While shopping at your local market recently you may have noticed that lime prices have been abnormally high—around four to 10 times the standard price. According to reports, Mexican drug cartels blocking the exportation of limes, poor crop yeilds and huanglongbing, a citrus greening disease that is decimating citrus production in Florida, are three reasons for the current shortage of limes.
Many cocktails, bartenders and spirit sippers have been hit hard by the lime shortage.
“The shortage hit its high point (so far) at a terrible time for bartenders. The snow had finally thawed after one of the worst winters and everyone, bartenders included, needed something familiar to identify with,” says Hendricks’s Gin’s brand ambassador Jim Ryan. “Classics like fresh gin gimlets, margaritas, gin rickeys, mojitos, daiquiris, caipirinhas, mai tais, last words, and any riff on these classics have suffered. It’s quite stifling to the bartending community.”
With the onset of warm weather, bartenders have moved away from a winter cocktail menu that features brown spirits and stirred cocktails to spring menu of refreshing shaken citrus beverages, according to Ryan. Much to their chagrin though, bartenders have to deal with the high cost of limes, an essential ingredient in most of their drinks.
“Some bars have gone ahead and raised the price of all their drinks to cover the cost of limes, while other bars have decided to take the hit on their bottom line by keeping their prices the same but see it as a short term loss,” says Ryan. “The worst part about this is that most of the limes available currently are awful. The juice yield is low, the skin is too tough and they are about one third the size of what we’re used to.”
On the other hand, some bars are choosing to avoid purchasing limes and instead are being inventive and using other ingredients and forms of garnish. Bartenders are turning to veggies like cucumbers, citrusy twists of orange and grapefruit, and aromatic herbs like rosemary instead of limes.
“But still, it’s pretty grim when you order a Mexican beer and get a lemon sticking out of the long neck,” says Ryan. “It’s the garnish version of the extended middle finger.”
Here are six limeless cocktails that we guarantee are delicious and will get you through the lime shortage.
Hendrick’s Cucumber Southside
1.5 parts Hendrick’s Gin
3/4 part fresh lemon juice
3/4 part simple syrup
3 cucumber wheels
5 to 8 mint leaves
1 cucumber wheel, for garnish
1. Combine the ingredients in a mixing container. (We keenly suggest a gentle muddle). 2. Add ice, shake with vigor and strain. 3. Garnish with a fourth cucumber wheel and serve in a chilled martini glass.
3 parts Hendrick’s Gin
2 parts fresh lemon juice
2 parts simple syrup
cucumber spear, for garnish
1. In a tall glass combine the gin, lemon juice and simple syrup. 2. Add ice, top with sparkling water, give a gentle stir and garnish with a cucumber spear.
Step Aside Lime, It’s Grapefruit Time
By John McCarthy, Bathtub Gin NYC
“The grapefruit is a perfect citrus alternative to the lime — and rum and a splash of Aperol bring out all of its good qualities,” says bartender John McCarthy.
2 ounces of Brugal Extra Dry Rum ?
1 dash of grapefruit bitters?
3/4 ounces of Agave Syrup (equal parts light agave and water)?
1 ounce of fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice??
1/2 ounce of Aperol
Grapefruit twist, for garnish
1. Combine Brugal Extra Dry Rum, grapefruit bitters, agave syrup and grapefruit juice in shaker and shake. 2. Strain over ice in a rocks glass. 3. Float Aperol and garnish with a grapefruit twist.
By Esteban Ordóñez, Burning Waters Cantina, NYC
“You might think you can’t drink tequila without limes, but think again! You can use other fruits like pineapples to complement tequila’s earthiness,” says bartender Esteban Ordóñez.
2 ounces of Patron Reposado tequila?
1 ounce of fresh pineapple juice?
1 ounce of simple syrup?
1/2 ounce of vanilla-infused tequila (see below)
1. Combine all of the ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker and shake until well chilled. Strain into a chilled coupe glass, and garnish with a large mint leaf.
Directions for vanilla-infused tequila
1. To make the vanilla-infused tequila, gently crush 1 large fresh vanilla bean using the back of a spoon to soften it and release its oils and flavor. 2. Slice lengthwise and add to a 750-ml bottle of Patron Silver tequila. 3. Allow to rest for two to three days, depending on desired vanilla strength.
Nolet’s Silver Red Rose(mary)
The Meyer Lemon is not as sour as regular lemons, so it’s a great alternative to limes.
1 1/4 ounces of Nolet’s Silver Dry Gin
3/4 ounces of Meyer Lemon syrup
1 ounce of Meyer lemon juice
Raspberries and rosemary, for garnish
1. Pour ingredients into a mixing glass with ice. 2. Shake well and strain into a coupe glass. 3. Garnish with a fresh rosemary sprig and fresh raspberries.
Perhaps the ultimate lime apocalypse drink, the Negroni is all spirit—no mixers or juices. It’s a classic that never gets old.
1 ounce of Campari
1 ounce of Cinzano Rosso Vermouth
1 ounce of gin
Orange twist, for garnish
1. Stir all of the ingredients with ice and strain into a coupe or a rocks glass. 2. Garnish with an orange twist.