Using Citric Acid in Cocktails

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I’m super excited for this post. This is a question that I’ve had for around a year, and now I finally get to have a little fun and answer the age old question. How much citric acid do I need to use to replace lime or lemon in a cocktail? Well maybe I’m exaggerating on the age old part, but we examine the question none the less. We also discover an interesting benefit of working with Citric Acid in cocktails. Be sure to check out the video.


Citric Acid in Cocktails-Replacing lime or lemon juice with Citric Acid



How I came up with the conversion for citric acid crystals to Fresh Lemon Juice


To come up with the conversion:

I added citric acid to simple syrup until it achieved the balance that I would expect when using fresh lemon or lime juice. The conversion number that I settled on was 1/4 tsp of Citric acid powder for 1 1/2 oz of simple syrup.

I then dissolved 1/4 tsp of citric acid powder in 1 1/2 oz of water to replace the lemon juice in our lemon drop.



So the conversion for citric acid to fresh lemon juice is:

1.5 oz of fresh lemon juice = 1/4 tsp of citric acid dissolved into 1 1/2 oz of water




Taste Test:

Citric Acid Taste Test1. Traditional Lemon Drop

Here we make a basic sour of 2 parts spirit to one part simple syrup and one part acid (lemon juice), or 2:1:1 This is a very common ratio for drinks in the industry and balances out all the ingredients. The drink turns out not too sweet, not too sour, and the alcohol is present in the final cocktail, even though it is vodka.


3. Citric Acid Lemon Drop

Obviously the drink won’t have all of the aroma and nuance that the equivalent cocktail with fresh lemon juice will have, but I was surprised to see how different the cocktail was. I was surprised to find a new technique that I’m going to keep in my back pocket for further cocktails in the future. Be sure to watch the video to find out the secret.


3. Citric Acid & Sweet ‘n Low Cocktail

I used the alternative sweetener simple syrup that I made a few weeks ago and used it to substitute normal simple syrup. I couldn’t help myself and just wanted to see how it would taste. The result was similar to the previous experiment, but in this cocktail you get 3 spikes of flavor. The alcohol is the first thing that you taste, followed by the acid in the mid palate and finally the weird diet soda finish from the aspartame. I’m not going to be creating a diet line of cocktails, but I was interested to see how the ingredients would develop on palette.


There are a ton of other ways to use citric acid in cocktails, but I was mostly concerned with finding the conversion of citric acid powder to fresh lime juice. What’s your favorite way of utilizing citric acid in cocktails?

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Filed Under: Bar Ingredients, Techniques, Video Blog

About the Author:

Chris Tunstall

Co-Founder of A Bar Above and career bartender and mixologist. I love experimenting, creating cocktails, and drinking Green Chartreuse.

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  • Alex

    I’m confused by your recipe is it .25 oz citric acid added to 1.5 oz of simple syrup or .25 oz citric acid added to 1.5 oz of water then 1.5 oz of sugar added to the water/citric acid slurry? Moreover is this by weight or volume (as I assume citric acid compacts differently from sugar)? At any rate, love the site keep doing what you’re doing.

    • Chris at A Bar Above

      Thanks for the comment Alex. It should read .25 tsp of citric acid not oz. Sorry, I must have been wasted after drinking 3 “Lemon Drops” 🙂

      The only reason I added the citric acid to the simple syrup was to find out how much citric acid is need to balance simple syrup. The conversion that you need to pay attention to is 1/4 tsp of citric acid added to 1 1/2 oz of water is equal to 1 1/2 oz of lemon juice.

  • Chris at A Bar Above

    Sorry Betz,

    I just saw your comment. Hopefully I still responded before the conference.

    As for the curdling agent, I would experiment with the minimal amount needed as I have never tested this. I do know that it will curdle, because we made cheese with the citric acid and this is one of the first steps in the cheese making process.

    As for the flavor, it should be less pronounced than the Roses lime juice. You may also want to try other forms of acid like Acid phosphate or lactart (acid from milk) from Darcy O’Neill’s website

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