Letting Citrus Juice Rest Is The Easy Way To Elevate Your Next Cocktail

If you've tried your hand at making homemade cocktails (or if you've just ordered a fancy drink at a bar), you've probably noticed that citrus is a common ingredient in countless mixed drinks. Many classic cocktails include lemon, lime, or orange juice to brighten them up or balance them out. Whether it's a Moscow mule, a mimosa, a margarita, or a mojito, there's a good chance some form of citrus juice will be involved in your next drink. 

And as with any part of a cocktail, that juice is a key element of its overall makeup. Its quality and composition can make a huge difference in the drink, for better or for worse. (And yes, that means it's time to step away from the plastic, lemon- and lime-shaped bottles of pre-squeezed juices.)

For those who enjoy making cocktails, one simple tip can elevate your at-home mixology for some better-tasting imbibing.

Aged juice for the win

When it comes to cocktails, fresh-squeezed fruit juice is preferred over bottled, canned, or processed juice. But you don't need to use it right after you squeeze it. In fact, you might enjoy your cocktail more if you leave your freshly-squeezed juice to sit out for a few hours before you add it to your drink.

Dave Arnold, owner of food science research lab Booker and Dax, conducted a lime juice test in 2010. Per his article in The Atlantic, he juiced three batches of limes: one with a Sunkist juicer and one with a hand juicer, both at 2:15pm (leaving the juice to sit out), and the third with a hand juicer at 6:15pm. In a blind taste-test at 7pm, he served the various juices in the form of limeade. The taste-testers were shocked by the results. "The overwhelming favorite was the hand-squeezed lime juice that was four hours old," Arnold wrote. "Almost no one chose the fresh, hand-squeezed juice."

Cocktail Society agrees that aged juice tastes better in cocktails. When you squeeze fruit to make juice, you destroy its cellular structure, which leads to a chemical reaction that results in a bitter-tasting compound called Limonin. That bitterness removes the acidic edge from the fresh-squeezed juice, resulting in a more balanced and mellow taste. The whole process takes four to 10 hours, but it's worth the wait. Some things do get better with age, and it turns out citrus juice is one of them.

Fresh-squeezed juice is better for you, too

Let's face it, you don't always know what you're getting with store-bought juices — and they often don't taste like the real deal. "Bottled juices need to last longer and contain preservatives and additives," explains Cocktail Society. The outlet notes that the result is far from the fresh, flavorful juice that comes directly from the citrus fruit, and "especially in cocktails, you will always taste the difference."

Fresh-squeezed juice tends to be less sweet and sugary than the processed options, with no preservatives and more nutrients. Thrillist adds that when it comes to cocktails, fresh-squeezed juice is "tastier, provides more balance, and looks better than any alternatives." (Just don't let it get too aged — Thrillist recommends using it within 10 hours.)

When you're ready to make your next cocktail, try letting your citrus juice rest for a few hours first — you'll taste the difference.