How to tell if frozen sweet and sour mix has gone bad
Sweet and sour mix that has been continuously frozen at 0°F will keep for about 4 to 6 months before the quality starts to suffer. Here are some signs frozen sweet and sour mix has gone bad and needs to be discarded:
- Ice crystals or freezer burn spots on the surface
- Separation of ingredients once thawed
- Noticeable change in color
- Off odors when thawed
- Unnatural fizzing
- Mold growing anywhere on the thawed mix
- A very sour taste
Always inspect and smell thawed sweet and sour mix before using. If it has an odd appearance, smell, taste or texture – do not use it in cocktails. Discard thawed mix after 2-3 days in the fridge.
Does sweet and sour mix need to be refrigerated?
Yes, refrigeration is important for preserving sweet and sour mix and preventing spoilage. The high amounts of citrus juice and added sugar make it prone to spoiling at room temperature. Refrigeration at 40°F or below helps slow the growth of bacteria, yeasts and molds.
Store-bought sweet and sour mix should always be refrigerated after opening. And homemade mixes should be kept chilled at all times. The exception is shelf-stable tetra-pack sweet and sour mix, which can safely be stored in the pantry until opened.
Can you freeze sweet and sour mix?
Yes, sweet and sour mix freezes well for long-term storage. To freeze homemade or opened sweet and sour mix:
- Fill airtight containers or freezer bags with the mix, leaving 1⁄2 inch of headspace.
- Seal the containers and lay them flat in the freezer.
- Freeze for up to 4-6 months at 0°F.
- Thaw in the refrigerator before using.
Freezing prevents the sweet and sour mix from spoiling for several months. But it may lose some fresh flavor over time in the freezer.
Can spoiled sweet and sour mix make you sick?
Consuming rancid or moldy sweet and sour mix could potentially make you sick. Here are some possible health risks:
- Foodborne illness – Spoiled sweet and sour mix may harbor harmful bacteria like salmonella, listeria or E. coli that can cause food poisoning symptoms.
- Toxic mold – Mold growing on old sweet and sour mix could be a toxic variety that causes allergy-like symptoms if ingested.
- Gastrointestinal upset – The acidic, fermented taste can irritate the digestive tract leading to nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.
Severe illness is unlikely from small amounts of contaminated sweet and sour mix. But it’s still best to err on the side of caution and throw away any expired, moldy, or oddly smelling sweet and sour mix to avoid the risk of foodborne illnesses.
How to store sweet and sour mix properly
To get the longest possible shelf life out of your sweet and sour mix, be sure to store it properly:
- Refrigerate opened sweet and sour mix at 40°F or below.
- Store unopened mix away from direct sunlight in a cool, dry pantry.
- Keep sweet and sour mix in airtight bottles or containers.
- Never store it at room temperature or in humid environments.
- Always use clean utensils and glasses to portion mix to avoid cross-contamination.
- Watch for any changes in appearance, odor or fizzing which can indicate spoilage.
With proper refrigerated storage, sweet and sour mix can last 1-2 weeks past its printed expiration date. Homemade mixes will keep for 3-5 days in the fridge. Discard any mix that smells or looks off.
How to make sweet and sour mix that lasts
You can whip up homemade sweet and sour mix that lasts longer by:
- Using preserved lemon and lime juices instead of fresh squeezed citrus.
- Adding a small amount of vodka or neutral spirit (1 oz per cup).
- Boosting the acidity with citric acid or vitamin C powder.
- Storing the mix in airtight bottles or jars in the fridge.
Properly stored, homemade sweet and sour mix made with these tips will stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 weeks.
Commercially prepared shelf-stable mixes
If you don’t want the hassle of making and storing your own sweet and sour mix, some commercially prepared mixes are shelf-stable:
- Tetra-pak sweet and sour mix – Sold in shelf-stable aseptic cartons, lasts 6-12 months unopened.
- Powdered sweet and sour mix – Dehydrated for portability, lasts 1-2 years sealed.
- Canned sweet and sour mix – Long-lasting canned versions are available. Refrigerate after opening.
Always read labels and adhere to storage recommendations for commercial mixes. Refrigerate opened tetra-pak or canned mixes.
Like other food and drink items containing fruit juices and sugar, sweet and sour mix can spoil without proper storage. Keep both opened and unopened bottles refrigerated, watch for any signs of spoilage like fizzing or color changes, and discard if mold develops. With refrigerator storage, sweet and sour mix can stay fresh for 1-3 weeks past its printed date. Freezing extends its shelf life for 4-6 months. Following good storage practices allows you to keep sweet and sour mix on hand for crafted cocktails without having to worry about it going bad.