Lime Wars

Sorry for the light blogging this month. Hopefully, I’ll have more in November.

At any rate, I’ve been working this post up for some time. It’s just as long as my usual stuff, but should actually fill that space with content.

Victim of the Vast
Fresh-Wing Conspiracy™

Lime juice is a very important cocktail ingredient, and not just because of its position as one of The Four. I understand it is used in other cocktails as well…. As long time readers know, it has been my usual custom to use Mott’s RealLime in my Pegus and other lime-employing drinks. I do this for convenience’s sake, as it avoids dishwashing and inventory issues. But this decision has been the subject of considerable controversy. We cocktail bloggers are supposed to worship the fresh. I also worship the fresh, and when I have limes around the house, I often use them over The Shortcut. That said, I am lazy. Thus, I am likely to continue using bottled juice.

My original intent for this post was to do a straight up, unbiased comparison between fresh lime juice, and RealLime juice. But Maggi interceded and led me on a search for alternate bottled juices to include in the testing. We found two new contenders to add to the battle: Santa Cruz Organic 100% Lime Juice, and Lakewood 100% Organic Pure Lime. We chose them because they are both not from concentrate, placing them (sort of) between the juice from limes, and the RealLime. I did not choose them because they were organic. I’m not personally a believer in the whole Organic is Automatically Good school of thought. With the exception of Organic (by this I mean antibiotic-free) Milk, I really don’t see a strong health benefit of organic methods of agriculture over responsibly run traditional farming in most circumstances. And some of Organic farming’s benefits are often outweighed by its very real costs to human living conditions, especially its lower yields per acre and vastly increased use of fresh water. What use is saving the watershed if we run out of water in said shed?

This is an important digression because without good water, we can’t make good ice! Without good ice… I think you see where I’m going with this.

The Contenders

Anyway, there we were with four ways to deliver that limey flavor to our Pegus. I set to work and mixed up four frosty glasses of pinkish goodness. I chose to use Bombay Sapphire, as this was the gin to which I am most used, and I wanted to keep things focused on the effects of the various options. Also, I’d run through my bottle of Hendrick’s pretty darn fast, and wasn’t sure I had enough for four Pegus left! The first thing to strike me was how different each looked from the others. I had been very careful to keep the proportions identical, but, as we were soon to find out, the different juices interact with the Angustora Bitters in very idiosyncratic ways.

Lime Wars
Left to Right: RealLime, Fresh, Santa Cruz, Lakewood

We went left to right, starting with the RealLime…. Mmmmm. Yep, the same old ambrosia. This makes for a very tasty cocktail, tried and true. The color of this version was the lightest of the four, yet Maggi was quick to point out, once we tried all four, that you both smell and taste the bitters more in this version than in any of the others. Something about the RealLime seems to punch up the presence of the bitters a little. Or perhaps it adds its own bitter edge. In either case, it is in no way a bad emphasis.

Next we tried the fresh juice…. Delicious. Side by side, you can taste the difference. I’ve said before that taste is a weird sense, and Maggi’s and my reactions bear this out. To me, the fresh juice had a broader, lighter flavor. It was as if I tasted the cocktail with more of my tongue than the the others—as if more sensors were activated. Maggi felt the flavor was the same as the RealLime, but she noticed a much more pleasant aroma with the fresh stuff. Either way, the result for both of us was a lighter, less bitter cocktail.

We went from there to the Santa Cruz…. Hey! … Um…. My instant first impression was that this was great, it hit my mouth just like the fresh squeezed. But this didn’t last. It possessed a distinct and lasting aftertaste. In between the lovely first impression and the funky ending, it seemed a bit flat to me. Maggi also thought it strange. Her first words were, This is strange, almost cakey. We each tired several more sips and came to the conclusion that, beyond the flatness, there was a hint of decay in this juice. Perhaps a rotten lime or two got through to the bottling. If so, it says bad things about Santa Cruz’s quality control. If not, well, this formulation definitely is not a good choice on their part.

Lastly, we came to the Lakewood…. Uh-huh. I liked it. It possessed some of the lightness of the fresh, but not so much of the breadth of taste. It had some of the brightness of the RealLime as well. I did not so much like how dark its color was; not dark green, but dark pink. That is not the light in the photo above that makes both the Lakewood and the Santa Cruz look so dark. She With The Functional Nose turned it up at the aroma the first time around, declaring it weak. But after another try, she found it delicate, and very pleasing, rather than simply absent. She also liked the brightness that I tasted too.

Once we were done, we went back and compared notes. First off, of course, we agreed that the fresh juice was the best. It has great color, the most complex taste, and the most pleasant aroma. We agreed that we’ll pick up more limes at the grocery store when they look good. We also agreed that the fresh wasn’t so much better that we were going to go crazy and stopped using bottled juice most of the time!

So, on to the bottled juices! We immediately dismissed the Santa Cruz. Aftertaste and Decay are not good words to live by! We went back and forth between the Lakewood and the RealLime. We both had a slight preference for the RealLime, but neither of us was sure if that was just familiarity. The RealLime is much more readily available, and comes in a more convenient bottle, with either a narrow mouth, or a flip-top. Maggi felt, on the other hand, that the Lakewood would be much better for cooking purposes than the RealLime.

I think I’ll be going with the Lakewood, when I find it, even though the RealLime is very marginally better in Pegus. The reason is that for other uses, the Lakewood is better. In the days since our taste test, I’ve tried it in other cocktails I make. The Lakewood is noticeably better in Kamikazes and Cosmopolitans. I think the Lakewood is even better in Moscow Mules! The RealLime also punches up the bitters in my ginger ale version, and this doesn’t really benefit the drink. I add the bitters there for an edge, not for herbal notes. So there you have it: Fresh juice is best, but not prohibitively so!

  1. wombat66

    25 November

    Nellie & Joe’s bottled key lime juice is the most bestest superiorist bottled lime juice there is. Too bad it wasn’t used in the “Lime Wars” shootout ’cause it would have won by a wide margin.

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  2. Robert Speirs

    13 April

    One cannot speak of lime juice and gin without mentioning the gimlet recipe in Raymond Chandler’s novel “Farewell, My Lovely”: Half gin, half Rose’s lime juice, shaken and poured. None of that “fresh” or “organic” lime juice nonsense. Just pure ambrosia. It’s the cocktail that would make a bishop put his foot through a stained-glass window.

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  3. Doug

    13 April

    Shhh, Robert!
    You gotta be careful around this corner of the blogosphere when you start in with the Rose’s!
    Rose’s is a proud old tradition, and one of the omnipresent bar tools in the world. While I’m not a Gimlet drinker personally, I use plenty of Rose’s around the house. But too many folks behind bars think that Rose’s IS lime juice. Few people think to use lime juice when Rose’s is called for, but lots will ruin a drink by throwing in Rose’s when juice is called for.
    My own obsession, Pegus, are an excellent case in point. Splash some Rose’s into a Pegu and you have an unrecognizable mess.
    That said, I think that beyond the static you might get from the Fresh Juice Police for equating Rose’s with squeezings, you should worry more about Raymond Chandler’s ghost giving you a hard time for the scooter….

      (Quote)  (Reply)

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