Foodstuffs
4:55 pm
Thu July 17, 2014

After The Shortage, Limes Return In Time For Midsummer Cocktails

Lemons, not limes, go into the Blueberry Basil Mojito at Cotton.
Credit Brian Smestad, courtesy of Blue Tree LLC

A Mexican lime shortage had some NH bar owners worried. 

Margaritas, mojitos, gin and tonics... when you think of summer drinks, there's probably a lime in the picture. But up until a few weeks ago, this summer looked pretty grim – at least lime-wise.

“We were paying $50 a case to begin with,” says Jim Derosiers, “and then they jumped up to $150 a case and $175 a case.”

Desrosiers is the bar manager at Poco's Bow Street Cantina in Portsmouth. Every week, Poco's goes through about 15 cases of 250 limes each.

“We heard all kinds of rumors around town,” he continues. “That people were charging per slice, that some limes were coming out the width of a penny.”

Sitting at the bar at Poco's, Steve Skrzat says he saw worse. “For about a week straight I was scrambling to every store I could go to to get some limes, and for two days I worked we didn't have any limes at all.”

Skrzat is a bartender himself, down in Worchester, and he says the shortage made him a little stingy. “If someone asked for double limes, I questioned why they needed double limes,” he recalls with a laugh.

Most of the limes we get in the U.S. come from Mexico. But the spring crop got hit by heavy rains, a bacterial infection called 'citrus greening,' and even cartels raiding orchards and hijacking shipments of the now-precious fruit.

Desrosiers says he just had to tough it out: six slices to a lime, no matter what – he has standards. But he did have to make some changes: no superfluous slice of lime on the rim of a mojito (there's plenty in the glass already, he says), and no lime with the orange and lemon in the sangria.

Desrosiers and his bartenders also started asking customers if they wanted lime with their beers, to give them a chance to turn it down.

“The hardest-hit people were the Mexican restaurants, for sure,” says Peaches Paige. Paige is the co-owner of Cotton, in Manchester, and co-author of Cotton Cocktails, a mixed-drink 'cookbook.'

Like Desrosiers, she made garnish-limes optional. But fortunately for her, Cotton's big drinks aren't lime-dependent.

For example, “I do a blueberry mojito that I use with lemon, and it's basil and blueberry vodka with lemon and sugar,” she says.

“I use a lemon for a lot of my drinks, actually. The lemon never really got its fair shake, and so I actually give it a fair shake.”

Now that the later lime crop is coming in healthy, the worst is over for more lime-dependent bars like Poco's, just in time for prime margarita and mojito season.

So, here's to the lime, may it never leave us again – and to the lemon, just in case.