In The Spirit
It’s time to put on the cape
By Tony Cross
When I first started tinkering around with carbonating cocktails, I knew right off the bat I’d have an issue with juice. Juice flooded my thoughts with doubt; juice gave me night sweats. I knew that I couldn’t just juice lemons and limes and add them to a keg with other ingredients. The citrus would oxidize, separate, and go bad too quickly. Luckily, a book by the name of Liquid Intelligence came out, and I learned the importance of acids and clarifying juices. I fell in love with citrates. It was my saving grace and got me started down the right path in kegged-cocktail land.
For making drinks to serve at home, the issue with juice is waste and cost: If you’re having friends over for drinks, it’s easier to juice ahead of time, but that juice (especially citrus other than lemons) will start to oxidize after four hours; any leftover juice won’t taste the same the next day. Enter Nickel Morris and super juice: a new concept that will save you time and money.
Sometime last year, I saw the term “super juice” for the first time — probably on Instagram or Google (cocktails, workouts, models and music seem to be the main topics on my algorithm). I read an article at punch.com about a bartender named Nickel Morris who co-owns The Kentucky Corn Palace in Louisville, Kentucky. Then, I went down the YouTube rabbit hole and found a lengthy interview with him on the “Portland Cocktail Week” channel. Morris, it turns out, has been working on ways to better utilize food-grade acids and juice for the past decade.
He used to work for a business named Road Soda, where he ran a kegged cocktail program (sound familiar?) and learned to use oleo citrates for serving thousands of people at once, e.g., the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. You may have heard of oleo saccharum, which is oil-sugar made from citrus peels (lemon, for example) placed in a container and covered with sugar. After a few hours, the sugar draws out the oil from the peel. Using acids with the oleo saccharum mimics the flavors of juice when kegging a cocktail. Nickel’s aha moment was when he discovered how to make a longer lasting, sustainable juice, without having to use fancy equipment. He put acids on lemon peels in a container, placed it in the fridge and forgot about it. Three days later he found it.
“All of the acid had disappeared, and the peels were really thick. And I was like, ‘Huh, that is not what I thought was going to happen.’ So, I took out an immersion blender and a liter’s worth of water, and blended it up into a liter’s worth of oleo citrate, and that was the first batch. Because, as it turns out, and despite what we would tell ourselves, acid is a fantastic magnet and sponge for oil. It will rip it all right out.”
By using the oils of the citrus, you create a flavor profile that remains constant. The flavors from juices like lemon, lime, orange and grapefruit slowly begin to change as soon as they’re juiced. As Morris explains in the video, “There’s no way for lime juice not to oxidize. Lime juice is so sensitive, it’ll oxidize in a zero-atmospheric pressure vacuum. It will do it all on its own because it’s a breakdown of the structure of the skin.” And when this happens, it’s no longer suitable for a cocktail. Oleo-citrates are great because they mimic the taste of citrus juice.
When you make the oleo-citrate, you have a shelf-stable citrus juice substitute. Super juice involves adding the juice from the peeled citrus that you used to make the oleo-citrate into the citrate. Super juice is the finished product. In the lime example below, you’ll see that using the peels from eight limes (I yielded 100 grams of lime peels) will yield one liter of oleo-citrate. Adding the almost 8 ounces of juice from those limes into the citrate will be your super juice.
You can use this juice for a few weeks with no huge difference in taste. That’s over 1 liter of “juice” with only eight limes. This will help bartenders with cost, waste and time. It also helps home bartenders, but at a much smaller scale.
Below are a few different super juice recipes I like with lemons, limes and grapefruits. You will need to have the citrus on hand, as well as citric acid, malic acid and MSG (for the grapefruit). Don’t freak out about the MSG; it’s glutamic acid, and it’s found in grapefruit juice (there’s more glutamic acid in grapefruit than in any other citrus fruit). MSG is salt plus umami, basically. You can find citric acid in grocery stores, and home brewing shops. You can also find these online — I recommend Modernist Pantry.
Since you’ll be extracting oils from your citrus, make sure that it’s organic, and make sure (goes without saying?) that you wash it. Very important.
Lime Super Juice
For every 100g of lime peel add:
40g citric acid
30g malic acid
1.6 liters water
If you use 45g of peel:
45g x 0.4 = 18g citric acid
45g x 0.3 = 13.5g malic acid
45g x 16 = 720g/mL water
(Thank you to Glen and Friends Cooking on YouTube for the lime recipe.)
Lemon Super Juice
— weigh lemon peels on scale
— use the same amount of citric acid by weight (if you have 50g lemon peels, use 50g citric acid)
— multiply the weight of the lemon peels by 16.66 to determine the amount of water
Grapefruit Super Juice
— weigh grapefruit peels on scale
— multiply weight of grapefruit peels by 0.8 to get amount of citric acid
— multiply weight of grapefruit peels by 0.2 to get amount of malic acid
— multiply weight of grapefruit peels by 0.033 to get amount of MSG
— multiply weight of grapefruit peels by 16.66 to get amount of water
Regardless of the citrus used, combine all acids with peels in a container. Seal, shake to coat peels with acids, and let sit for 2-3 hours. You’ll notice a sludgy/oily substance fill the bottom of container. Add everything in the container to a blender and use the water to get out the rest of the oils into the blender. If you have an immersion blender, you can use it if you like. Blend water, oils, and peels. Strain through a nut-milk bag, or cheesecloth. Juice the peeled citrus, strain it, and add to oleo-citrate. Stir, and refrigerate. Lemon will last the longest before noticing any subtleties with the flavor profile. The juice will start to taste a bit metallic and bitter as the weeks go on, but all juices will be great for the first week. Make sure to taste before using/serving. PS
Tony Cross is a bartender (well, ex-bartender) who runs cocktail catering company Reverie Cocktails in Southern Pines.