LANHAM, Md. (WNEW) — Historically, the price of premium tequila or rum is what drives the cost of citrus-based cocktails. Lately, though, limes are beginning to compete with the booze for the title of “most expensive ingredient.”
A bad lime harvest and general unrest in Mexico have driven up the price of the green citrus fruits, according to a CBS News report.
Now, local eateries and taprooms are feeling the squeeze.
Simon Cortes, the general manager at La Palapa Grill & Cantina in Ellicott City, says the price of a case of limes has climbed from about $20 to about $130 — more than a 600 percent jump in cost.
Cortes calls it “unbelievable” and says the restaurant has been forced to find ways of decreasing its usage of limes. It has gone from using four-and-half or five cases a week to using just a case-and-a-half or two cases.
“We still squeeze fresh lime mix in all of our margaritas that call for it,” he says. There’s also no replacement for real lime in some of the restaurant’s recipes, like guacamole.
But cooks and bartenders have stopped garnishing food and drinks with lime wedges.
Cortes says they will garnish drinks if customers specifically ask for it, but he’s been surprised by how few customers actually care if they have a garnish or not.
Kristi Colavito, manager of The Front Page in Dupont Circle, says her bar has taken a similar approach in order to maintain the drink prices.
When a lime garnish is requested, they are smaller than normal.
“We’re cutting them all in quarters and then in half again,” Colavito says.
She notes that the biggest problem for The Front Page in regards to the shortage has been its popular $2 Corona nights, as the Mexican beer is so well-known for pairing well with a lime wedge.
Rolando Juarez, co-owner of Guajillo in Arlington, says his restaurant has cut out the use of limes altogether, and is using lemons as a substitute.
He says a case of those costs just $38 at the moment — less than a third of what he had recently been paying for limes.
Customers have been understanding of the switch, Juarez says.
“We just give them a simple explanation and people are cool with it,” he says.
The most noticeable difference, according to Juarez, has been the taste of the mojitos.