Boozy Fun with Fresh Citrus
Originally published February 14, 2012. Updated on 9/9/2021
It's a great time of year to purchase citrus fruits, so how about some Boozy Fun with Fresh Citrus?.
Not only are most of them in season at the moment, but they provide a nice contrast to winter.
Bright sunny colors and flavors go a long way to offset the "blah" outside, after all!
Once you've squeezed some lemon on your meal, zested some orange into your dessert, or put lime in your Coke...then what?
Well, how about homemade "Sour Mix"? Citrus sugar? Citrus SALT?
Citrus-infused spirits/liqueur? Cocktails!
Yes, there is a lot of boozy fun to be had with fresh citrus fruits! Let’s get to it...
Anyway, on to those recipes!
Homemade Sour Mix
First, let's look at sour mix.
This goes by a few names - "bar lime", "bar mix", "sweet and sour", etc - and is a versatile ingredient to have available for your home bar.
We like to make about a liter of it at a time, keeping it in a bottle in the fridge. It's really convenient!
Sour mix is not only used for, well, SOURS, but is also used as an ingredient in many cocktails, and is the foundational flavor in a margarita.
Trust me, once you make your own, you'll never want to buy the premade stuff again!
This can be scaled up or down, as needed.
Also, while the proportion of lemon/lime here is traditional, feel free to play with it, or add different citrus fruits for a more complex flavor.
As pictured below, we ended up using a mix of lemon, lime, and orange - just keep your total juice amount proportionate to everything else.
(Ie: if you’re following the sugar/water volumes in the recipe - at the bottom of this post - you should aim for a total of 2 cups of your combined juices)
How to Make Sour Mix
Zest (optional), and juice your citrus fruits, measuring the juice.
Combine water, sugar, juices, and zest in a saucepan.
Heat to a low simmer, stirring until sugar is dissolved.
Remove from heat, cool.
If you used the zest, strain it out before bottling your sour mix.
Store unused syrup in the fridge for no more than 2 weeks.
1 oz liquor/liqueur of choice*
Fill a rocks glass with ice - ice should come just above the edge of the glass. Pour liquor/liqueur over the ice, top up with sour mix, and pour glass contents into a shaker. Shake, then pour contents back into the rocks glass.
(That's how you're supposed to do it. Honestly, I skip the shaker and just stir it!)
* Amaretto, Drambuie, Whiskey, Tequila, Scotch, and Vodka are all popular drinks for "sours", but use whatever you like!
Homemade Frozen Margaritas
1 oz tequila
½ oz triple sec*
Fill glass with ice, to just above the rim. Empty into a blender, along with tequila and triple sec.
Add just enough sour mix to get the ice *starting* to float.
Blend until slushy and smooth. Serve in a salt-rimmed glass.
*Feel free to use Grand Marnier, or any favorite orange-flavored liqueur. (Except cream-based ones!)
Homemade Frozen Daiquiris
1.5 oz rum
Fill glass with ice, to just above the rim. Empty into a blender, along with rum.
Add just enough sour mix to get the ice *starting* to float.
Blend until slushy and smooth. Serve in a sugar-rimmed glass.
Those are the most basic uses for sour mix - I encourage you to have fun with it!
Mai Tais, Blue Hawaiians, Zombies... all use it!
Citrus Sugar, Citrus Salt
Want to take those sugar rims to a new level? Try citrus sugar or citrus salt!
Zest of 1 citrus fruit*
1 - 1 ½ cups granulated sugar or sea salt
Zest fruit directly over the sugar or salt, to catch any flavor (oil) released in the process.
Blitz in a food processor until zest is finely chopped and well distributed throughout.
Spread sugar/salt out - I use a clean cookie sheet - to dry out for an hour or two.
Once dry, give it a stir before transferring to a container with a lid. Store in a dry spot until ready to use.
* It's usually lemon, but have fun with it. Tradition is tradition, but blood orange citrus sugar is *awesome*!
To rim a Glass
Spread citrus sugar/salt out on a plate that is slightly bigger than the rim of the glass(es) to be rimmed.
Run a slice of citrus fruit along the edge of the glass, then turn glass over onto the plate.
Gently twist to coat the edge.
Traditionally sugar rims are used for sweeter drinks, salt for margaritas, Bloody Marys, Caesars, etc.
Homemade Citrus Rum & Citrus Liqueur
Before juicing all of those citrus fruits for the recipes above, use a vegetable peeler to remove just the outer part of the rind (zest) in long strips.
They contain a ton of flavor, and are great for making your own flavored spirits and liqueurs!
Homemade Citrus Rum
1 - 1 ½ cups assorted citrus zest strips
3 cups light amber rum
Place citrus zest in a large, clean mason jar, top with rum. Cap tightly.
Shake at least once a day for about a week, taste for "doneness".
Once a spirit has reached the desired level of flavor, strain the zests out, bottle into clean jars/bottles, or use to make liqueur (recipe below)
* I used rum, but any spirit can be used - vodka for a more clear citrus taste, whiskey or brandy for a more complex flavor, etc
Homemade Citrus Liqueur
This can be scaled up or down, as needed. As pictured, we used a mix of orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit, and blood orange.
Use a mix of your favorites, or focus on one particular flavor. If you use only lemons, for instance, the result will be similar to Limoncello liqueur!
1 part sugar
1 part water
1 part citrus-infused rum
Combine water and sugar in a saucepan. Heat to boiling, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, cool.
Once the syrup has cooled, add a little at a time to the infused spirit, stirring and tasting as you go.
Once the liqueur has reached your preferred level of sweetness, bottle and allow it to age for a few weeks - IF you have the patience. We usually don't!
More Homemade Liqueur Recipes
Liqueur is a fun project, tasty to drink, and great to give as gifts. Looking for more ideas? Here you go!
SO now that you’re up to your elbows in citrus fruit and citrus flavoured beverages and condiments, how about learning a couple quick ways to dress up your citrus cocktails?
There are two main ways to start out your citrus twists.
One requires a special tool and is easier, the other doesn’t require anything specialized, and is a little more labour intensive.
Citrus Twists with a Channel Knife
A channel knife is a cool little bartending tool that (optionally) allows you to cut several loooooong, thin zests with one end - see the curls garnishing my Blueberry Pavlova!
Just above the handle - on mine, anyway - is a sneaky secondary tool, the actual channel knife.
Jamming this into the rind and dragging it across a citrus fruit will produce a nicely even length of ribbon from the zest.
From there, simply wrap the ribbon of zest around your finger or a chopstick, hold it for a few seconds, and gently remove your twist!
Citrus Twists with a Peeler and Paring Knife
No channel knife? No problem!
Use a vegetable peeler to remove a long strip of rind from the citrus fruit of your choice.
Use your paring knife to trim the short ends to even our those edges.
Then, carefully trim the rough edges from the lengths of the peel, then cut long, thin strips from it.
Depending on how wide and straight your peel is, you can potentially get several long, thin strips from one peeling.
Then, wrap the ribboned lengths of zest around your finger or a chopstick, hold for a few minutes, and gently remove your twist!
Citrus Rose Cocktail Garnishes
This is something I came up with when preparing to photograph The Spirited Baker, and it’s one of my favourite garnishes.
It’s just so pretty, cute, and summery!
Use a vegetable peeler to get one long (or several shorter) peelings from an orange, lemon, or grapefruit, as well as one shorter peeling from a lime.
Roll up the longer peel into tight-ish rose shape.
Hold the roll flat on a cutting board, and use a sharp paring knife to cut a ¾" slash into the bottom of the rose.
This is what will straddle the rim of the glass, so make sure it’s deep enough, and goes through all the layers.
Affix the rose to the glass rim.
Cut a small slash into one end, and affix it to the glass, up against the rose.
More Cocktail Recipes
Looking for more ideas for cocktail hour? We've some recipes for you!
Birthday Cake Martini
Boozy Sparkling Cider Float
Candied Rims for Cocktails
Candy Apple Martini Recipe
Candy Cane Martini
"Drinking in LA" Cocktail
Fresh Peach Daiquiri Recipe
Fuzzy Peach Candy Cocktail
Grown-up Hot Chocolate & Hot Cocoa
Halloween Themed Shooters
Homemade Clamato & Bloody Caesars
Homemade Wine Slush Mix
Jolly Rancher Martinis
Marie's Favourite Mojito
Rum Runners Cocktail Recipe
The Science of Layered Shots
If you enjoy making and/or cooking with liqueur, you should check out my first cookbook, The Spirited Baker. It’s FULL of fun, tasty recipes using spirits and liqueurs for flavour!
Combining liqueurs with more traditional baking ingredients can yield spectacular results.Try Mango Mojito Upside Down Cake, Candy Apple Flan, Jalapeno Beer Peanut Brittle, Lynchburg Lemonade Cupcakes, Pina Colada Rum Cake, Strawberry Daiquiri Chiffon Pie, and so much more.
To further add to your creative possibilities, the first chapter teaches how to infuse spirits to make both basic and cream liqueurs, as well as home made flavor extracts! This book contains over 160 easy to make recipes, with variation suggestions to help create hundreds more!
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Homemade Sour Mix
- 1 ½ cups Water
- 1 ½ cups Granulated Sugar
- 1 cup Freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 cup Freshly squeezed lime juice
- Zest of the lemons and limes used optional.
- Combine water, sugar, juices, and zest in a saucepan.
- Heat to a low simmer, stirring until sugar is dissolved.
- Remove from heat, cool.
- If you used the zest, strain it out before bottling your sour mix.
- Store unused syrup in the fridge for no more than 2 weeks.