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Cordial is quite a brilliant description of this tasty concoction, as if it greets your tastebuds with a bounce and a hearty welcome. It does so, metaphorically speaking, especially if you take the time to make it yourself.

To find the template for citrus cordial, look no further than Rose's Lime Cordial, which actually has quite a history. The process of preserving lime juice was invented and patented by Lauchlin Rose in 1867, and the drink became an integral part of the sailor's ration on British naval ships for its scurvy-preventing Vitamin C content. The ubiquity of gin and lime cordial upon these same ships may be responsible for the origin of the Gimlet. Lime cordial is crucial in making a Gimlet. Fresh lime juice and simple syrup, a common substitute by well-meaning bartenders, has as much in common with lime cordial as chicken bouillon and water do with chicken stock. The Gimlet is genuinely one of the few drinks where a chemical-laden, mass-manufactured component is usually preferable to freshly squeezed juice.

I say usually because for any given recipe, there is a good chance that there exists a slight variation that's superior. In the case of lime cordial, bartender Toby Cecchini (creator of the Cosmopolitan cocktail) penned a recent New York Times blog post that detailed what I can only describe as the end all be all of lime cordials. I've found it can be adapted to any rind-covered citrus fruit that you fancy, and the end result is more magical than a white iPod.

The following is his recipe, modified to fix some issues with quantities that I found to be a bit annoying.

Citrus Cordial

Ingredients
  • Citrus fruit with leathery rind - limes, lemons, oranges, grapefruit, etc.
  • Granular sugar
  • Fresh ginger root (optional)
Ingredient Ratio 1 cup of juice : 1 cup of sugar : (optional 6 oz of ginger)

Directions

  1. Start with room temperature fruit. Wash the fruit thoroughly and dry with a clean towel.
  2. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the rind from the fruit. Try to remove shallow portions to minimize the amount of bitter white pith on on the rind peels. If you want to use a spoon to scrape some of the pith away once you've peeled the rind segments, knock yourself out. As long as you didn't get a ton of pith, that's totally optional. Set aside.
  3. Juice the fruit into a measuring container. A good juicer is indispensable if you're making any quantity of this stuff. I prefer the handheld juice presses over a countertop press, but I'm sure an electric one would take the cake here.
  4. For every liquid cup of fruit juice, dissolve one solid cup of sugar into it. The sugar should dissolve fairly easily if mixed with a fork or whisk.
  5. At this point, you may choose to integrate the ginger if you are so inclined. For every one cup of juice, you will need 6 ounces of ginger. Wash the ginger root and puree in a blender or food processor with the fruit juice. You may leave the skin on; we'll be straining everything later.
  6. Combine the juice and peels in a non-reactive container (I like glass or Pyrex bowls for this) and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours. Strain into a bottle for storage, and if you're patient, allow it to cure for another day in the fridge before starting to use it. I'm not that patient.
  7. Proceed to make a myriad of lovely beverages.
This stuff is incredibly strong, in a good way. Whereas a classic Gimlet with Rose's would be made in a 3:2 ratio of gin to cordial, I'd suggest 3:1 with this stuff or 4:1 if you prefer it on the dryer side. A single teaspoon into a glass of cola, ginger ale, or fruity soda will take the flavor up to 11. A rum drink at 3:1 is delicious as well. I feel like I'm barely scratching the surface here when it comes to the potential flavorgasms.

That's it! As few as two or three ingredients! The simplicity certainly beats the combination of "water, lime juice from concentrate, sugar, citric acid, flavorings, sodium metabisulphite, beta-carotene, and green S" that makes up the current Rose's Lime Cordial. Other variations of cordial recipe call for adding citric and tartaric acid, boiling, diluting with water, and doing all sorts of unholy things to the fruit. Like with cold-brewed coffee, extracting the essential oils from the rinds at cold temperatures, in this case using the undiluted fruit juice, allows the lovely characteristics of the fruit to come out and play while the nasty bitter notes remain on the bench.

I have not gone through all the experimentation that Mr. Cecchini went through to arrive at this recipe, but then I find the end result so satisfying I feel no need to explore with my own modifications, beyond trying different combinations of citrus fruits. So far, the lime and ginger is an instant favorite, and a pure grapefruit variant shows great promise. One thing to consider is the natural sweetness of the fruit you're working with; the grapefruit variant probably could've done with a bit less added sugar, but the end result was still damn good. Mr. Cecchini suggests a pomelo/lemon version, or an orange/kumquat/grapefruit hybrid. I'm looking forward to tasting a key lime variant, although I don't look forward to actually peeling and juicing all the buggers.

In pursuit of a fine elixir, though, it is most assuredly worth the effort.

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References:
New York Times blog, 2011-05-02, "Building a better mixer," Toby Cecchini

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