The toughest part about making great cocktails isn’t remembering the right ratio of liquor to sour to sweet (It’s 1.5 to 1 to .5). It’s constantly stocking your home bar so you have the right ingredients when you need them.
The scariest thing that can happen when mixing drinks while entertaining guests – or one very special guest – is realizing you don’t have lemons to make your famous French 75. Or what’s an Old Fashioned without the orange? So now what? You’re going to try to cobble together some miscellaneous booze and liqueur into something palatable? We’ve all been there; good luck.
Instead, make cocktail hour effortless by employing this trick for keeping fruit on hand. I discovered this after a particularly lackluster home bartending experience when I had no lemons to juice. I found this article by America’s Test Kitchen, the NASA of cooking, which tested 3 ways of storing lemons: On the counter, uncovered in the refrigerator, and in the refrigerator inside of a Ziploc bag. They found the latter to be the best method and they cited 4 weeks.
In my tests I’ve had oranges for as long as three months. Simply place your dry oranges, lemons, or limes in a large Ziploc bag and stash ‘em in the fridge. It’s imperative that there isn’t extra moisture in there (from washing them, for example) so that mold doesn’t have an upper hand. A few caveats, though. There were one or two in the bag that started to turn before three months, as a result it’s important to keep an eye on them so you can remove those to save the others. It may be a good idea to swap Ziploc bags occasionally and dry off the remaining fruit as well.
The longer you keep the fruit, the less optimal it’ll be, obviously. Watch out for soft, rubbery peels that you can push through with your finger. If there’s no spritz when you express the peel for garnish, then you’re missing out on the flavors, and the whole point, of using it in the first place. The older the fruit gets, the less juicy it’ll be, so even if an orange or lemon hasn’t gone bad, it may be unusable if it’s too dehydrated.
Looking for a great cocktail recipe? Look no further then our “It's Friday…Have a Drink” series where award-winning mixologist Christopher Buecheler breaks down classic cocktails full of tips of the trade and history.
To many delicious libations, cheers!