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Lime Juice in Cocktails

Guide to lime juice in cocktails – Bottled vs Squeezed vs Aged

Freshly squeezed lime juice is one of the absolutely essential cocktail ingredients. But when you’re just starting your (home) bartender career, perhaps you ask yourself whether you have to squeeze limes for every cocktail or if you can’t just go and buy it bottled in the supermarket. To help you make up your mind, I will explain everything you need to know about lime juice in cocktails and how to use it.

Why use lime juice in cocktails?

Making cocktails is all about the balance of flavors and tastes. To get a great cocktail, you have to get the right combination of different flavors. It’s much like cooking, where you have to get the right balance of the five primary tastes: sour, sweet, salty, bitter, and umami.

The juice of fresh lime juice brings sourness to your drink. When you taste it pure, you immediately notice the intense sour taste created by the citric acid of limes. Sourness gets balanced by sweetness, so every cocktail that wants lime juice also has a sweet ingredient. Usually, that’s syrup, but a sweet liqueur is possible, too.

So let’s assume you have the lime juice and syrup balanced. Add white Rum to this mix, and you have a Daiquiri cocktail. The combination of sweet and sour covers the harsh alcohol notes of the white Rum and makes a delicious and refreshing drink.

Now we established why you need lime juice or alternatively lemon juice in your drinks. But does it have to be freshly pressed lime juice, or can you buy those bottled versions from the supermarket? Let’s check out the different options you have.

Bottled lime juice

Bottled lime juice is for sale in almost every supermarket, which makes it a very convenient option. And that’s why this stuff gets bought way too often if you ask me. Added preservatives and sugar make it less acidic, and it becomes an almost flavorless version of lime juice. I do not say bottled lime juice is bad, per se, but you can taste that it’s not fresh. So it’s not in the same league with freshly squeezed lime juice, but it’s an option.

Lime Cordial

Lime cordial has similar disadvantages as bottled lime juice and then some. Because with lime cordial, the amount of sugar is way higher. Added preservatives and sometimes even artificial coloring leading to it being my least favorite option.

However, some cocktail recipes still ask for lime cordial. If you want to create a quick and dirty version of a Gimlet, for example, you just use a bit of lime cordial and Gin and have a cocktail.

But trust me, whatever you create with cordial or bottled juice won’t be as good as it could be.

Freshly squeezed lime juice

Almost every recipe that contains lime specifically asks for fresh lime juice. And making it is super easy. Get fresh limes, cut them in half, and squeeze. If squeezing by hand is too hard for you – or you just can’t be bothered, order a lime squeezer. This tool will save you a ton of time and hassle.

Freshly pressed lime juice is a real treat. It’s tangy, acidic, and simply super fresh. One lime will get you around 30ml (1oz) of pressed juice. That means half a lime will get you 15ml (0.5 oz). I want to mention this because some recipes don’t give you the amount and solely ask for “juice of half a lime.” And because I am someone who loves to double-check, I always measure it with my jigger.

The freshness and acidic bite of fresh lime juice make it the best choice when you want to shake up a summer cocktail – or any cocktail, actually. Plus, you can balance it out yourself to get the perfect ratios for your taste buds.

Aged lime juice

Freshly pressed lime juice has this highly acidic taste to it. While this sourness is what we’re looking for in a cocktail, aged lime juice will make your cocktail even better. But let me explain.

When you squeeze lime, the cellular structure of the fruit gets destroyed. The enzymes encounter chemical compounds like Nomilin and Limonoate A-ring-lactone and turn them into another, bitter-tasting compound called Limonin. This process is called enzymatic bittering, and it takes a little time. You should age your lime juice for around 4-10 hours before using it.

You may wonder why you would want to have a bitter-tasting compound in your lime juice. Well, it’s not bitter enough to make the lime juice unpleasant, but it will balance some of the harsh acidic notes of fresh lime juice. Aged lime juice, therefore, has a way rounder flavor profile. Also, the cocktails you create with it will have a rounder, more mellow taste.

Conclusion

When a recipe asks for lime juice, you are always better off when you go with a self-made version. Either use it freshly squeezed or let it age for a couple of hours. That is totally up to you. But don’t let yourself be lead to believe you can achieve the same result with a bottled juice or even cordial. Those things are only worth a try if you’re looking to create something very quickly, and you can live with sacrificing quality.

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