Growing up as a child I’d watch my mother cut limes, squeeze them and throw them into the rum punch (don’t judge my cultural upbringing). I never knew why, but I knew it was a rule of how to make this cornerstone cocktail of my Caribbean heritage.
So as I grew into my adulthood and starting hosting my own soirees (they weren’t soirees at such a youthful stage of adulthood, but it sounds good) and creating my own punches, top of the shopping list next to Wray & Nephew Rum was and always will be ‘a bag of limes’. If you ever have a rum punch and it’s overly sugary sweet it’s because the lime is missing and you should give it back.
On the counter of any good (or bad) bar in the world you will see a bowl or jar of lemons and limes. This is because almost every shaken cocktail you sip and enjoy requires the use of citrus, particularly lemon or limes to make the perfect cocktail. Go on go ahead look through any bar menu and there you will see amongst the ingredients “fresh lemon/lime juice”. And here is why.
Citrus brings balance
If you sit among enough bartenders and cocktail connoisseurs you’ll hear them remark on how well balanced a drink is. This balance is based on the 5 engagements of our palate sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and savoury (umami).
The purposeful measure of citrus in cocktail ingredients is required to bring balance to two or more opposing flavours in a shaken cocktail. Lemons and limes are the most common of the citrus family in cocktails due to their high acidity which works chemically in the alchemy of drinks making, and gives their neutral flavour. If you take for instance oranges or grapefruits which are flavour forward they also can bring balance through their acidity, but they change the overall flavour of the cocktail as the acidity isn’t high enough. Due to this lower acidity in some cases they become the star of the show, whereas the lime and lemon are best supporting actors.
The Daiquiri created for the pursuit of balance. Before rum became the craft it is now much of it was harsh and in order for it to be enjoyed sugar and citrus were introduced to bring balance to the flavour of the high abv rum. You will now find that many bartenders will take pride in their ability to make the perfect Daiquiri. The traditional Daiquiri (not the frozen type) is part of what are known as sours, known as such for the requirement of allowing citrus acidity to express the flavours of the other ingredients by not allowing one to over shadow the other.
So now you know why your made at home cocktails may not stand up to those you enjoy in your favourite bar.