Citrus can create a massive amount of waste at bars — juice, peel, toss, repeat — but it doesn’t necessarily need to. There are a number of ways to get the most out of citrus beyond its juice and zest. While house-made bitters, amaros, and vermouths can repurpose citrus “waste,” one recent innovation in the drinks industry may be the answer to making all those lemons and limes more sustainable: the citrus-alternative known as “Super Juice.”
The liquid was invented by bartender Nickle Morris of Louisville, Ky., as a more economical, flavorful, and cheaper version of fresh citrus juice. While fresh juice oxidizes pretty quickly — particularly lime juice, making it fragile and prone to “off” flavors — Super Juice employs citric and malic acids to stabilize itself and yields six times as much juice as normal juicing techniques. It also maintains the same acid content as straight-up citrus juice, decreases the rate of oxidation, and packs three to four times the oil content of regular citrus juice. Sound like a miracle product? Kind of, but unlike most suspected acts of divine intervention, its invention took several years to come to fruition.
Morris began his sustainable bartending journey in 2017 while working in Hong Kong, when he saw how much styrofoam was used during produce transport. He started experimenting, trying to figure out a way to extract more juice and prolong the shelf life of his bar’s citrus. He tinkered with acids and various solutions for three years before perfecting it with the help of fellow bartender Ryan LeClaire, who now works at Morris’s Louisville bar Expo. Now, they make the stuff every day, and bars across the nation have adopted the practice.
Nailing the Juice
To understand Super Juice is to understand the foundational acids in citrus: citric, malic, and succinic acid. Citric acid is a great preservative, and it’s what gives citrus its sourness. Malic acid provides dryness, and succinic acid makes the fruit oxidize. There’s also ascorbic acid in all citrus fruits. It’s basically vitamin C, but Super Juice functions without it. The process of making Super Juice is essentially recreating lemon or lime juice without succinic acid. For a stronger punch of flavor, citrus oils from the fruits’ rind is incorporated into the mix.
To make roughly one liter of Super Juice, you’ll need about eight limes or six lemons. Make sure to wash the fruit to get any wax or other junk off it. Then, peel the fruit without digging into the flesh too much to avoid getting bitter pith along with the peels. Place the fruit peels in a container and add citric and malic acid. The general rule of thumb for measurements is to weigh the peels and add an equal weight of acids in a two-to-one ratio. (Example: 13.57 grams of lime peels equals 9.05 grams of citric acid and 4.52 grams of malic acid.)
Lightly muddle the acids into the peels until they’re completely covered. Then, let the mixture sit for at least an hour. The acids will break down the peels and draw out the essential oils from the rinds, leaving a slurry of oleo citrate at the bottom of the container. In the meantime, juice all of your peeled citrus. Once the oil extraction is done, dump the oleo citrate mixture (peels and all), the citrus juice, and four cups of water into a large container. Next, with an immersion blender or food processor, blend everything together. It shouldn’t take that long to blend, but the purpose of including the peels is to get more organic material into the final product, as it gives texture to the juice. Once blended, fine-strain the mixture into a jar, and boom! You have Super Juice.
If kept refrigerated, it should last one to two weeks before developing slightly metallic “off” flavors. Ultimately, it’ll still oxidize no matter what since there’s fresh juice and organic plant matter in it, but it will take a lot longer than typical fresh-squeezed citrus.
As far as gathering your materials, citric acid is available at most supermarkets, but malic acid might require some online shopping or a trip to a specialty store. And to further bolster the sustainability agenda at work here, it’s important to note that commercially available citric acid is derived from the fermentation of crude sugars like molasses and corn starch, not fruit.
Super Juice in the Wild
If you’re one of those people who juice, peel, toss, and repeat on a regular basis, this solution might sound like an unlikely answered prayer. But according to bartenders who’ve adopted the mixture at their own establishments, it really is that good. It’s the first citrus alternative that’s as good — if not better, in some cases — than fresh lime or lemon juice, and has a longer shelf life.
“That’s always been a big issue with bars that no one’s ever cracked,” according to Harrison Snow, co-owner and beverage director of NYC’s Lullaby. That said, nothing is perfect, and even though Super Juice is indeed super, it has its catches. The main concern is consistency: While there’s a basic formula for making Super Juice, the citrus used can vary in sweetness, size, and ripeness depending on the crop. Plus, the recipe’s final steps present a few variables, particularly when it comes to blending: The more Super Juice is blended, the smaller the organic bits within will become, meaning more of them will slip through the strainer and into the final product. For a high-volume bar like Lullaby, finding a consistent, reliable way to make big enough batches of Super Juice is still a tough code to crack.
“If it’s blended for five seconds too long, suddenly you have something that’s way too intense,” Snow says. That intensity can be a detriment to more complex cocktails in which Super Juice can overpower more subtle ingredients and steal the show. This makes the stuff more ideal for straightforward builds. “It’s better in a lot of simple classic cocktails, like a Daiquiri,” Snow says. But until the cocktail world finds a practical way to measure the exact amount of extracted oils and plant matter going into the final product, Super Juice will remain a solid option for home bartenders and smaller, lower-volume bars. Regardless, it’s a more sustainable step in the right direction.
Super Juice Recipe
- 8 limes (or 6 lemons)
- 44 grams citric acid
- 8 grams malic acid
- 4 cups water
- Peel all citrus and place peels in a container.
- Add the citric and malic acid and lightly muddle to mix.
- Let sit for at least an hour to extract the oils.
- Juice the rindless citrus.
- Add citrus juice, extracted oils (including peels and acid residue), and water to a large container.
- Blend with an immersion blender or food processor until dissolved.
- Fine strain into a jar and keep refrigerated. The liquid will stay fresh for 1–2 weeks.
Yield: 1 liter