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Liven Up Any Cocktail With Easy-to-Make Citrus Cordials

Glass bottles of citrus cordials with slices of citrus fruits. /
Photo by: Tom Arena

If you’ve ever enjoyed a Gimlet, it may have been sweetened with lime cordial, a sugar syrup infused with citrus peels and juice. Bartenders have long known that cordials can enliven and sweeten a wide range of drinks. The secret: the essential oils in the peel.

“You’re getting all that good, bright flavor out of the peel,” explains Kjell Anderson, bar and front-of-house manager for Metzger Bar and Butchery in Richmond, Virginia. “Just throwing juice into a drink means the [fruit] wouldn’t stand out as much. But the flavor pulled out of the peels gives you that popping citrus flavor.”

At Metzger, Anderson simmers citrus peels in a simple syrup that’s equal parts sugar and water, adding juice at the very end.

“It’s a good tool to have around,” he says, ideal for adding interest to an Old Fashioned, a sparkling French 75 variation or mixing with soda water for non-alcoholic drinks. “They take little time and can really help spruce up a cocktail.”

A more intense version skips the water, dissolving sugar and flavorings into citrus juice. Allan V. Katz, proprietor of Las Vegas based Jammyland Cocktail Bar & Reggae Kitchen, started making cordials this way after a chef eyed his bar routine and asked why use water at all when he wants the fruit flavor.