House-Made Lime Cordial

We all want to use as fresh of juice as possible for cocktail service, and we prepare for service based on known reservations and past trends. In other words, we set our pars as best we can. Usually in effort to not fall short, we over-prepare just a bit. On occasion, we are slower than anticipated or simply don’t sell a lot of a particular cocktail. As a result, we often have leftover juice. As the discussion of bar waste, recycling, and environmental consciousness finally gets pushed forward, discussing what to do with leftover juices can also be part of that conversation.


If a restaurant serves lunch, I recommend using the leftover lemon juice for lemonade. This is a quick way to turn leftover product into profit and boost lunch-time tabs.

But what about lime juice?

Lemon juice can be stretched a bit, but lime oxidizes a bit quicker. There are a whole host of tests you can refer to if you want to research (or argue) the decline in flavor of lime juice as it ages.


The good news is, you can recycle this leftover juice into a fairly shelf-stable cordial for use in classic gimlets (which calls for cordial).


What’s best about this solution is that I have found that the older the lime juice is, the better it is for cordial. So at Sparrow in Chicago, we keep a cambro in the walk-in and dump the leftover lime juice right into it, collecting the juice for a few weeks until we have enough juice--and time-- to make the cordial. Trust me: from what I have found, the older the lime juice, even by a few weeks, the better to cordial.


This recipe will walk you through making your own lime cordial. The best results I have had, were by making the cordial in a Crio-vac bag cooked with a sous vide. However, this luxury isn’t available to all, so cooking in a double boiler is another good option although one that will require some attention.



On hands Time: 30 Minutes

Total Time: 13 hours




Cutting Board



Measuring Cup



Cryovac and Sous-Vide


Pot and candy thermometer




500 grams by weight lime juice

500 grams white sugar

250 grams water

peels of 2 limes

½ tsp citric acid

½ tsp cream of tartar


For Cryovac and Sous-Vide:


  • Mix all above ingredients then add to a cryovac bag and seal
  • Place in a sous-vide bath which has been preheated to 190 F degrees for 1.5 hours
  • Remove bag, shake to see bubbles and that sugars are incorporated. (Should have a viscosity to it.)
  • Plunge bag into ice bath to cool
  • Place bag in walk in and allow to sit for 12 hours
  • Cut bag and strain liquid through chinois to remove peels
  • Should last several months refrigerated



For a double-boiler:


  • Heat the water in the bottom pot of the double boiler until it is just below a boil.
  • Add all ingredients to the top pot of the double boiler and set above the bottom pot. Place a lit on the pot.
  • Occasionally stir the ingredients as it warms to help the sugar dissolve.
  • Use a thermometer to measure the temperature of he liquid. You’ll need to do some adjusting to fine tune it, but try to maintain a temperature around 190 degrees.
  • Keep the lid on during the whole process, occasionally checking the temperature. No need to stir.
  • After 1.5 hours, dump the contents into a cambro that is set in an ice bath to drop the temperature.
  • Once chilled, place a lid on it and leave it in the walk-in over night.
  • Strain through a chinois and bottle.



A note on the ingredients:


White Sugar: Normally I prefer to work with organic evaporated cane sugar for most of our syrups, and it would be fine to use in this application as well if that is your preference. However, as that sugar has a tan hue to it, I find it darkens the final cordial. Using a white sugar will make a clearer, brighter cordial, which will then translate to a better looking cocktail.


Citric Acid: This helps to both preserve and add acidy to the cordial. The age of the lime juice along with the cooking process (not to mention the amount of sugar added), reduces the acidity level of the lime juice so a bit of citric acid is needed to help boost it. And of course, citric acid is a preservative.


Cream of Tartar: This will help to prevent the sugar from crystalizing and will also add a bit of silky texture to the cordial.



Classic Gimlet


Glass: Coupe

Method: Shake and Strain

Garnish: Lime Wheel


2 oz Gin or Vodka

1 oz House Made Lime Cordial


Shake with ice and double strain



Death in the Gulfstream (Sparrow Chicago Version)


Glass:   Collins

Method: Build

Garnish: Lime Wheel and Nutmeg


In a Collins Glass:


2 oz Genever

.5 oz Lime Cordial

.25 Lime Juice

6 good dashes Angostura Bitters


Add ice 2/3 of the way up; stir.

Fill with ice and garnish.


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