Air Miles & Acid House: Alternatives to citrus
For those concerned with air miles, and those seriously considering where the money chain of their lime purchase actually leads (hint: not always to happy Caipirinha slurping farmers..), it can be tough to find ways to remove lemons & limes as the cornerstone of modern cocktails. Squeezing litres of lime juice is often the first job a young bartender is given when joining a team. It's no wonder we habitually reach for the sour juice when balancing out new cocktails. We've become accustomed to the taste of citrus, luckily there's hunners of ingredients on our doorstep with a similar sharpness and a new palate of flavours.
One of my favourites is cooking apple juice, it's too sharp to drink! Alternatively most unripe fruit have a great sourness. Think of unripe grapes growing all over London (aka Verjus), Green gooseberries in gardens up and down the country, vibrant rhubarb patches, the list is long. Vinegars can be used - ie by making a vinegar from a fruit juice, or cooking fruits into vinegar - to make shrubs and bring a fresh tartness, especially through ingredients like Kombucha. Even products like super dry wine & the new wave of sour beers give us an option to balance drinks differently.
These options are all cartel & air miles free if sourced correctly, abundant in season or can be used to extend a useable season; rhubarb vinegar would make a wonderful ingredient and can be made in bulk for very little investment. Less abundant options are also available and often come in berry format: sea buckthorn juice, elderberry juice, sour cherries, crab apple, sorrel leaf juice are all available through decent foragers (and can be foraged!). The more we use them the more available they will become as their value becomes realised and farming them becomes a reality.
If you're anything like me, trying a new ingredient is a curious and exhilarating experience. Immediately I find myself dreaming up ways to use it in a drink, and what to pair it with on a menu. Sometimes it's a little fiddly to develop ways to use it consistently, but that's all part of the fun for me. If you're looking for ways to get started, some of my recipes featured in an article in Imbibe magazine. Read the full article here.
Here's one to get you started!
Fife Coast Cooler
35ml Dewars 12yo Scotch 20ml Elderflower cordial 50ml Dry Chardonnay 15ml Green gooseberry juice* 100ml Soda
*To juice a gooseberry: Pick off unnecessary stems and add gooseberries to food processor. Blitz until roughly chopped. Add to a muslin cloth or tea towel, fold edges up to create a pouch and squeeze juice out.
Add all the ingredients to an ice-filled highball glass & stir briefly to combine. Garnish with an edible flower and a couple of gooseberries!