ed Zeppelin sang its anthem the best, “squeeze me babe, till the juice runs down my leg” an obvious blues metaphor for , well you know what! Yet how is it the humble lemon, is so misunderstood ? I mean we’ve all heard the saying, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade” or “don’t buy that car,its a total lemon”. What’s so wrong with being a bloomin lemon? In my eternal quest to give a good fluffing to the under dog I decided the lemon needed a bit of positive attention . Here’s some stuff you might not know…the lemon has way more uses than just being an indignant symbol,oh yes, use it as a mood enhancer, a cleaning tool, as a battery ( you need some electrodes for this jobbie) use it to get rid of nasty smells and to keep insects away. Its history is documented as far back as 90BC in both China and India, its name is derived from the Arabic word for citrus, limun which itself has its roots in Sanskrit, it became popular in Italy around the 1500′s and was then transported to the Americas by old man Columbus. Is all of this too much information for you? Wait, there’s more….the clever Italians were the first to use it to make liqueurs and in Arab and Indian cuisines its preserved with salt and used to flavor all manner of dishes and then there’s the whole other world of cocktails.
Two of my personal favorite members of the lemon clan are the meyer lemon for its sweet and fragrant tartness and the Ichang lemon offspring, the yuzu most prominently used in Japanese cuisine but experiencing a bit of a fan club in modernist chefs. Am also getting into these days the Ozzie cultivat finger lime and preserved black limes both of which add a lovely quality to both food and drink experiments of mine. I have to however just stick to lemons with Pomelos and mandarins, and countless oranges if I included them all we’d be here till next Christmas so am going to attempt to keep to a strictly tailored list. In my head I can hear my friend Paddy saying “keep it short, there’s a good girl”.
So the question is, how do you get the citrus into your drink? Do you infuse the peel into your liquor, do you use the oil from the rind to spritz onto your finished drink, or is it just by using the juice? It depends on how you like to get your fix, as a base or as an aroma,a finish or as a tart slap. As miss Browning would put it, “how do I love thee, let me count the ways”…..
The simplest way of making an infused spirit is to chop up a generous amount of your flavoring agent and toss it into a jar along with a bottle of your favorite booze, depending on the strength of your ingredient’s flavor you do a combo of shaking and sitting ( not you the jar) for 1 day to a week, for citrus usually you just want the zest, not the pith nor the flesh, however I like to add a wee bit of the pith and flesh, am always tempted by a bit of flesh…and a lover of all things bitter. The pith adds a nice bitter finish and the flesh the slightly tart slap.
Bitter lemon Gin
4 lemons of choice, peeled with minimal pith.
1 peeled lemon chopped in half including the pith
1 liter bottle of gin ( my choice at minute is Ford’s from the 86 Co.)
1 large screw top mason jar
toss it all in the jar and let it sit in a dark place for 24-48 hours or so shaking from time to time. If you have access you can vacuum pack your ingredients in a cryo baggie and toss into an immersion circulator for 1 hour at 65 degrees ( yes 1 hour does it) let the baggie cool down and strain through a chinoise strainer or micro bag, same goes for your jarred infusion, when its done strain and re-bottle.
I infused an aperitif called Cocchi Americano the same way except that I infused that with kaffir lime leaves .
Bitter Lemon Drop
2 oz bitter lemon gin
1 oz kaffir lime Cocchi
1 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 oz St. Germain elderflower liqueur
1/2 oz simple syrup 1:1 ratio
4 drops Miracle Mile Yuzu bitters
cane sugar for rimming of your glass
shake your ingredients over ice in a Boston shaker, strain into a chilled sugar rimmed glass.
With any drink you make its always advisable to use the freshest ingredients, bottled or packaged juices are usually pasteurized and they lose that bright fresh quality, pasteurizing leaves the juice tasting a bit dull. Juice only as much as you need for your drinks, you can use the remainder the next day only if its been stored in the fridge overnight. My favorite citrus juicer is the professional strength one from Waring available at Amazon (link below). Make sure when storing your juice you do so in a clean and wiped container, the juice will pick up any flavors so make sure you the last thing you stored in same container was not 1) cat food or 2) last nights chicken Biriyani, you will have to run the bugger through the dishwasher several times and then rinse it in lemon and salt to get rid of any odors, ( lemon juice works well to get rid of nasty smells too)
My personal favorite drink that includes lemon juice is the sour, a 2:1:1:1 ratio of spirit, egg white , sweetener( you can use a sweet liqueur instead of simple syrup) and lemon or lime juice. Since I added the nut milk I cut down on the ingredients a bit so as not to waste.
The drink below contains pistachio milk, made by soaking 2 cups of shelled and roasted pistachios in 2 cups of warm water for about 4 hours which are ran though a food processor and then the liquid is strained off, you can turn this into an orgeat style syrup by adding 1 cup of simple syrup and a few drops of orange flower water, I just use the milk for this drink.
1 1/2 oz white rum, I managed to get my hands on a bottle of the Cuban Havana Club’s version which is the best by far but not so easy to find, the 86 Co. makes one that is quite close in flavor called Cana Brava, Cruzan is also a good choice
1 oz pistachio milk
1 oz egg white
3/4 oz Meyer lemon juice
3/4 oz simple syrup 1:1 ratio sugar to hot water
1 drop pistachio extract ( I admit to cheating so far for this one and buy on Amazon)
2 drops black lime bitters
pistachio nut for shaving onto drink for garnish
dry shake without ice everything except for the garnishing nut for about 10 seconds, add a couple of small ice cubes to your Boston shaker and shake again for a further 30-40 seconds or until you have a nice frosty tin. Strain into a chilled coupette, spoon out some of the egg froth and microplane your pistachio nut on top.
You can also make a really quick lemon ice with your juice and add simple syrup to taste, remembering that you need to make your ice sweeter when still liquid since freezing will make it less sweet tasting. I throw it in the freezer in a flat freezer safe container and rake the slush with a fork to stop it from growing ice crystals, takes about 4-5 hours to be good and frozen. See below for a variation on this easy recipe.
Citric acid is a major component in many soft beverages and is used in place of fresh citrus juice to flavor and add tartness . Its produced by crystallizing lemon juice and decomposes much slower than the juice its made from. It comes in the form of a powder and should be made into a slurry with warm water before adding it to your liquid. I use it to tart up soda syrups as well as certain carbonated cocktails but you need to be careful to not have a heavy hand or the lady tart will take over and is really hard to rebalance once its in there.
For a recent project I had to come up with non-boozie food pairings, I wanted to do a yuzu cream soda but had to make it using non chemical additives. Vanilla is the primary flavoring of cream soda and so I came up with a vanilla and caramelized sugar syrup which needed to have somewhat of a shelf life so instead of using yuzu juice I added the peel to the warm syrup and a touch of citric acid for the tart bite. The finished mix worked well in boozie drinks too and my favorite combo used Earl Grey tea (itself flavored by another citrus , bergamot orange oil) and the yuzu cream citrate, recipe below in basics.
Duke of Earl
2 oz whisky, scotch, bourbon or rye, all work well
2 oz of chilled strong earl grey tea
1 oz yuzu cream citrate
1 oz meyer lemon juice
3 drops angostura bitters
2 drops Miracle Mile yuzu bitters
Belgian style Lambic ale
Toss everything into your ice filled Boston shaker except for the Lambic beer. Shake for a good 40 seconds and then strain into an ice filled collins glass. Top with the Lambic and garnish with a mint sprig and a slice of lemon.
Delicious, Scientific Magic.
Who knows how it works but DSM is as Toby Cecchini puts it in his NY Times article on Limoncello, a bit of a mystery. Limoncello is an Italian lemon based liqueur that a Roman friend of mine introduced me to many moons ago, we would sip it as an after dinner treat or pour it over home made goats milk gelato, it also mixes quite nicely in cocktails or in just a glass of the old champers. You need good quality lemons, high proof spirit ,a big jar and a cup of patience, it takes time to complete the process but is worth it methinks. Look up the full Times article here
The Macgyvered version….
( a sgroppino is an Italian cocktail that includes vodka, prosecco and a scoop of lemon sorbet, my version is not strictly true to the original version but tasty non the less )
1 scoop lemon ginger ice (recipe below)
1 oz Limoncello
4 oz cava, prosecco or champers ( or even beer)
1 oz or so of St. Germain foam (recipe below)
lemon zest for garnishing.
Place a scoop of your lemon ice in a chilled glass, pour in your limoncello and bubbles and top with the foam. Finish with a sprinkle of lemon zest, the sorbet ice acts as a flavored ice cube, eat with a spoon and then slurp the remainder.
A quick way to get a lemon finish on anything is to spritz the oils from the zest onto your chosen target, the oils add that lovely freshness , a lot of classic cocktails are finished off with a citrus oil spritz and the zest is then rubbed on the rim of the glass to further enhance the experience. Plus if you’re feeling bluesy in these dark days of winter’s reign you can also spritz above your nose and it instantly uplifts your mood ( I swear am not bonkers).
A new addition to my pantry staples is Sorrel, it has a tart twang to it and although mostly used in soups can be used to infuse spirits and syrups too. For a quick infusion add a generous handful of ripped leaves to your trusty ISI gun, add your liquid, screw on the top and charge with a couple of N2o gas chargers, make sure not to unscrew the cap just the capsule where your gas charger lives. The compression of the gas forces the flavor out of the leaves into the liquid. You can also try infusing in a mason jar, under vacuum or if you’re feeling super adventurous by using a gelatin filtration method, most commonly used in molecular cuisine for making consomme. More on this subject to come.
Yuzu cream citrate
2 cups organic cane sugar
1/4 cup cold water
2 cups warm water
1 vanilla bean
peel of 1 yuzu fruit
1 teaspoon of citric acid
In a pan add the sugar and 1/4 cup cold water, set onto a medium flame , let the sugar dissolve and start to bubble, lower your flame and with a wet brush wipe down the sides of your pan to get rid of sugar crystals ( or you can just plop a lid on your pan so the condensation runs down the pan and wipes off your sugar crystals). Set in your candy thermometer and let the mix reach 280 degrees. Take off the heat and add your 2 cups of warm water, it will bubble quite a bit and there’s a chance the sugar will seize and get solid so you need to put the pan back on the flame once bubbling stops and stir slowly till you have a syrup base. Add your vanilla bean paste , salt, citric acid and yuzu peel , stir over a low flame for about 10 minutes then take off and pour into a screw top jar. Let sit and infuse for at least 12 hours.
Lemon ginger ice
1 cup of cane sugar
1 cup of water
1 cup of lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup of dry ginger beer such as Fevertree
1 chopped stalk lemongrass
add the sugar and water to pan with lemon zest, set on medium flame and let sugar dissolve. Add lemongrass, lower flame and stir for about 15 minutes. Take off flame and let sit so the lemongrass and zest can infuse the syrup. Strain out the lemongrass and then add your ginger beer, stir then pour into a freezer proof container , place in the freezer and every so often rake with a fork to stop ice crystals from forming. It will take around 4 hours to set enough to scoop, the lemon ice acts kind of like your ice cube.
St. Germain Foam
2 oz St.Germain liqueur
2 oz egg white
1 oz simple syrup
1 oz lemon juice
2 oz soda water
1 N2o gas charger
Add everything to your ISI gun, screw on cap and charge with the gas, give the gun a good shake test, it should be a nice foam about the consistency of soft peaked egg whites, you don’t want it too stiff or it won’t mix well into your drink so one charge should be enough, if you don’t add the soda the foam will be too stabilized and stiff.
And we could not have done this without…..
The Elderflower, a small white blossom that only blooms for a few days in Spring, has a long history in mixology. Due to its delicate nature, the flavor was preserved in syrups that were often too sweet. St. Germain Liqueur has managed to harness the Elderflower’s aromas and flavors in an elegant liqueur that far surpasses its predecessors.
St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur should have a place in the bar of any cocktail enthusiast. It offers lovely notes of pear and lychee, balanced by enough tartness to please even the palates of those generally drawn to drier libations. It has an understated yet unmistakable presence, and can hold its own when mixed with a variety of spirits.
Next up….. the Tea Baggers (?)