One of the most common elements of a cocktail is the presence of citrus fruit. The flavors of citrus provide a brightness for drinks, and allow more herbal and floral notes to shine through in a drink. From citrus-infused liqueurs to rinds added for garnish, citrus, by one means or another usually plays a key part in making a drink refreshing.
In this article, we will be going over some citrus taxonomy and discussing the different flavors associated with each group.
Citrus fruits are part of the genus Rutecae. Scientific research conf that the fruits originate from SE Asia. Texts from four thousand years ago document the usage of small bushes that bore fruit with a thick leathery rind.
Eventually, the use of the fruit spread to Europe, and it was Arab traders that brought the sour orange, lime and pomelo to the Mediterranean and Norht Africa around eight hundred to a thousand years ago.
Citrus was first introduced to the American climate with Columbus's second voyage in 1492. Nowadays, we associate many of our warmer climates such as California and Florida with the prolific production of citrus fruits.
All of our modern citrus fruits descend from something I like to call, the Triangle Offense of citrus.
The Triangle Offense of Citrus is a classification system of citrus around three families of citrus fruit. Each group has distinct characteristics, and all of our citrus fruits are a hybridization of these three original members.
The Mandarin, may be the most recognizable of all the names on this chart. These small, round orange fruits are believed to originate from SE Asia. They are a particularly sweet kind of citrus and don't have as much bitterness to their taste. Though a little sour, the primary taste of these fruits derive from its high sugar content. Mandarins, are one of the oldest citrus fruits, and unlike other types, tend to have a thinner rind that peels off easily.
An orange is a common hybridization of this group. Though orange is a flavor that is commonly used--think of an Old Fashioned--the flavors of this group tend to be less complicated as other citrus fruits that heavily feature bitter, sour and other flavors.
Famous Hybrid: Navel Oranges
In comparison to the Mandarin, Pomelos are larger, and more bitter fruit. Pomelos, also known as shaddocks, originate from SE Asia. These fruit have a thick rind, and are the ancestors to grapefruits and bitter oranges.
In comparison to mandarins, pomelos have less sugar in the fruit, and far more complex taste profile. Think of a grapefruit's sharp bitterness, and the effect that its flavor can have on the profile of a drink.
Famous Hybrid: Grapefruit
Amy Stewart of The Drunken Botanist, refers to the citron as "the dinosaur of the citrus world." The citron has a thick skin that looks scaly and makes up the majority of the fruit. What little flesh this fruit has to offer is almost inedible.
However, it is the pith of the citron that historically has seen the most use. The pith of the citron was candied into a crystallized peel called succade. Citrons are unique citrus fruits because of their ability to grow in mountainous regions. Yuzu, a Japanese citron is used heavily in their cuisine, featured as a flavor in miso soup as well as ponzu, a sweet rendition of soy sauce.
Famous Hybrid: Lime