If you see me guzzling mimosas at brunch, please don’t judge. Mimosas are simply my medicinal beverage, my “emotional support drink” if you will. Sadly, my friends, I suffer from a little-known ailment called nosophobia — which is not the fear of noses, although, yes, those are pretty scary, particularly my husband’s during allergy season. Nosophobia is, rather, the irrational fear of developing a specific disease. And I am afraid of contracting scurvy.
And no, I am not a bald, seafaring Brit from the 1800s with loose teeth, swollen legs, and a bleeding nose who urgently needs the vitamin C found in the orange juice portion of my mimosa to stave off imminent death. I probably wouldn’t get many invitations to brunch if I were. However, I had to come up with something when my husband’s scary nose crinkled in disapproval as I ordered my third support beverage, and he is wise enough to know not to dispute a bona fide anxiety disorder — one with five syllables no less — for which the only cure is to order another mimosa. Because … Mimosas. Are. Delicious.
Actually, most citrus based cocktails are delicious. Citrus fruits pair well with alcohol because the citric acid found in these fruits lessens the ethanol burn from many spirits and helps to balance the flavor in our favorite drinks. And while it is tempting to say that a citrus is a citrus is a citrus — and if you do say that out loud, you will undoubtedly slur so much that people will assume you are one or two mimosas ahead of them — they are not. The accompanying citrus juice must match or balance the acidity and sugar level of the alcohol with which it is combined. Limes are our most acidic of friends with about 1.75 grams of citric acid and only .2 grams of sugar — think of a lime as the Mean Girls Regina George at the citrus soiree. Limes balance well with strong, equal brash spirits because they can cut right through the alcohol without entirely overpowering it. Gentler, kinder spirits are completely overshadowed and defeated by limes’ corrosive qualities and end up being just another Regina George victim. Margaritas, daiquiris, and mojitos are common cocktails made with limes.
Lemons — limes’ slightly less caustic sidekick — are more like a wisecracking Chandler Bing from Friends. They have a little less acid and a little more sugar than limes, and while they can definitely hold their own with the stronger spirits, lemons have, in small amounts, been known to gently balance an alcohol that is not so strong or sturdy. A shandy, for example, is a mixture of beer and lemonade, and the lemon flavor manages to complement, not crush, the suds’ soul, allowing the beer to maintain its flavor and its dignity in the cocktail glass. Popular cocktails made with lemons include a lemon drop martini, a gin fizz cocktail, and the sidecar.
Grapefruits are a bit of conundrum in the cocktail world because while they have less acid and more sugar than either limes or lemons, they have a very strong taste that is almost impossible to overpower. These are the loud, prank-playing, toga-wearing Animal House Bluto Blutarskys of the citrus family. Do not invite a grapefruit into your cocktail unless you want to be completely aware that it is there. Perhaps it craves attention because it used to be described as the “forbidden fruit” or perhaps because, when it first came to America, it was not particularly popular. Today’s favorite cocktails made with grapefruit include the paloma, the sea breeze, and the salty dog.
And oranges? God love their pulpy, lower-than-other-citrus-acidity, sugary sweet, sunny little souls. They have a strong flavor, so you are going to know they are there — like a Forrest Gump character that just wants everyone to be happy. In the right amounts, they can pair with just about anything but blend especially well with higher acidic alcohols, like Champagne, because they balance each other out. They just work — bring on the mimosas. In addition to brunch, oranges make a frequent appearance during cocktail hours, turning up in many popular drinks, including the screwdriver and the tequila sunrise.
Even to be invited to the citrus party, a fruit must grow on a flowering plant and have a peel that consists of three layers: the zest, the white spongy stuff underneath, and those annoying strands of string that stay on the fruit after you peel it. They all originated approximately 4,000 years ago in Southeast Asia and southern China, were carried by Arab traders to Africa in 500 B.C., and, approximately 900 years later when Arab forces invaded Spain, citrus fruits found a home in southern Europe. It is believed by some that Christopher Columbus himself brought citrus here to the New World, where they took root in Florida. By the 19th century, citrus began to be distributed all over the world, mostly for medicinal purposes.
It’s those medicinal purposes that really tie these feisty fruits together because they all contain a high concentration of vitamin C. And vitamin C, as the seafaring British soldiers in 1795 learned, prevents scurvy, a disease that, between the 1500s and 1700s, took the lives of approximately 2 million soldiers. British sailors were then required to eat a lemon or lime daily, earning them the nickname “Limeys,” and they mixed the juice and pulp into their rations of rum and gin to cut the sour pucker, thus creating the very first citrus cocktails.
Whichever citrus fruit you choose, check for interactions with medications before ingesting any citrus juice. Grapefruit — like the attention starved scapegoat that it is — has taken most of the rap, but other fruits have been discovered to cause adverse reactions when paired with certain medicines, so look before you drink.
Once you have verified that your citrus of choice is not going to murder you in your sleep, store the fruit in the refrigerator. Then, when you are ready, microwave the citrus for about 20 seconds to soften. Using firm pressure, roll your heated fruit with your hand, stab it several times with a knife, cut it in half then, using a citrus press, and extract the juice.
When pairing your favorite citrus with a suitable spirit, stick to the Bond, James Bond, rule of cocktail creating. A drink containing citrus should usually be shaken, not stirred, because the drink will be mixed more thoroughly and the pulp in the juice will create more of an appealing froth.
The following are some citrus fruit inspired recipes that are deliciously refreshing, easy to make, and guaranteed to keep scurvy at bay!
Magical Minty Mojito
This wildly popular lime-based cocktail comes from a 16th century medicinal Cuban drink used to cure a number of tropical illnesses. Originally made from moonshine, aptly named “burning water,” mixed with sugar cane, lime, and mint, it was named El Draque after Sir Francis Drake who, with his band of pirates, invaded Cuba in 1568 at the behest of Queen Elizabeth I. When the moonshine was replaced by rum in 1940, the result was magical. Indeed, the name comes from the word “mojo,” which means magic charm. Remember to use a good-quality rum and always serve it chilled. A lukewarm mojito is just begging for bad mojo.
12 fresh mint leaves
1½ tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
2 ounces white rum
Lime wedge and mint sprig for garnish
Muddle the mint leaves and sugar in a tall cocktail glass, then pour in the lime juice and rum and stir gently until the sugar dissolves. Fill the glass to nearly the top with ice, then top with club soda, and stir. Give it a taste — if that results in more than a satisfying pucker, add a bit more sugar. Garnish with the lime wedge and mint spring and enjoy the mojo magic.
The Anytime Lime Time Strawberry Spritzer (nonalcoholic)
Just because limes have the acidity to cut through most alcoholic beverages doesn’t mean they have to. Rules don’t apply to our independent little green citrus gems, so if they don’t want to be part of a highly spirited cocktail concoction, then by golly, they won’t be. This refreshing lime spritzer is similar to a Strawberry Lime Rickey, but without the gin or whiskey.
3 to 4 large strawberries, hulled and sliced, plus one more whole one for garnish
1 lime, cut in half
2 teaspoons sugar
Put the juice from ½ a lime in a glass, add the strawberries and sugar, and muddle until sugar has dissolved. Cut a wheel off the remaining ½ lime and set aside, then add the juice from what is left of the lime into the strawberry mixture and muddle some more. Fill a shaker halfway with ice, add the strawberry and lime mixture, and shake until very cold. Strain into an ice-filled highball glass, top with club soda, stir to just combine, and garnish with the strawberry and lime wheel. Enjoy!
Variation: If you insist on making this drink more adult, add 2 ounces of gin to the shaker, proceed with recipe, and rename it the “Sometime Lime Time Strawberry Spritzer.”
Berry Delicious Grapefruit Spritzer (nonalcoholic)
The cranberry juice gives this nonalcoholic grapefruit beverage its beautiful ruby-red complexion.
2 ounces freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
1 ounce cranberry juice
2 tablespoons simple syrup
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
Slice of lime for garnish
Fill a shaker mostly filled with ice, add the grapefruit juice, cranberry juice, simple syrup, and lime juice, and shake until very cold. Pour into an ice-filled Collins glass, then top with club soda and stir gently. Garnish with lime and enjoy!
Variation: Turn this innocent pink spritzer into a sea breeze libation by adding 1½ ounces of vodka in the shaker with the juices and syrup.
Heavenly Lemony Gin Fizz Cocktail
In the 1800s, gin fizz drinks were first thought to be a cure for a hangover, but as their popularity grew they quickly became the culprit of those morning-after headaches. Invented in New Orleans, some versions required bars to hire full-time cocktail shakers to make enough of these foamy, effervescent concoctions, and their foamy popularity has yet to fizzle out.
When making this cocktail at home, be sure to use a method called “dry shaking,” which means to first shake all the ingredients without ice, creating a much thicker, more satisfying consistency to your finished product. And use a good quality gin — that gin flavor is going to come through, and you want to be sure it does so in the most flavorful way possible.
2 ounces good quality gin
¾ ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
¾ ounce simple syrup
1 egg white (this won’t be cooked so the FDA suggests using pasteurized eggs)
2 ounces club soda, or to taste
Lemon peel, for garnish
Fresh mint, for garnish
Put the gin, lemon juice, simple syrup, and egg white in a shaker, without ice, and shake vigorously for 15 to 20 seconds. Add ice to the shaker and continue to shake until well chilled, then strain into a chilled Collins glass, top with club soda, and garnish with lemon peel and mint. Pretty perfection achieved!
Variation: Turn this into a Diamond Fizz by substituting Champagne for the club soda, or if you want others to be green with envy, add 1 teaspoon of green crème de menthe with the gin to create a Green Fizz.
I have a knack for changing song lyrics to fit the occasion, so on any given drive to brunch, I can be heard singing, “Oh my pretty one, pretty one, when you gonna give me some time, Mimosa?” Sure, my husband has asked me to stop, begged me in fact, but I just chalk that up to the fact that he gets a tad grouchy when he has to miss breakfast in favor of brunch, not fully embracing the whole, “Let’s do brunch because drinking at breakfast is frowned upon” vibe. But he needs to just get on board because … mimosas!
Created in 1921 at a London bar called Buck’s Club, it was first known as a Buck’s Fizz. When it popped across the pond, sometime in the 1960s, the proportions changed a bit and it was renamed mimosa, because the drink’s color resembles the bright, cheerful flowers that bloom on the mimosa plant. This sunny, funny, sweetheart of a beverage has been a brunch-time staple ever since, and I for one am “never gonna stop, or give it up, it’s just a matter of time, mimosa.” Make your own because: 1) I’m not sharing; and 2) I sound a whole lot better after everyone has had a mimosa or three.
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier or Cointreau
¼ cup freshly squeezed and strained orange juice
¾ cup Champagne
Orange twists for garnish
Chill a Champagne flute, then pour in the Grand Marnier and orange juice. Tip the glass, slowly pour in the Champagne, and do not stir. Twist the orange slice over the glass and drop it in. This is why we brunch!
The Perfect Paloma
Tequila and grapefruit juice pair perfectly in this summery citrus creation. Lime juice margaritas might be preferred in the United States, but in Mexico, the grapefruit takes center stage. The following recipe eases Americans into a paloma state of mind by adding a just bit of familiar tasting lime juice into the mix.
2 ounces tequila (blanco or silver)
2 ounces freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, plus wedges for garnish
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon simple syrup
2 ounces club soda
Coarse sea salt for glass rim
Rub a grapefruit wedge around the rim of a cocktail glass, then dip the rim into a plate of sea salt, fill the glass with ice, and set aside. Fill a shaker halfway with ice, add the tequila, grapefruit juice, lime juice, and simple syrup, and shake until very cold. Pour the shaker ingredients into the ice-filled, salt rimmed cocktail glass, top with club soda, and garnish with a grapefruit wedge. ¡Muy delicioso!