The Big Squeeze

NYC Bars Take Drastic Measures to Cope With Rising Lime Costs

The price of limes has jumped nearly 500 percent.
The price of limes has jumped nearly 500 percent. Photo: Shutterstock

In this age of bespoke cocktails, it’s almost unimaginable to think that a bar could go without a staple ingredient like limes. But as prices climb ever higher — one owner told us his costs jumped almost 500 percent — that’s the measure that some places have taken to combat increased costs. Other bars are resorting to slightly less drastic means, cutting lime juice with lemon, using pre-bottled juice, or simply waiting for customers to ask for lime garnishes (and charging accordingly). Here’s how 11 spots are dealing with the limepocalypse right now, but this is only going to get worse in the run-up to Cinco de Mayo, so if you have your own lime-juice horror story, send an email here and let us know; we’ll keep this post updated accordingly.

Long Island Bar
Lime status: “Basically eliminated”
Owner Toby Ceccini says he’s taken a house gimlet off the menu (“made with a fresh ginger-lime cordial that was gobbling something like four cases a batch”) and tells us he only uses limes in very, very rare circumstances. “I buy a couple of $1 limes to have on hand for margarits and daiquiries and charge accordingly,” he says. “One can actually get along quite breezily in the cocktail world without limes, as it happens.”

Clover Club
Lime status: Limited use
Julie Reiner says the beloved Smith Street bar isn’t cutting lime juice, or swapping in lemon, but it has “edited” its lime use. “I’ve been threatening my barbacks that they are to juice a very limited amount of limes at the beginning of the night,” she tells us. “I was like, ‘I don’t care if you have to juice more limes in the middle of the shift.’ I don’t want to end the night and be dumping out lime juice.” She adds that in putting together the new spring menu, her system was to instruct her bartenders that their drinks had to come under a certain cost. They could use lime provided the other ingredients made up for it and a drink’s total cost came in under a certain threshold. “They really had to take that into considersation,” she says.

Apartment 13
Lime status: Menu overhaul
Steve Olson says the cocktail list at this Avenue C spot has swapped the menu so that the only drinks featuring lime need to be requested. “None of our featured cocktails at this time use any lime juice,” he says, “except one that uses kalamansi, which apparently has not been affected, and our house shiso mojito … althought it may have to be taken off the menu soon, also.”

The Dead Rabbit
Lime status: Very limited use
The popular downtown bar is only ordering very small quantities of limes — half as many as usual — and customers have to specifically request them as garnish on drinks. They say they’ll only be using lemon juice until the lime-price situation improves.*

Lime status: Increased lemon use
“Prices from our purveyors have tripled,” says Ciro Garzon, the restaurant’s general manager. “At the bar, we look for other alternatives, and sometimes use lemons instead.”

Lime status: Suggesting lemon-heavy drinks instead
Bartenders control much of the experience at the bar in the former Milk & Honey space, suggesting drinks to customers instead of offering a full menu. With lime prices skyrocketing, those suggestions rarely involve drinks with lime. “The Tom Collins has become a new favorite for the Attaboy bartenders,” co-owner Michal McIlory says.

Mother’s Ruin
Lime status: Menu overhaul
Co-owner TJ Lynch says the bar simply took lime cocktails off the menu. “It was easy for us because we change the menus daily anyway,” he says. “We just put more lemon and grapefruit cocktails on. More stirred and old-fashioned types as well. And we made people do shots.”

Lime status: Limited use
“We’re cutting lime juice with lemon,” says David Kaplan. Lime garnishes are more or less gone, too. His partner Alex Day adds, “We’re experimenting with lime extract added to lemon juice, but haven’t settled on a formula that gets us close enough yet.”

Chalk Point Kitchen
Lime status: Swapping in bottled juice for fresh
The new Soho bar has done away with fresh limes for the time being, according to head bartender William Bastian. They’re using Natalie’s Orchard Island lime juice instead.

El Parador Café
Lime status: Raised prices
This 34th Street Mexican standby has simply raised the price of lime-centric drinks like mojitos and margaritas. They’re also asking customers if they want limes with various beers and drinks before adding them.

Lime status: Raised prices
A rep for this Village spot says its lime prices jumped from $27 a case to an all-time high of $128 (it’s currently down to $97). As a result, they’ve had to raise margarita prices an average of $1. They’ve also stopped using limes as garnish during happy hour and brunch.

*This post has been updated to show that the Dead Rabbit has stopped using lime juice.

NYC Bars Take Drastic Measures to Cope With Rising Lime Costs