The Dark Side of Citrus: Using Black Limes in Cocktails

Removing the water from limes lends libations tart, earthy, brooding flavor.

 

Used extensively in Middle Eastern cuisine, black limes (also called loomi, noomi basra or limoo amani, depending on the country in which they are used) are made by drying out limes in the sun, after which they lose their water content and most of their weight, and become hard to the touch. In Persian dishes, black limes can be used to add sour flavor to soups and stews, and are also an integral component in baharat, a Persian spice blend used to season fish or meat.

Bartenders are discovering that this exotic ingredient can also give earthy, slightly bitter and fermented citrus flavor to drinks, too. “Black lime pairs beautifully with rums, aged brandies [and other] darker, aged spirits,” declares Jess Lambert, head bartender at Chicago’s Boleo. “With the right flavor combinations, they can be used with almost any spirit that has some body and structure,” she adds. Megan Coyle, bar manager at Hazel in Washington, DC, hasn’t tried them yet with dark spirits, but submits that the caramel and vanilla notes coaxed out by the barrel would also partner nicely with the fruit. She does like the way they play with lighter, botanical ingredients, including white vermouth, gin, and grassy and slightly funky rhum agricole.

Black limes may be less familiar than their green, juicy counterparts, but Kyle Barrow says they are pretty versatile overall. “The flavor is familiar enough to be approachable, but [it] has a distinctive fermented [taste],” notes the lead bartender at Red Owl Tavern in Philadelphia. “So it works well with anything that takes to lime.” He also points out that because their influence spread through the spice trade in Asia, they are an ingredient that would work well with Asian-influenced libations, too. Black limes can be used in spirit infusions, syrups, grated on top of drinks as a garnish, or even brewed in beer. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

 

Transfigurations cocktail recipe - Black lime cocktails

Transfigurations

Recipe courtesy of Hazel, Washington, D.C.

Bar manager Megan Coyle says that black lime in this drink – used both to infuse blanc vermouth and as a garnish on top – lends an earthy sweetness to what otherwise would be a simple cocktail. “The infusion allows a more subtle incorporation of flavor, while the shavings bring a slightly more aggressive aromatic,” she explains.

  • 2 oz. black lime-infused Dolin Blanc Vermouth (see Note)
  • 1 oz. Neisson Rhum Agricole
  • ½ oz. dry Curaçao
  • Grated black lime, for garnish

Add first three ingredients to a mixing glass, add ice, and stir until well-chilled. Strain into a chilled Nick & Nora glass, and garnish with grated black lime.

For the black lime-infused Dolin Blanc Vermouth:

Crush 1 ½ black limes, and place into a 750ml bottle of Dolin Blanc Vermouth. Refrigerate for 2 days, and then strain out solids.

 

Adulting is Hard cocktail recipe - Black lime cocktails

Adulting is Hard

Recipe courtesy of Boleo, Chicago, IL

Head bartender Jess Lambert says black lime provides a contrasting aromatic component. “When grated onto a cocktail, it produces a bright and intense lime oil aromatic grounded by a hint of anise,” she adds. For this drink, Lambert also uses fat lime, also called stone lime or white lime, which is a high-calcium powder made by burning limestone, chalk or calcium carbonate in a kiln.

  • 1 oz. Angostura 7 Rum
  • 2 oz. Mistral Nobel Extra Anejo Tequila
  • ¼ oz. Lustau Oloroso Sherry
  • 1 ½ oz. Cereal milk (see Note)
  • ½ oz. Honey
  • ½ oz. Fat lime
  • 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
  • Grated black lime, for garnish

Add all ingredients except garnish to a cocktail shaker, add ice, and shake until cold and frothy. Strain into a glass filled with fresh ice, and garnish with grated black lime.

 

Kaalee Lassi cocktail recipe - Black lime cocktails

Kaalee Lassi

Recipe courtesy of Red Owl Tavern, Philadelphia, PA

Black lime can be incorporated into cocktails in a number of ways, says lead bartender Kyle Darrow. In an infusion or tincture, you get more of the fruit’s nuances, while a simple syrup gives more bright lime flavor without the acidity. “It’s a nice balance of sweet and sour, and unlike fresh lime juice you could also use it with dairy products without the risk of curdling.” His take on the popular Indian yogurt-based beverage also gets a whiff of heady floral aroma from both jasmine-infused vodka and rosewater.

  • 2 oz. Jasmine-infused vodka (see Note)
  • 2 oz. Black lime syrup (see Note)
  • 2 oz. Honey yogurt
  • 3 dashes Rosewater
  • 2 oz. Milk

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker and stir vigorously with a bar spoon to break up and incorporate the yogurt. Add ice and shake well, then double strain into a tall glass.

For the jasmine-infused vodka:

Add 3 tablespoons jasmine pearl tea to a 750ml bottle of vodka. Keep in a cool, dark place for a half a day or a day, shaking occasionally, until desired flavor is achieved. Strain out solids.

For the black lime syrup:

Bring 1 cup water, 1 cup sugar and 1 crushed black lime to a boil, and simmer until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to steep until desired flavor is reached, then strain out solids and store syrup in the refrigerator.

 

SeaQuench-arita cocktail recipe - Black lime cocktails

SeaQuench-arita

Recipe courtesy of Dogfish Head Brewery

The Delaware craft brewery’s seasonal session sour ale, a collaboration with the National Aquarium in Baltimore, starts as a Kölsch brewed with wheat and Munich malt. It’s mixed with a Gose brewed with black limes, coriander and sea salt, and a tart Berliner Weisse made with lime juice and lime peel. All three beers are blended together for a savory brew with tons of mouthwatering citrus flavor and salinity. It’s perfect in a Margarita, and equally great in a Shandy mixed with grapefruit juice and served in a glass rimmed with Himalayan sea salt.  

  • 3 oz. Silver tequila
  • ½ tsp. Agave nectar
  • Juice of half an orange
  • SeaQuench Ale, to top
  • Coarse salt, to rim glass

Rim a Margarita glass with coarse salt and set aside. Add first three ingredients to a cocktail shaker, add ice, and shake until chilled. Strain into the prepared glass, top with SeaQuench Ale, and stir gently to combine.

 

Kelly Magyarics, DWS, is a wine, spirits and lifestyle writer, and wine educator, in the Washington, D.C. area. She can be reached through her website, www.kellymagyarics.com, or on Twitter and Instagram @kmagyarics.

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