Winter means citrus, but don’t think of these fruits as just providers of acidity – use them for their flavour, says Monica Berg
One of the most frequent questions I get asked about the bar, is why we don’t use citrus at Tayer – and before I go deeper into it – the short answer is: we do. And I’m sure if you’ve followed this series you’re getting used to this by now – there is a but. We use citrus for flavour, not just for acidity. In fact, we rarely use the citrus family for acidity.
First, we always follow the natural season of the citrus we use, meaning October to March, especially when talking about the perishable part of the fruit: the juice. The peels, however, we use throughout the year, but we always do the prep when the fruit is in season – which brings us to green citrus season, which marks the beginning of citrus season. Within food and drinks, I think this is a relatively new concept – but in the perfume world it’s not uncommon for some citrus fruits to be at their most potent while still in their green stage, their skins full of aromatic oils which can be used in syrups, shrubs or sherbets over the next 12 months (or even longer, for that matter).
Regardless of later usage, the first step whenever working with any type of citrus, is mixing peels with sugar, a method many bartenders will recognise as the first step in making oleo-saccharum. The sugar/peel mixture can be stored for months and years, without running the risk of going off, meaning you can build yourself a very handy depository of raw materials to pull from at times of the year that are less bountiful. Just make sure you store them in an airtight and sealable container until you need them.
Green mandarin is a personal favourite, and it always make me so happy to see it become available. Its wonderful floral aromas give you the boost of energy you need as the weather turns colder in mid-October. I love combining it with tequila, fino sherry and jasmine. From here they come one by one, leading up to Christmas like an all-star parade: tiger lemon, bergamot, meyer lemon, yuzu and clementine.
My main objective is to work with the entirety of the citrus. That goes for any fruit, obviously, but specifically citrus because of the unique duality between the peels and the juice – I like to capture both in whatever drink I’m making. I want the finished drink to accurately reflect what it feels like when you experience the fruit in its natural state. It’s a very narrow window, so in the few weeks we have access, we always want to make full use of this. After we’ve let the peel/sugar mixture rest for a few days, we’ll add the juice to make a syrup, and in most instances, also adjust with some acids.
As always, we never add any heat to this process, because we want to preserve the delicate nuances in the aromatic oils – but I will admit, lately, I’ve experimented a lot with adding other ingredients to the process, playing around with the aromatics. By the time you read this, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a drink on in Tayer with the combination of amber and mandarin.
Because there is such a surplus for such a short time, and then nothing for the rest of the year, we always make extra and freeze it for later use, but outside of the season, citrus rarely shows up alone as the main ingredient of a cocktail.
Meticulous and systematic prep is always the secret to drinks at Tayer. If meyer lemon or green mandarin feature during the summer months they were still harvested at the peak of their season, prepped by the team and stored for later use. And you’ll notice, outside of their flavour peak, they are always supported by a secondary ingredient to either brighten them, or ground them, as part of an assemble.
As excited as I am for citrus season now, on the other side of Christmas and after a lengthy orange season – I’m always citrused out and quite exhausted by this family of ingredients (despite my love of blood orange) so I do find it amusing when summer comes along and guests starts asking why we don’t use citrus in Tayer.