It’s time to talk about juice. For years, we have been extolling the virtues of only using fresh-squeezed citrus juice in all drinks that call for it. We would like to revise this advice somewhat. Fresh will always be better than any commercially bottled product (you should never make a citrus-based cocktail using the plastic lime-shaped squirters or so-called “real” bottled juice). It may be tempting to use sour mixers or to try shortcuts like Rose’s Lime Cordial, but these will lead to poor tasting results that will leave you questioning everything we have ever written when praising our favorite recipes. Just don’t do it. Fresh citrus is easy to find and can be squeezed to make a drink whenever you need to do so.
Squeezing fresh juice for each drink is easy to justify at home, but if you are hosting a party (or if you manage a bar) especially in high-volume situations, this gets old fast. Professional service prep includes squeezing a lot of citrus. Pre-squeezing lemon juice makes sense—but when it comes to limes, any lime juice that you squeeze ahead of time starts to oxidize immediately. Limes are unique in this regard due to trace amounts of certain organics and succinic acid. After only a few hours, freshly-squeezed lime juice starts to taste metallic, and by the night’s end, it becomes unusable. Whether you have ever realized this yourself or not, discerning bartenders have long known that you cannot pre-squeeze much lime juice, and you certainly cannot use yesterday’s batch for tonight’s service, even if you keep it refrigerated. Just try making a Daiquiri using fresh-squeezed juice next to one made using juice squeezed twenty-four hours earlier. The difference is pretty staggering.
Consequently, decent bars buy a lot of citrus, and whether or not they choose to squeeze in batches a few hours earlier to save time during service, having enough fresh fruit on hand still takes up room in cold storage, and once squeezed, the spent shells quickly fill up the compost bin. Citrus peels contain a lot of potent essential oil, so even with the best intentions toward sustainability, no garden can accommodate the sheer volume of acidic material that piles up day after day.
It doesn’t take much insight to notice that all of that delicious, aromatic essential oil is going to waste just to get at the all-important juice, but it doesn’t have to! Nickle Morris, owner of the Expo bar in Louisville, KY picked up on this fact and may have solved the sustainability puzzle in a way that has simultaneously unlocked a fresh juice solution that has the best flavor, overcomes shelf stability issues, makes better economic sense for the bar and the local farmer (where possible), and challenges the old notion that “fresh-squeezed is best” so much so that his technique is slowly transforming bar service prep across the world!
Yeah, it’s a big deal, and the results still surprise us every time we try it. Until now, we have been somewhat reluctant to write this story because of the potential misunderstanding it represents. It isn’t every day that you can turn a longstanding rule of thumb completely upside-down. To be fair, what we are about to describe is still a process of juicing fresh citrus, but it is an efficient method that extracts the absolute most useable flavor from the fruit. It may sound more labor intensive, but on balance, it’s actually less work and way more convenient. Comparing the benefits of stability and volume (you get more than five times as much juice) against the potential negatives, including the simple economics of fruit transportation, storage, and unpredictable liquid yields—not to mention the flavor and acidity variance inherent with traditional processing—Super Juice is a no-brainer.
So, what exactly is Super Juice? Following Morris’s process, Super Juice is an acid-oil extraction combined with fresh squeezing to obtain the maximum liquid yield attainable from a given piece of fresh citrus. It is the recognition that the essential flavors of citrus lie in the peel, and that the juice obtained from the flesh includes some of that essential flavor plus just water and acid. Mass spectrometer analysis reveals that in the case of limes, there are additional trace organics and succinic acid that kickstart oxidation but crucially, these don’t materially contribute to flavor. If they can be avoided, a better-flavored, shelf-stable juice product can result.
If that sounds intimidating, it really isn’t. In summary, we are going to peel citrus, extract the essential oil from the peel using acid powder, then, with an appropriate amount of water, mix this up and filter out the solids. This “base” is effectively the same as the juice from the flesh, but the flavor is actually better, and it can last weeks or months! Combine this with the squeezed juice and you have Super Juice.
100g citrus peel (lemon or lime)
45g citric acid powder
8g malic acid poweder
1 liter water
Make Oleo Citrate
Peel the fruit with a vegetable peeler in strips until you have at least 100 grams. Set the peeled fruit aside. Put the peels into a large lidded container. Add the acid powders and shake or tumble to completely coat the peels in acid. Set aside for about an hour. A liquid extract will begin to accumulate as the acid powder dissolves. Shake occasionally to completely coat the peels and extract the maximum amount of oil.
Add the water and mix to rinse the container and completely dissolve the acid.
Using an immersion blender with a cutting blade (or transfer into a traditional blender), blend the mixture to chop up the peels somewhat. It is not necessary to puree the solid material. The goal is to break down the peels a little to give the mixture some body. It will also become cloudy.
Strain out the solids using cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer. At this stage, the liquid “oleo citrate” is a shelf-stable juice that can be used immediately in cocktails, or stored in the refrigerator.
Make Super Juice
While you can use the oleo citrate alone to maximize shelf life, in high volume situations where you can benefit from stability but will still use the juice within a few days, it makes sense to top it up with the actual squeezed juice. Slice open the reserved peeled fruit, squeeze the juice and add this to the oleo citrate.
Bottle and store in the refrigerator. Give it a shake before using.
Because Super Juice contains the oxidizing organics from the squeezed juice, it won’t last as long as oleo citrate alone, but the combined volume is the maximum amount and best tasting juice product you can get out of the fruit.
We have done numerous taste tests with lime juice made using this method. Whether you make the full volume of Super Juice by adding the squeezed juice to your batch or you set aside the peeled fruit and bottle only the Oleo Citrate, the easiest test is to make Daiquiris. This cocktail elevates lime flavor for the best comparison. If Super Juice works in this recipe, it will work in anything. For testing, we carefully measure the juice, simple syrup, rum, and even count the number of ice cubes and shake time so that the test cocktails are identical.
Every time we have done this, blind taste testers pick the Oleo, or the Super Juice cocktail over freshly squeezed juice. It’s remarkable, and the flavor difference is obvious. Super Juice has better lime flavor! It isn’t sweeter, nor more acidic, but the flavor is just better. A month later, we repeated the same test using our old bottled juice next to a brand new lime. Tests still revealed the Oleo and Super Juice to be the better product.
Since Oleo Citrate alone is superior to fresh squeezed (even after a month), we have stopped adding the actual squeezed juice to it. We would would rather have longer stability than the extra volume. We can use the exact same process for lemon juice as well, and keep both of these in the refrigerator, ready to make our favorite citrus recipes. We have gotten into the habit of making half batches every month which fit nicely into recycled 16-ounce bottles, but we are confident they would last even longer. <EDIT> We just did a blind taste test using three-month-old oleo citrate vs. fresh-squeezed lime juice in identically prepared daiquiris and the oleo citrate version still tastes better!
Citric acid powder is easy to find, and malic acid is available online or at homebrew shops. Let us know in the comments if you have tried this and how it turned out.