What Are Citrates and Why You Should Drink Them

Food & Wine: What Are Citrates and Why You Should Drink Them
© Oleg March
By Justine Sterling Posted January 09, 2014

Now that every semi-pro at-home-bartender stocks bitters, tinctures and essences, it’s time to explore new cocktail seasonings. Currently, Bittermens is toying around with citrates. The company's orange cream flavor combines a tincture (an alcoholic extract featuring just one or two flavors) with citric acid. It's a play on the techniques used by old-timey soda jerks, who added phosphoric acids to drinks for tang and tartness.

While citrates do have a trace of bitterness, they are not bitters, which are essentially tinctures made with a variety of botanicals including roots. Flavor-wise, citrates are brighter and sour with a creamy finish. Bittermens markets the product as an “orange anti–bitter” and bartenders are already getting excited about it. At Brooklyn’s Bar Below Rye, Casey Vanheel uses the orange cream citrate in the Crimson Derby, a hybrid of two classic cocktails served at the Kentucky Derby: mint juleps and whiskey sours. “The citrate gives you a sharp sourness,” Vanheel says. However, it also adds a soft mouthfeel. “For a classic whiskey sour you would use egg whites, we don’t need it for this. The citrate creates that lushness.”

To make the Crimson Derby, Vanheel shakes Buffalo Trace bourbon with fresh-squeezed lemon juice, house made grenadine, ten tiny drops of the potent orange citrate and four or five fresh mint lives. “For a traditional mint julep you would muddle the mint,” Vanheel explains. “But if you over-muddle it gets very bitter. ” Instead, they shake the mint with the other ingredients. He double-strains the cocktail into a coupe and garnishes it with a slapped mint leaf.

Related: Fantastic Mint Juleps
Bourbon Cocktails
Kentucky Derby Drinks

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