It's not easy being green: How Mexico's lime shortage affects NYC bars
Did you know the U.S. was facing a lime shortage thanks to trouble in Mexico? Joy Daniels, mixologist at Favela Cubana, tells us how bartenders are coping.
There are many world struggles, large and small, that impact our way of life daily right here in NYC. But one crisis might be hitting you a little too close to home — namely in your neighborhood bar — and you haven’t even been aware. That would be the lime shortage, which has been sending the price of your favorite cocktail garnish skyrocketing (at about 54 cents per lime, to last year’s 30, reports the U.S. Department of Agriculture). That explains why the vodka cranberry you ordered last night came with a wedge of —sigh — lemon.
The reasoning behind the shortage is varied; it’s largely thanks to bad weather last season in Mexico, which is America’s greatest source of lime imports, as well as criminal hijacking of the remaining good crops.
For the most part, however, bartenders are working some sleight of hand to keep their patrons from noticing that anything’s amiss. Naturally, it’s the venues serving lime-heavy drinks that are getting hit the hardest, like your favorite Mexican or Cuban food go-to. We spoke with Joy Daniels, the mixologist from Favela Cubana (543 La Guardia Pl.), about how bars like hers are working around this obstacle.
How is the lime shortage affecting NYC bars?
The lime shortage is affecting NYC bars in a big way: Lime is a huge component in cocktails, it's brings all the ingredients together.
What tricks are you using to get around using fresh limes?
I’ve been changing lime garnish to another garnish and coming up with new cocktail using lemons. Lime has such a strong character that we forget about lemons, and they do make a great cocktail.
Many classic South American drinks rely on limes (margarita, caipirinha, mojito). Are these bars and restaurants struggling more so than others?
As a Brazilian and Cuban restaurant, limes are very prominent in our cocktails. This is when you have to get creative. We have mojito made with oranges, caipriniha made with lemons and margarita made with guava puree.
What are some summer drinks that people can try to replace their lime cocktails?
They can try the Favela Cubana mojito made with oranges and basil; Berimbau made with lemons, rosemary and cachaca [pictured above]; Mora Picante made with blackberry and roasted jalapeno infused tequila [find the recipe here]; or the Santa Clara made with lemons, mint, Aperol and tequila.
Are patrons aware of the lime shortage?
I don't think customers are aware of the lime shortage. And we [don’t] make them feel that there is. If our patrons want lime, we definitely do our best to meet their needs.
Would you consider raising prices to compensate for a surcharge on limes?
No, I wouldn't up the price because of shortage of lime. I don't think our customers should take the hit for it. What we can do is recommend other drinks that have no limes in them —but that's a little tough, because we have the best mojito and caipirinha in town!
4 lemon wedges
1 oz. simple syrup
1 spring rosemary
1.5 oz. Velho Barreiro Cachaca
1/2 oz. St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
In a cocktail shaker, muddle the lemon wedges with the simple syrup and rosemary. Add the cachaca and the elderflower liqueur. Top with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice. Use a rosemary spring for garnish.
2 slices of fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon agave nectar
1 1/2 oz. Mezcal
1 1/2 oz. Canton, ginger liquor
1 oz. grapefruit juice, freshly squeezed
1 teaspoon lime juice
Garnish with ginger candy
Place sliced ginger and agave nectar into a shaker and press the ginger several times with the muddler until slightly smashed and juices are released. Add the remaining ingredients and ice cubes. Cap the shaker and shake vigorously until well combined, about 20-30 seconds.