Citrus Science: Using Citrus Fruits in Cocktails Correctly
Ever wonder how top bartenders get that combination of ingredients just right? The twist, the squeeze or the muddle, which one works best for which cocktail? Believe it or not, there’s a bit of science to using citrus fruits in cocktails that most people just overlook. Beyond the garnish, the right balance of citrus can be the difference between a masterpiece and a mouth-puckering dud. And before you reach for that bottle of prepared lime or lemon juice, consider squeezing your own fresh fruit. Its worth the effort and with a little practice and a few tips, you can begin using fresh fruit like a master mixologist in no time.
Citrus fruits have long been used as a pairing for alcohol as they neutralize the “burn” associated with the ethanol that is present in all alcohol. Vodka is actually ethanol and water. We offer some guidance here with felənē® vodka because of the noticeable absence of the ethanol burn associated with most vodka brands. Many people mixing drinks at home will add alcohol to the threshold of noticing the alcohol burn in their drink. We recommend using proportions in recipes (average of 1.5 ounces per glass of vodka). You may be tempted to add more felənē® vodka to your cocktails because of the lack of that ethanol burn sensation, but rest assured, felənē® vodka is 80 proof (40% alcohol by volume).
Now back to Citrus Science. Let’s define fresh fruit before we begin. While we recommend using organic, non-GMO fruits when mixing cocktails mixing with felənē® vodka wherever possible, squeezing fresh fruit juice directly into your cocktail is not always the ideal thing to do. Some citrus fruits are at their ideal state at certain temperatures and after they have had an opportunity to “breathe” for a few hours. Orange juice is best consumed and mixed immediately, while lemons and limes are usually more fragrant and flavorful after several hours after being squeezed. Mostly all citrus fruits will be better-tasting and will juice better at room temperature or even warmer.
|Type of Fruit||Ideal Temp||When to use||Tips|
|Oranges||Room temperature||Immediately (up to 30-45 minutes)||use oranges with thicker peel for a little extra kick from the oils in the peel. Store whole citrus in the refrigerator, juice at room temperature.|
|Room temperature/slightly warmer||Let sit in a sealed container in refrigerator after juicing for at least an hour before using||Microwave till slightly warm (not hot) or soak in hot tap water. Will start losing quality after 10 hours|
|Limes||Room temperature/slightly warmer||Let sit in a sealed container in refrigerator after juicing for at least an hour before using||Microwave till slightly warm (not hot) or soak in hot tap water. Will start losing quality after 10 hours|
|Room Temperature||Several hours. Your juice will acquire a little more bitterness, but also more flavor and fragrance||Use ripened ruby-red or pink grapefruit for the perfect sweet-tart combination. Use before 48 hours.|
“Aging” your citrus juice allows bitterness to increase which, according to Kevin Liu writing for Serious Eats “I think the bitterness is suppressing some of the intense acidity in lemon and lime juices, which allows the drinker to perceive more of the subtle nuances of the juice’s flavor.” Liu goes on to explain that because of the composition of citrus fruits, they don’t give up their juicy goodness at colder temperatures. While it’s not critical to squeeze your citrus in advance, many might find it easier to prep your mixers in advance and enjoy the “aging” flavor enhancements.
For the smaller citrus fruits like lemons, limes and some oranges, we like a simple hand juicer like the combo lime/lemon juicer from Crate N Barrel below. These small hand juicers allow you to extract the essential oils from the peel and are fast, efficient and easy to use with minimal clean-up effort.