Discover the Secret to the Perfect Citrus Cocktail
How lip-puckering produce has become the king of cocktails
From the delicate orange twist that garnishes an Old-Fashioned to the lime juice that takes center stage in a poolside mojito, it’s nearly impossible to serve up any classic cocktail without the help of the citrus family.
“Citrus is one of the key ingredients in the foundation of a cocktail,” says Matthew Du Parcq, a bartender at Odd Birds in St. Augustine. “It is essential to balance the flavor profile, and make sure your drink isn’t too sweet.”
These fragrant fruits have been lending their tartness to adult beverages since the mid-1700s, when British sailors added a dash of lime juice to their rum to fight off scurvy and, incidentally, created the earliest version of the daiquiri. Nowadays, these concoctions have gotten a smidge more advanced, but even the most novice of mixologists can find a way to incorporate citrus in their glasses.
That extra time that goes into juicing makes all the difference in the taste of a cocktail.
— Carissa Corpuz
The first step to making a superb citrus cocktail begins even before the first ounce of alcohol is poured—and requires a little work on your end. Although it may be tempting to buy a bottle of orange juice and call it a day, freshly squeezed citrus juice instantly elevates the flavor of a cocktail. No matter how busy the bar is at Odd Birds, the bartenders hand-juice every single lemon, lime, orange and grapefruit used in their beverages.
“We find that we can build an amazing cocktail by going back to the basics and keeping everything simple and organic,” says Carissa Corpuz, an Odd Birds bartender. “That extra time that goes into juicing makes all the difference in the taste of a cocktail.”
The longer citrus juice sits after being squeezed, the more bitter it becomes, and while that may be just right for a Negroni, it can throw off the taste of a libation that’s meant to be a little more smooth than sour. With more than 74 million citrus trees in the Sunshine State, Floridians have even fewer reasons to skip the squeeze—especially in winter, when these fruits are perfect for the picking. While lemons, limes and grapefruits often get all the glory, there are a few lesser-known relatives in the citrus family that can add a little character to a cocktail.
“Blood orange, tangerine and kumquat are some more unique citrus fruits that can really enhance a cocktail,” Du Parcq says. All three of these unconventional mixers can be found growing right here in Florida, so it’s worth scouring the local farmers market for fresh beverage bounty.
Start simple by substituting tangerine in recipes that call for orange juice, or add a twist to the traditional martini and incorporate fresh kumquat. Nail down the basics with a classic paloma, which leans heavily on grapefruit, or level up with a gin Campari sour, which calls on egg whites to cut the libation’s bitterness.
At Odd Birds, the fan-favorite citrus sipper is the Bird Spritz, a fanciful fusion of two types of gin, Martini Fiero (to give it a whimsical pink hue), grapefruit and lime juices and a housemade syrup. But the truth is, citrus graces most every glass at the Ancient City haunt, whether it’s the main ingredient or a simple garnish, because there are few drinks that the lip-puckering produce doesn’t make just a hint better.