It’s a great time of year to purchase citrus fruits. Not only are most of them in season at the moment, but they provide a nice contrast to winter. Bright sunny colors and flavors go a long way to offset the “blah” outside.
Once you’ve squeezed some lemon on your meal, zested some orange into your dessert, or put lime in your Coke…then what?
Well, how about homemade “Sour Mix”? Citrus sugar? Citrus SALT? Citrus infused spirits / liqueur? Cocktails!
Yes, there is a lot of boozy fun to be had with fresh citrus fruits!
First, let’s look at sour mix. This goes by a few names – “bar lime”, “bar mix”, “sweet and sour”, etc – and is a versatile ingredient to have available for your home bar. We like to make about a liter of it at a time, keeping it in a bottle in the fridge. It’s really convenient!
Sour mix is not only used for, well, SOURS, but is also used as an ingredient in many cocktails, and is the foundational flavor in a margarita. Trust me, once you make your own, you’ll never want to buy the premade stuff again!
Sour Mix Recipe
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
Combine water and sugar in a saucepan. Heat to boiling, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, cool. Once syrup has cooled, add lemon and lime juices, stir well. Store unused syrup in the fridge for no more than 2 weeks.
This can be scaled up or down, as needed. Also, while the proportion of lemon/lime here is traditional, feel free to play with it, or add different citrus fruits for a more complex flavor.
Fill a rocks glass with ice – ice should come just above the edge of the glass. Pour liquor/liqueur over the ice, top up with sour mix, and pour glass contents into a shaker. Shake, then pour contents back into the rocks glass.
(That’s how you’re supposed to do it. Honestly, I skip the shaker and just stir it!)
* Amaretto, Drambuie, Whiskey, Tequila, Scotch, and Vodka are all popular drinks for “sours”, but use whatever you like!
Homemade Frozen Margaritas
1 oz tequila
1/2 oz triple sec*
Fill glass with ice, to just above the rim. Empty into a blender, along with tequila and triple sec. Add just enough sour mix to get the ice *starting* to float. Blend until slushy and smooth. Serve in a salt rimmed glass.
*Feel free to use Grand Marnier, or any favorite orange flavored liqueur. (Except cream based ones!)
Homemade Frozen Daiquiris
Fill glass with ice, to just above the rim. Empty into a blender, along with rum. Add just enough sour mix to get the ice *starting* to float. Blend until slushy and smooth. Serve in a sugar rimmed glass.
Those are the most basic uses for sour mix – I encourage you to have fun with it! Mai Tais, Blue Hawaiians, Zombies… all use it!
Want to take those sugar rims to a new level? Try citrus sugar or citrus salt!
Citrus Sugar / Citrus Salt
Zest of 1 citrus fruit*
1 – 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar or sea salt
Zest fruit directly over the sugar or salt, to catch any flavor (oil) released in the process. Blitz in a food processor until zest is finely chopped and well distributed throughout.
Spread sugar/salt out – I use a clean cookie sheet – to dry out for an hour or two. Once dry, give it a stir before transferring to a container with a lid. Store in a dry spot until ready to use.
To rim a glass: Spread citrus sugar/salt out on a plate that is slightly bigger than the rim of the glass(es) to be rimmed. Run a slice of citrus fruit along the edge of the glass, then turn glass over onto the plate. Gently twist to coat the edge. Traditionally sugar rims are used for sweeter drinks, salt for margaritas, bloody Marys, Caesars, etc.
* It’s usually lemon, but have fun with it. Tradition is tradition, but blood orange citrus sugar is *awesome*!
Before juicing all of those citrus fruits for the recipes above, use a vegetable peeler to remove just the outer part of the rind (zest) in long strips. They contain a ton of flavor, and are great for making your own flavored spirits and liqueurs!
Homemade Citrus Rum
1 – 1 1/2 cups assorted citrus zest strips
Place citrus zest in a large, clean mason jar, top with rum. Cap tightly. Shake at least once a day for about a week, taste for “doneness”.
Once spirit has reached desire level of flavor, strain the zests out, bottle into clean jars / bottles, or use to make liqueur (recipe below)
* I used rum, but any spirit can be used – vodka for a more clear citrus taste, whiskey or brandy for a more complex flavor, etc
Homemade Citrus Liqueur
1 part sugar
1 part water
1 part citrus infused rum
Combine water and sugar in a saucepan. Heat to boiling, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, cool.
Once syrup has cooled, add a little at a time to the infused spirit, stirring and tasting as you go. Once the liqueur has reached your preferred level of sweetness, bottle and allow it to age for a few weeks – IF you have the patience. We usually don’t!
This can be scaled up or down, as needed. As pictured, we used a mix of orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit, and blood orange. Use a mix of your favorites, or focus on one particular flavor. If you use only lemons, for instance, the result will be similar to Limoncello liqueur!
Interested in having more fun with making your own bar ingredients and homemade liqueurs of *any* type? Be sure to order a copy of my cookbook, The Spirited Baker!
In addition to the many delicious dessert recipes in the book, the first chapter teaches how to infuse spirits to make both basic and cream liqueurs, as well as home made flavor extracts!