Cocktail 101: How to Juice Citrus

Cocktail 101

All the basics of the bar.

[Photographs: Michael Dietsch]

Having looked last week at selecting and storing citrus, we'll follow up this week with a quick look at juicing. First, recall what I said last week: Refrigerated fruit doesn't juice quite as easily as citrus left at room temperature, and you'll be leaving precious drops behind if you refrigerate it. Either store citrus at room temperature or remove it from the fridge 1-2 hours before juicing.

Second, roll the fruit on the countertop before juicing. This softens and breaks the cell walls, allowing the fruit to release more juice.

Next, pick your tools.

Tools for Juicing Citrus

You can find a number of gadgets on the market for juicing citrus, from a professional lever-style hand press to a simple inexpensive wooden reamer to an electric citrus juicer or an all-purpose fruit and veggie model.

Your choice will depend on many factors: your budget, the amount of counter or storage space you have, how often you entertain, and whether you'll be juicing anything other than citrus.

My wife and I don't drink smoothies, protein shakes, or anything of the like, so we don't have much call for vegetable juices. We don't have the budget or storage for machines, and we don't entertain often enough these days to warrant buying an electric juicer. (Although having used one once in prepping lime juice for pitchers of margaritas, I know how handy they are.)

Hand Squeezer

My preferred tool of choice is a simple hand squeezer. I first tried the enameled aluminum type that Crate and Barrel and other housewares stores sell. I found it efficient and fairly easy to use, but after a while the enamel started to chip and splinter off the squeezer. The day I found an enamel chip in my lemon juice was the day I started shopping for something new.

I'm currently using a similar squeezer made by Chef'n, and it works not just for lemons but for limes as well. The geared hinge provides a little more force than the enameled squeezer did, and the handle's more comfortable in the hand.

Storing separate juicers for lemons, limes, and oranges gets to be a pain after a while. This Chef'n model handles small oranges and tangerines pretty well. If I need to squeeze a larger orange, I use my hands, alone, with no tools.

When using a hinge-style squeezer, there are a couple of pointers that I feel make the job easier and more efficient. First, if you're squeezing a lemon that has a knobby end, trim that off and discard it. These hand squeezers work more efficiently when the lemon is round, not lumpy.

Second, turn the citrus half around so that the cut side (the fruit flesh) rests against the inner cup. When you squeeze, you'll be turning the lemon rind basically inside out. Not only does this make for more efficient juicing, but it also directs the juice where it needs to go, which is through the perforations in the cup and into your juice receptacle. If you squeeze the lemon half the other way, the juice jets up out of the squeezer and onto your face, hands, shirt, and work surface.

The Hand Squeezer You (Probably) Already Own

My wife and I are avid fans of Michael Symon's show, "Cook Like an Iron Chef," on the Cooking Channel. And we noticed once that he uses a simpler tool for squeezing lemons and limes, and you probably already have one around the house. Here, I'll show you.


Yup. A set of kitchen tongs. Brilliant.

What's your favorite tool for juicing citrus?

About the Author: Michael Dietsch writes A Dash of Bitters. He is an accidental bartender, boozologist, and cocktail curmudgeon. He lives with a spirited female and crazy felines in Providence.