How to Use Yuzu Juice in Cocktail Recipes

Yuzu has long been a favorite ingredient at bars across the country. And while the flavor has become a star in newly available products like Japanese bitters, vermouth and gin, fresh juice from the citrus is harder to come by stateside due to U.S. restrictions on imports of the fruit. For the average drinker, yuzu Margaritas and spritzes have been confined to the domain of bars and restaurants.

Today, however, it’s easier than ever to incorporate the punchy, slightly bitter citrus into drinks at home. Yuzu preserves, which can be purchased online or at Asian grocery stores, function similarly to marmalade in a Breakfast Martini, lending citrus flavor and body to a cocktail. This is the method used in Bar Goto’s Yuzu-Calpico Fizz, for example, which riffs on the shochu highball. 

And for recipes where fresh juice is in order, there’s a new product that makes them more accessible, too. In April, Yuzuco, a Los Angeles–based importer of the citrus, launched nationwide with two products: a cold-pressed 100 percent yuzu juice sourced from Japan, and Yuzu Super Juice, a more affordable and shelf-stable option made from juice augmented with acids. The latter is recommended for cocktails. 

Similar to the “super juice” technique created by Nickle Morris of Louisville, Kentucky’s Expo, where acid powders are used to extract essential oils from citrus peels before being combined with water (the combination of which is then used to lengthen fresh juice), Yuzuco uses a proprietary method to extract both juice and oil from the yuzu fruit. Not only does this make for a more economical product, it extends the life of peels that might otherwise be discarded immediately, and it increases the yield of juice per fruit.

At Pasjoli in Santa Monica, California, the ingredient is a staple of the drinks menu. While the bar uses fresh yuzu—including in its Yuzu Daiquiri, made with a syrup of macerated peels—it also turns to Yuzu Super Juice “to extend the season of the citrus fruit” in drinks like the Genoux Yuzu, a rum-based riff on the Bee’s Knees. Los Angeles’ Botanica Restaurant, meanwhile, uses the product in its Yuzu Cocktail, combining it with rye and maraschino liqueur in a simple shaken sour.

With yuzu now easily accessible for the home bar, its uses are abundant. Try it in combination with lime in a simple Yuzu Gimlet, or swap it in for lemon or lime entirely in a variety of sours or other citrusy drinks, though it may take a bit of experimentation: “Yuzu’s acid and citric flavor profile is incredibly strong, and a quarter of an ounce of yuzu feels like double that if it were lemon,” notes Pasjoli beverage director Matthew Brodbine. Even outside of the drink itself, yuzu makes for “really interesting super perfumed salts” that can act as a garnish or rim for Palomas and more, according to Kitty Bernardo, bar manager at New York’s Donna. 

Ultimately, the key to utilizing the fragrant fruit is to experiment and to understand its distinctive flavor profile, one that, as Brodbine puts it, “just bursts forward on your palate.”

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