Maximizing Citrus Part 4: Mastering Pseudo Citrus
Updated: Feb 21
Okay y’all, I’m keeping this short and sweet.
I’ve said more than enough about the topic of artificial, acid-adjusted, citrus solutions over the last few years and thanks to the creative community of bartenders, I think we've finally cracked the code to what I'm now calling Pseudo Citrus (yeah, not as marketable or catchy as Super Juice, but I think y'all know I've never been too marketable anyway).
After a series of side-by-side tastings using fresh squeezed citrus, Super Juice, and my Pseudo Citrus recipes for Lemon Aid and Lime Support, I can now confidently provide you with the best alternatives to fresh citrus juice for cocktail use and beyond!
Nickle Morris' Super Juice recipe, modified and popularized by Kevin Kos, changed the game with the addition of one technique—the blending on the citrus peels—and I've used this method to streamline my own recipes.
We'll dig into the R&D process a bit further, but first here are the recipes:
Lemon Aid (2023 recipe)
30g lemon peel
27g citric acid
3g malic acid
1g sea salt
Lime Support (2023 recipe)
30g lime peel
24g citric acid
12g malic acid
1g sea salt
Yuzu Lemon Aid (2023 recipe)
30g yuzu peel
20g citric acid
5g malic acid
1g sea salt
And here are step by step instructions on how to construct you own Pseudo Citrus!
Step 1: Peel your citrus to begin your acidified oleo saccharum. Aim for minimal pith.
Step 2: Add sugar, citric acid, malic acid, and sea salt to your citrus peels.
Step 3: Allow your acidified oleo saccharum to sit at room temperature for 2–6 hours, agitating occasionally.
Step 4: Combine water with peels and add to blender. Blend for 15–30 seconds.
You don't want to completely obliterate the peels into a pulp, but rather aim for something between a mince and a rough chop.
Step 5: Fine strain through a cheesecloth, bottle, and date! Your juice will be good for a week without noticeable oxidation or change in flavor!
Multiple tastings were conducted with several batches of fresh citrus, Pseudo Citrus, Super Juice over the course of a little over two weeks. Right off the bat I realized Nickle's use of oleo citrate was genius—I was needlessly complicating my process by not combining the powdered citrus and sea salt with my own oleo saccharum. Now for the tastings.
The first round of tasting pointed out flaws in both my original recipes and Super Juice.
Meanwhile, my original recipes were clearly more disjointed and abrasive, with less real lime flavor—no comparison there. Super Juice was immediately closer to fresh citrus, while my old recipes rang hollow.
But I knew right off the bat what I needed to fix. You see, while straining the blended citrus peels while preparing Super Juice, I noticed the peels themselves had released so much oil from the blending process they were practically slimy. The lightbulb immediately went off over my head.
The trick to Super Juice is the blending of the peels! If the whole point of creating an oleo saccharum was to extract the oil from the peels, why the heck wouldn't I blend the peels to extract even more oil?
While an oleo saccharum or oleo citrate will pull plenty of oil, pulverizing the peels instantly transforms the slurry into something akin to fresh juice and solves the textural issue I have with most artificial citrus. This technique has allowed me to simplify my recipes by reducing the sugar and powdered acids—dropping tartaric acid altogether—while improving upon Super Juice with the addition of sugar and sea salt, as well as excluding the fresh citrus variable.
So when I threw my peels back into my "juice" and blended them (I saved the peels because I had a feeling the blending was going to be the key all along), the results were staggering. I could not believe it—my pseudo lime juice tasted almost exactly like fresh squeezed lime juice!
Of course, I tried taking a shortcut by simply combining all of the ingredients in a blender and creating the Lime Support in less than a minute. Guess what? It works. It works really well. Is it better than my actual acidified oleo saccharum recipes? Not quite. Unfortunately, it does end up feeling a bit disjointed in cocktails. That said, it still works better than 95% of alternatives.
A few more rounds of side-by-side Daiquiri tastings with Probitas Blended White Rum helped me dial in a few things. By comparing fresh lime juice, my old artificial lime juice recipe, my new Pseudo Citrus lime juice recipe (which has rightfully earned the name Lime Support), and Super Juice, I was able to create the best fresh juice substitutes to date.
I was able to drop the tartaric acid from my recipes entirely since they were only added to amplify the oils I pulled from the oleo. I also dialed back the amount of citric and malic acid and cut the sugar content by nearly half as it was no longer needed to balance as much acid or provide texture.
The Final Countdown
Finally, I conducted blind tastings at the bar of my current place of employment, Skurnik Wines and Spirits. One of the great benefits of working in an office staffed with beverage experts, sommeliers, and bartenders from Death & Co, Pouring Ribbons, Long Island Bar, PDT, Dutch Kills (the list is endless and intimidating) is that I always have expert palates and opinions on call. This final tasting (with El Dorado 8 Year Daiquiris) helped me lock in the final recipes.
To get it out of the way, the flaws I find in Super Juice are as follows:
Acids out of balance resulting in simpler juice structure
Lack of sugar makes for a thinner juice, flabby cocktails, and makes the use of powdered acids more noticeable
The addition of fresh juice has actually proven both inconsistent and detrimental to the finished product
My Pseudo Citrus recipes for Lemon Aid and Lime Support solve these issues by:
Rebalancing the acids for more complex lemon juice and more realistic proportions of acid in the lime juice
Incorporating sugar to offset the brash powdered acids while providing a more satisfying and texturally accurate flavor
Omitting fresh citrus—more on this below
Incorporating sea salt to smooth out the rough edges and a better, more cohesive flavor
I left out the fresh citrus from my recipes because it is too big a variable in terms of both flavor and volume. When I started these most recent tastings, limes were yielding an average of 1.5–2 ounces each, but two weeks later I was only able to find limes yielding a pathetic .25–.5 ounces of juice. Besides the variance in yield, I found the juice to make for a flabbier, weaker finished juice that DOES in fact change flavor over time.
My understanding is that the fresh juice is blended back in to "close a sustainability loop," but I suggest you find another use for your fresh citrus, which shouldn't be too difficult. After all, if you can't find a use for a couple ounces of juice, you probably don't need to worry about batching up over a pint of the stuff, right?
Anyway, send your questions and comments my way at email@example.com! And again, this blog is blog is run entirely out of pocket without ads (or ad revenue!) so tips and donations are very much appreciated if you or your bar program find benefit from this blog. Now go out and have some fun with these juices!