If you’ve ever enjoyed a Gimlet, it may have been sweetened with lime cordial, a sugar syrup infused with citrus peels and juice. Bartenders have long known that cordials can enliven and sweeten a wide range of drinks. The secret: the essential oils in the peel.
“You’re getting all that good, bright flavor out of the peel,” explains Kjell Anderson, bar and front-of-house manager for Metzger Bar and Butchery in Richmond, Virginia. “Just throwing juice into a drink means the [fruit] wouldn’t stand out as much. But the flavor pulled out of the peels gives you that popping citrus flavor.”
At Metzger, Anderson simmers citrus peels in a simple syrup that’s equal parts sugar and water, adding juice at the very end.
“It’s a good tool to have around,” he says, ideal for adding interest to an Old Fashioned, a sparkling French 75 variation or mixing with soda water for non-alcoholic drinks. “They take little time and can really help spruce up a cocktail.”
A more intense version skips the water, dissolving sugar and flavorings into citrus juice. Allan V. Katz, proprietor of Las Vegas based Jammyland Cocktail Bar & Reggae Kitchen, started making cordials this way after a chef eyed his bar routine and asked why use water at all when he wants the fruit flavor.
That led to a grapefruit cordial Katz workshopped with partner Dani Crouch, which simmers chunks of fruit, peel and sugar in fresh Ruby Red grapefruit juice, until the volume reduces by about 10%. The end result is a concentrated “whole fruit syrup,” as Katz dubs it.
“We’re extracting every ounce of flavor possible while giving the syrup a rich body that will make the ultimate Papa Doble or Paloma,” says Katz. “It’s richness also makes it an excellent dance partner for aged spirits in Old Fashioned variations.”
These cordials also offer a way to use rinds and peels that might otherwise go to waste, and they’re easy to customize. “It’s super versatile,” Anderson says. Often, he adds fresh herbs to make a rosemary and orange cordial, or grapefruit and sage. “Cordials add these dimensions of flavor.”
Citrus Cordial Recipe
Adapt this versatile template to any type of citrus or a mix of different fruits, like lemon and lime. First, peel the fruit and set peels aside, then juice the citrus. In small saucepan over medium heat, bring 1 cup water to boil. Stir in 1 cup sugar until dissolved. Add cup citrus peels, and any herbs, spices or other flavorings, if using. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Stir in cup citrus juice, then fine strain. Keeps, refrigerated, for up to 2 weeks.
This article originally appeared in the February/March 2022 issue of Wine Enthusiast magazine. Click here to subscribe today!