The Home Bartender: Citrus Fruit

It’s The Home Bartender time! This series caters to those of you who are not necessarily working bartenders but who are really interested in drinking better cocktails and learning how to make them! Each month our Home Bartender expert, Matej Novak, will run you through a new topic. This month, he discusses citrus fruit.

Now that you have your tools in order and you’ve stocked up on bitters, it’s time to turn your attention to some non-cocktail-specific ingredients, namely fruit. More specifically, citrus fruit. Whether you’re juicing lemons for a whisky sour or finishing an old fashioned with the zest of an orange, citrus is a key component in many cocktails you’ll encounter and make. Here’s how to choose and use them in your drinks:
  • Choose carefully: Look for plump, ripe fruit, just like if you were buying it to eat. If you’re buying oranges and lemons for zesting, make sure they have taught skins that are well dimpled. That means they’re full of oils, especially around their “poles.”
  • Clean thoroughly: From the field to the truck to the store to your counter, a lot of things come into contact with that piece of fruit before it gets to your mouth. Consider buying organic, but whatever you do, make sure you wash it before using.
  • Peel thinly: When zesting, try to get as much peel and as little white pith as possible. The peel contains the aromatic, flavourful oils, but the pith is bitter. I even go as far as to cut a bunch of it off when using whole limes in a drink like a caipirinha.

The nice thing about citrus is that it doesn’t require a lot of special tools. You’ll need a knife, a peeler, some way to juice it — all things you’re likely to have in your kitchen already. And most of the extras you can find easily, like plastic squeeze bottles to use if you’re juicing your fruit ahead of time (just make sure to do it right before your party as juice doesn’t tend to keep well or very long, even in the fridge).

Matej Novak
Matej is a writer and cocktail enthusiast living in Kingston, Ontario. He’s annoyed bartenders with endless questions in cities including Toronto, New York, San Francisco, Portland, Prague, London and Tokyo. He’s also amassed more cocktail tools and accoutrements than with which he knows what to do (told you he’s a writer). Don’t be like Matej. Learn from his mistakes — and his successes — instead.
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