Do you know enough about lime to choose the best?
Did you know that limes are really yellow? It’s true, they turn yellow when ripe but they are picked and shipped to market beforehand to ensure shelf life and to keep them green. Consumers expect green limes. Did you know that the Tahitian lime, the most common type that you buy in the store and the Key lime the second most popular are uniquely acidic which makes them perfect for rum? If you use a lime from another country that isn’t Tahitian you might ruin your cocktail because they will likely be sweet. It seems there is much we don’t know about this simple fruit that serves as rum’s best friend.
In my continuing pursuit of creating the perfect rum drink I turn my attention to the lime. We should, as mixologist of rum, truly understand the ingredients that we choose to use. Not all ingredients are created equal. If a drink recipe calls for rum do you reach any handy bottle because all rum is the same? Of course not! The travesty. Then why should we simply reach for a lime?
The Tahitian (or Persian) lime came to California via Tahiti in 1850. The same lime, The Persian (or Tahitian) lime came to Florida via Persia and Portugal in 1883. When they arrived in Florida there was push back because they didn’t have the same flavor as Key limes, which were at their peak of production at that time. I would agree with that assessment as a side note.
The Tahitian lime took over eventually because they were much easier to grow. The Key lime tree is very thorny making it difficult to pick the very small fruit. It’s not uncommon today for Key lime trees to be cleared from land because people don’t know what they really are. People just see an ugly thorny low bushy tree and bulldoze it.
The lime arrived in the Caribbean during the same timeframe in the 19th century. A good thing too, as Admiral Vernon of the Royal Navy began ordering rum rations be cut with lime, water and sugar to make grog. Grog of course was a precursor to the daiquiri. Can you imagine life without daiquiri’s, mojitos and all the other great drinks we make with lime today? Neither can I.
How do you choose your Tahitian limes in the store? I have a two prong strategy that largely depends on how I intend to use said lime. Take special notice to the display of limes, they are not all the same. Typically you will find a mix of thick skin and thin skin limes all mixed together. Select the thin skin limes that have a little give when pressed with your finger. These will always produce more juice. Thick skin limes are great when you need the rind for your recipe or a garnish. Simple, I know, and like many things in life it’s only a matter of paying attention.
Next time you reach for a lime, or any ingredient that you intend on mixing with rum for that matter, slow down and ask yourself if your are choosing the best or are you on mindlessly making an average drink? Rum represents a great history and craftsmanship. Your distiller put their heart and soul into their rum. Please honor that commitment with your own to become a better mixer and drinker.