How to substitute lemon and lime juice in cocktails?

how to substitute lemon and lime juice in cocktails

Citrus fruits have been used historically as a souring agent in your drink to balance the sweetness, adding freshness, fruity flavours and aroma to your drink.

When we think of substituting citrus fruits, there is an obvious choice of Acids which occurs naturally in citrus fruits and are available in a powdered form.

Although, you can’t completely substitute complex flavour and aroma of freshly squeezed citrus juice but when used right then there is a certain advantage of adding acids to your drinks:

  • they are cost effective(in compare to lemon and limes)
  • preserves well(cordials)
  • you have a precise control over the sourness of your drink

To have absolute control we use pH measuring system by diluting acid powder with water to create a solution where we can test our pH by a digital reader or pH strips. Then adjusting and adding more powder to our solution. Remember the lower the pH means the sourer the ingredient.

The list of commonly used acids with tasting notes:

citric acid-   most common, citrus fruits, bright, sharp and clean

ascorbic acid- vitamin c, citrus fruits, crisp, bright

acetic acid – found in vinegar, powerful

lactic acid – dairy products, rounded, soft

malic acid – green apples, acidic, bright, tangy

tartaric acid- grapes, intense, clean

Predominant acids in the most common citrus fruits with pH factor

lime – citric and ascorbic acid, pH around 1.8

lemon – citric acid, pH around 2.3

orange(more sugar), grapefruit – citric and ascorbic acid- pH around 3.7

How to use them in cocktails?

When you compare freshly squeezed lemon juice and citric acid used in a cocktail there will be the significant difference in a taste and aroma. But sometimes you don’t want that overly empowering taste of sourness in your drink or you want to avoid cloudiness caused by shaking citrus juice. In these cases, acids are more than welcome as an option.

I’ve tried to make a twist on French martini using Lactic acid which is less sour and works very well with a pineapple juice in a cocktail called Au lait.

Making cordials

Great way to make different flavoured cordials is by using acids as a replacement or in combination with a lemon or lime juice.

Lime cordial
450gWhite Sugar
1000ml Water
400ml Fresh lime juice
10g Lime zest
14g Citric Acid
5g Tartaric Acid
Combine sugar and water on a medium heat until sugar dissolves, take off from heat and add lime juice, lime zest and both acids then chill in an ice bath for 24 hours, strain and bottle.

Rhubarb Cordial
1kg Fresh Rhubarb
900ml Water
450g White Sugar
10g Malic Acid
Place Rhubarb(cut in small pieces) in a juicer then combine juice, water and sugar on a medium heat, add Malic Acid, chill and bottle.

The most famous classic cocktail that uses Lime Cordial is Gimlet. This cocktail is great for experimenting with different flavoured cordials. Just follow the ratio 2:1 gin to flavoured cordial, stir it with ice and serve in a Martini glass. For gin, I like to use Plymouth Navy Strength which is especially good with citrus cordials because it will leave you with fresh, sharp and punchy taste.

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