How to Make Your Own Lime Cordial (Rose’s Lime Juice)

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I’ve always had a pretty serious dilemma with the Gimlet. On one hand, I’ve never really been in love with fresh lime juice Gimlets. There, I’ve said it. But for me, they’ve always lacked this bracing, bitter, tart edge that a Gimlet made with Rose’s Lime has. Those qualities have always stuck in my head as a sort of yardstick for what a Gimlet should taste and feel like, and fresh lime juice and sugar just don’t quite get the drink all the way there.

On the other hand, Rose’s Lime is a terrible product. There’s absolutely nothing natural about it, it’s full of high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors, and artificial colors. I haven’t carried a bottle of Rose’s in my bars for nearly twenty years because it’s so bad. And yet… there are those qualities that make it very unique. Again, it gives a Gimlet (or a Kamikaze, if you’re into that sort of thing – I know I am) a bracing, bitter, tart edge. It’s just the flavor that isn’t any good.

So, me being me, I had to try to find a way around this and come up with a lime cordial that captured those positive qualities of Rose’s, but used fresh, natural ingredients. And believe me, I made about twenty batches of pretty bad facsimiles of Rose’s before I settled on something I could post here.

A lot of bartenders out there adopt the fresh-lime-juice-and-sugar method of making lime cordial. While it’s a really nice idea, fresh lime juice and sugar in no way captures the tartness and bitterness of a proper lime cordial. Other recipes out there call for fresh lime zest, which is definitely a step in the right direction, yet I still found something missing from those recipes.

Lime juice by itself isn’t tart enough to ever make a lime cordial that stands up next to Rose’s. It’s like the Amaretto Sour recipe from a few years back: no matter how much amaretto I used, the drink was never strong enough, which is why I needed an assist from cask-strength bourbon. In the case of lime cordial, you need a boost from citric acid.

Citric Acid

Citric acid is completely natural and available just about anywhere. It’s used all the time in cooking and baking, and is the ingredient that really makes this lime cordial an improved substitute for Rose’s while accomplishing what Rose’s does right. You can usually find it in a bigger grocery store than has stuff for canning. You can also pick it up at most any homebrew shop. You can also grab it from Amazon.

I didn’t want this to take a lot of time steeping, or require a bunch of special equipment like an immersion circulator, Rotovap, or any of that nonsense: you shouldn’t need to have  some sort of chemistry lab to make a freaking syrup. This should feel like you’re baking, not working in a factory.

So in short, here’s what we want to accomplish with our lime cordial:

  1. It should have all of the good qualities of Rose’s Lime: sweet, bracingly tart, and slightly bitter.
  2. It needs to be made with fresh ingredients, and taste like fresh ingredients.
  3. It needs to be easy to make, and quick to whip up. Letting something sit in a Mason jar for six weeks won’t work for us. This recipe takes about five minutes to make.
  4. It’s gotta be f*cking delicious.

So here’s the recipe I’ve landed on. It satisfies all of the above requirements, and when tasted side-by-side with Rose’s it still captures the intent of Rose’s while improving greatly upon it.

One

Weigh out your sugar. If you don’t have a scale it’s about 8 oz/240 ml. But I always recommend the weighing.

Two

Grate some lime peel. It’s about one large or two small limes’ worth of peel. Get yourself a microplane. I use mine all the time and they’re cheap.

Three

Squeeze the lime juice. Again, it’s about one large or two small limes’ worth of juice. Convenient, no?

Four

Measure out the citric acid. Self-explanatory.

Five

Get that water hot. Doesn’t need to be a rolling boil, just good and hot. And yes, you can do this in a minute and a half in the microwave. This is exactly what a microwave is for.

Six

Mix it all together. You can let it sit for days and days to infuse that lime peel into the syrup, or you can throw it in a blender on medium speed for about 30 seconds. Guess which method I prefer?

Seven

Strain it with a fine-mesh strainer and bottle it. That’s it!


So now that you’ve got a delicious lime cordial, how about a Gimlet? The recipe on the side of the Rose’s bottle is pretty good, it calls for 1½ oz/45 ml gin to 1 oz/30 ml lime cordial. It’s actually a pretty solid Gimlet recipe and it’s the one I use with this homemade lime cordial, though you might like to bump up the gin to 2 oz/60 ml for a stronger drink. I grabbed one of my favorite Gimlet gins, and I can’t say that I’ve ever been happier with a Gimlet.

For more on the Gimlet, check out my dear friend Gabriel Daun’s in-depth article here – he’s one of the most knowledgable people in the business and it’s a fascinating read, even if he does (correctly) dis my Richmond Gimlet, and even though my lime cordial recipe is better than his. 😉

Cheers, friends!

Lime Cordial Print Me

  • 250g sugar
  • 8 oz/240 ml hot water
  • 1½ oz/45 ml fresh lime juice (measured by volume)
  • 1½ oz/45 ml freshly grated lime peel (measured by volume)
  • 1 oz/30 ml citric acid (measured by volume)
  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a blender.
  2. Blend on medium speed for 30 seconds.
  3. Strain with a fine strainer.
  4. Bottle and refrigerate.

Recipe printed courtesy of jeffreymorgenthaler.com

39 Replies to “How to Make Your Own Lime Cordial (Rose’s Lime Juice)”

  • Rich says:

    If you didn’t add water, you wouldn’t need citric acid. At a pH of 2.5, lime (and lemon) juice is more that tart enough.
    Otoh, grapefruit and orange cordials certainly need citric acid to get the pH down below 3.
    Also, by peeling strips rather than grating, you end up with confited zest that can be used in desserts or dehydrated/ground for various purposes.
    Finally, cordials are fantastic for making -ades (lemonade, limeade, orangeade…)

    Here’s my recipe:
    5# limes
    ~ 3 cups sugar

    1. Peel zest of limes into gallon ziptop bag with 2 cups of sugar. Allow to marinate for 2 hours . Behold, oleo saccharum!
    2. Juice fruit. 3. Measure juice. Add sugar to zest so volume matches juice, i.e. if there are 3 cups of juice, then add 1 cup of sugar.
    3. Strain juice into bag. Squeeze out air and seal. Turn back and forth to help sugar dissolve. Refrigerate 24 hours.
    4. Strain zest from cordial. Refrigerate additional 24 hours.

    I make my gimlet with 1/2 oz cordial and 2 oz of barrel aged gin (Old Tom).

    • Glad you found a substitute you enjoy making and drinking! We tried essentially the same method and we all agreed that it wasn’t what we were looking for in a lime cordial at all. “Overly limey lime syrup flavored with more lime” was one of the actual tasting notes 😀

      • Rich says:

        You should discuss the process you used and the various tasting notes that came back. That would be quite interesting.
        And I’m sorry that limes taste too much like limes 😉
        I find that what is effectively a citrus simple syrup is quite useful as a replacement for simple syrup in many cocktails. In fact, replacing simple with blood orange cordial is the secret to my amaretto sour.

        • If the goal was to just make a syrup that tastes good, then yeah, I could have made pretty much whatever. But you don’t make an apple better by just eating a pear.

          However, the goal here was to make a syrup that replicated the positive qualities of Rose’s while using real ingredients. And that goal isn’t possible using the process you described.

  • Tim says:

    I’ve been looking for a sugar-free version of Rose’s for years and just gave up. I think I’m going to try this recipe with erythritol or xylitol and see how it goes.

    • Yes!! Be sure to report back with your findings if you can!

      • Marielle says:

        I didn’t have citric acid so substituted some lemon crystal light pure– was then able to go way down on the sugar content and with some tweaks (eg, increased the lime zest to make sure it was the dominant flavor) it’s awesome. It’s also a great limey color.

  • Lucas England says:

    Shelf Life? or fridge life?

    • Not entirely sure as I just finalized the recipe yesterday. I’ll have to let some sit in the fridge and see how it fares. Though my guess is that it’ll have a long shelf life thanks to the citric acid.

  • Michael Robertson says:

    Thanks Jeff. I really don’t like the lime juice, simple syrup gimlet at all and Rose’s is just awful.
    A good Rose’s substitute has been one of those things that I’ve thought about often but never got around to playing with.

  • Tim says:

    Gimlets with this cordial sounds like a wonderful way to spend this hotter than hell Portland afternoon.

    Any insight as to your favorite Gimlet Gins? Lucky enough to snag a bottle of Sipsmith VJOP, may give that a shot.

    • That sounds delicious to be honest. I used Tanqueray Rangpur at home and it was wonderful.

      • Tim says:

        Just got done making the cordial and been a while since I’ve tried Rose’s, but this feels dead nuts on and it tastes incredibly good. Not blowing smoke here, in terms of ease of making vs the result I can’t envision that a more involved recipe would be enough of an improvement, if at all, to make it worthwhile.

        Will be interesting to see how it tastes and holds up over time. I have to believe that the tartness and the sweetness will hold up fine, will the lime? It’s more likely I will go through it too quickly to even worry about it though.

        Thanks for the recipe!

        • Damn, dude! You made it already?! That’s awesome! Thanks for the feedback, I was pretty stoked with how it turned out myself. And yeah, I haven’t had any last long enough to see how it holds up over time. I guess I’ll have to experiment with it!

  • Spencer says:

    I like to save on waste and hold on to my spent lime halves after juicing. Weigh them out and add even weight in white sugar. Allow to macerated until all sugar turns to liquid. Strain and use. Probably not as scientifically thorough as yours and poasibly much more bitter but carries great bitter qualities macerating with all the rinds. And other than allowing natural maceration, it’s pretty time friendly bc it’s just juicing and putting the discard pieces in a cambro and weighing it.

  • Reese Lloyd says:

    Made this last night. Great recipe, Jeff!

    Made a 5:1 Gimlet with Old Raj which was epic. Just the right balance of sweet, sour and gin.

  • Will says:

    Did you happen to experiment with coriander/cardamom – something along the lines of The 12 Bottle Bar recipe? This spring I whipped up a big batch of the recipe after watching distinguished spirits’ video on it and it was damn good. Only problem was, I didn’t want to make it again hah.

    This week I might just have to A/B test this recipe with/without steeping coriander and cardamom in the 8oz hot water while zesting.

    Cheers

  • Jake says:

    Ok dude, now all you have to do is mass produce, bottle and sell wholesale. Within just a few quick years your wonderful recipe will have been modified by a ceo with even more chemicals than roses. Since it will still have your name on it, it will still sell in target and Whole Foods!

  • Cameron says:

    Just made this. It’s so easy and so good…the value-to-effort ratio is absurdly high. The only downside is how quickly the gimlets we made with it are disappearing. Dangerous stuff!

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