Glossary: Lemon

While doing the post on surrealist Eden Las Pozas, I had a thought, and then a vision, and then a turn with Photoshop. Here's the full story...

Not long ago, we attended a Captain Morgan Spiced Black event (a pretty palatable new dark rum). Taking us through the cocktails was mixologist Toby Maloney, of Violet Hour fame. He had some nice asides as he was mixing each drink, but the one that struck us the most was on lemon juice. Before he added the juice to what I recall was a rum sidecar, he held up a lemon and pronounced "this is a lemon." Ha ha we said. But the valid point was that you must start with a whole lemon, chop it and then press out the juice - anything else is not lemon juice.

Many craft bartenders take the fresh adage one step further: if you're batching drinks or setting up drink service you need to squeeze the citrus within fours hours of service. There's not a lot of scientific evidence surrounding this rule, but with experienced bartenders it's a distinct matter of taste (and stated as matter of fact in the PDT Cocktail book).

To us, using fresh squeezed juice seemed like a no-brainer. The taste is clean, limes and lemons keep great in the refrigerator and if you go to the right places (like Mexican groceries) they're cheap.

So why doesn't everyone use fresh lemons, particularly all places that serve cocktails? Because it's a pain in the ass, time-consuming and seemingly more expensive. Well, that's fine, order a beer or Maker's with bitters and save the nice cocktails for craft places or for home.

So why is it really important? Because there's a delicate balance in a cocktail. Specifically, sugar should compliment the sour citrus. When the juice gets old it gets strong and pungent, and if taken from a bottle, chalky. Hence you'll need more sugar to even out the ratio (or cover up the taste). But you don't want to do this! It screws up the whole drink. By adding more sugar, you might get the drink to taste ok, but you'll mask the taste of the spirits and you'll sugar bomb your guests ensuring that they will stop after just one drink.

So take the time, put in the extra effort, be an artisan and make Lewis Black proud.

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