Juice a fresh fruit, or open a bottle? Can we tell the difference?
Many drinks call for lemon juice, but there are a variety of options, from several types of actual fruits to several bottled varieties. While we have alternately used many of the available options, we have never done a side-by-side test.
Can tasters tell the difference between a real lemon and ReaLemon in a cocktail?
While I do not expect tasters to be able to necessarily identify which product is which, I do expect a preference for one over the other.
Equipment & Materials:
- 1 lemon (produces ~ 1 oz of juice)
- 1 oz ReaLemon
- 2 oz Brandy (divided, 1 oz per drink)
- 2 oz Cointreau (divided, 1 oz per drink) <– winner of the orange liquor vs sidecar battle
- 2 shakers
- 6 ice cubes (3 for each shaker)
- 2 glasses (for the double blind procedure, it helps to have 2 distinctly decorated glasses)
- guinea pigs… er… taste testers
- select a lemon at the grocery store: I try to pick ones that smell lemony (surprisingly, many don’t), though, common advice is to look for fruits that are heavy for their size, firm, bright yellow, and preferable smooth & thin skinned.
- roll the lemon firmly against a flat surface with your hand, this helps pre-break some the juice vesicles, making juicing easier
- cut lemon in half, and squeeze firmly over a strainer set over a collection container
- become painfully aware of the tiny cuts and abrasions on your hands (optional)
- measure 1 oz lemon, 1 oz brandy & 1 oz Cointreau into each shaker (using a different type of juice in each)
- add ice
- shake simultaneously (one shaker in each hand, which is possible if not using boston shakers) for 30 seconds
- strain into glasses
- assess & enjoy
Double Blind Procedure:
- have one person measure the ingredients, and note which lemon juice was in what shaker
- write down the juice to shaker mapping on a piece of paper, fold that up and set aside
- after shaking, person #1 calls in their capable co-blogger
- person #1 leaves the room, and capable co-blogger chooses which glass to pour the contents of each shaker into
- the shaker to glass mapping is written on a different piece of paper, which is folded up and set aside
- everyone comes back in to taste test & make notes
- open up the pieces of paper and determine which glass mapped to which juice
Glass #1: Smells of Cointeau, citrusy with a bit of alcohol. Sweet on nose, slightly sour & tangier. Bright. Preferable to glass #2.
Glass #2: Smells of lemon, but more alcohol-y. Round and smooth mouth feel and flavor. Smells different than glass #1 in a funky way, but nice drink & flavors seem balanced.
The ReaLemon has a distinct odor, which was detectable in the final drink.
Also, learned that lemons are botanically berries (technically hesperidiums).
Glass #1 = a real lemon
Glass #2 = ReaLemon
Both were nice drinks in that they seemed well balanced. In comparison however, the real lemon was definitely a clear winner, and everyone correctly identified which glass was which.
Living in a northern clime, lemons are of hit-or-miss quality, and are somewhat expensive. In the case of this experiment, the purchased lemon was $0.79, and produced enough juice for 1 drink. The 15 oz bottle of ReaLemon was $2.25, which comes out to $0.15 per drink. While the resulting beverage using the fresh lemon was a clear winner, if on a budget or cocktailing for a crowd, a bottled variety might be justified.
How does a real lemon compare against a Meyer Lemon (technically a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange) or against other bottled brands? If stuck needing to use bottled lemon juice, which brand is better? If we can find different lemon varietals, is there a difference between them (do you even get a choice of lemons outside the lemon belts)?