Lime Juice vs The Margarita

In honor of National Margarita Day, we decided to do science to margaritas. We actually did this science last year, but apparently never finished this post.

Initial observation:
Here at the primary testing facility we are quite fond of True Lemon and True Lime as substitutes for fresh juice. We have also found that aging citrus juice for several hours can improve its flavor.

Question:
Is there a noticeable difference between True Lime and freshly squeezed lime juice? Additionally how do they compare to True Lime that was reconstituted ahead of time, or lime juice that was squeezed ahead of time.

Expectation:
Based on previous experience, steps in recipes that call for extra work (such as freshly squeezing lime juice) tend to be important. However we’ve also found that True Lemon/Lime make very good substitutes for the real thing. So, the expectation is that freshly squeezed will be marginally better than True Lime. However, how the lime juices that are prepared ahead of time compare is unknown.

Equipment & Materials:

  • Cocktail shaker
  • 4 Cocktail glasses
  • Tequila (we used Sauza Blue Silver)
  • Orange Liqueur (we used O3)
  • Limes
  • Citrus Juicer
  • True Lime
  • Small graduated cylinder
  • Measuring spoons
  • Small glasses
  • Plastic wrap
  • 8 wine charms
  • Food coloring

Procedure:

  1. Several hours (4-10) ahead of time, squeeze several limes and mix 2 oz of true lime, label and set aside covered with plastic wrap.
  2. Immediately before mixing the margaritas, squeeze several more limes and mix more true lime.
  3. Stir aged lime juices to account for any settling or separation that may have occurred.
  4. Pour 1 oz of lime juice into each of four chilled cocktail glasses, one type of lime juice per glass.
  5. In an iced cocktail shaker, shake enough tequila (8 oz) and orange liqueur (4 oz) for four margaritas.
  6. Add equal amounts of the tequila and orange liqueur to each cocktail glass.
  7. Add a drop of food coloring (we used green) to each glass to obscure any color differences.
  8. Mark each cocktail glass with a unique wine charm, and record (but keep secret) which juice corresponds to which charm.
  9. Have a friend shuffle the order of the cocktail glasses and replace each charm with a new unique charm, recording (but also kept secret) the old to new charm mapping for each glass.
  10. Perform an initial tasting.
  11. Place all margaritas in the freezer for 5-10 minutes to counter any warming that may have occurred during the double blinding and initial tasting phases.
  12. Retaste properly cold drinks.

Data:
In our first attempt to run this experiment we let the lime juices rest for 6 hours before we gave up on the True Lime shipment we needed to finish the experiment. Once all of the ingredients arrived we we tried again, sadly not on National Margarita Day.  The ratios used in this experiment were found in The Thinking Drinker’s Guide To Alcohol.

As before, the second attempt started by squeezing some limes and mixing some True Lime several hours ahead of time.

Lime juices

Lime juices used. Note the slight color variation.

Lime Juices

Lime juices: (left to right) fresh True Lime, aged True Lime, freshly squeezed, aged squeezed.

For the actual taste testing we had three volunteers identified by the letters F, A and P.  It should be noted that Taste Tester F had a rather nasty cold which may have affected their senses of taste and smell.

Margaritas

All four margaritas marked with charms so they can be disambiguated after tasting. Green food coloring was added to obscure the slight color difference between lime juices.

Actual Lime True Lime
Unaged F: Harsh and somewhat astringent
A: Smooth with bitter aftertaste
P: Aroma of tequila, floaties of some sort
F: Sharp tang
A: Lime jello/metallic
P: Limey smell and kinda bite-y
Aged F: Quite tart.
A: Bright/citrus.
P: Also floaties of some sort
Favorite of Taste Testers A & P.
F: Smooth flavor, well balanced
A: Less metallic/better than unaged True Lime
P: Obvious limey aroma
Favorite of Taste Tester F.

After re-chilling the margaritas, all taste testers agreed there was less difference among them, and in general the least favorite versions were less objectionable.

Conclusion:
Everyone preferred one of the aged lime fluids, but Taste Tester F’s cold likely didn’t help coming to a consensus. Additionally, Taste Tester F is also quite fond of Sidecars made with True Lime and not terribly fond of tequila, which the true lime seemed to mask quite well.

Future Questions:
What, if any purpose is served by salting the rim of the glass? Would a higher quality tequila such as Patron be less objectionable?

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