I use limes a lot. And in a lot of drinks. Gin and tonics, margaritas, gimlets, mojitos. Limes are a staple for mixing drinks. And that’s not even touching the topic of drink garnishes.
So when I read about the lime shortage, I started to get nervous and thinking how I am going to alter my drinks to use less lime or no lime. Because you can’t run to Costco and buy out their stock of limes. Shelf life, you are lucky to get 5 days with limes – refrigerated or left out – before they start going bad and seeing the brown spots that collect on the sides of each lime.
The shortage is real. It’s based on a combination of factors. First is weather, which the United States gets 95% of all of our limes from Mexico. The weather in Mexico hasn’t been kind to the crops, killing some of them and stunting others. Next up is the drug cartel, who has seized on the lime shortage and is treating it as valuable as the drugs they peddle, hijacking trucks and confiscating the cargo. And a bacterial disease known as “greening” is another detrimental downfall to the export of limes. It’s effects have taken a third out of the available limes that are grown.
Bartenders have resorted to using alternative options like lemons or grapefruits for the alcoholic concoctions they create. Margaritas could use a pasteurized lime juice like Rose’s or a frozen brand. This cheapens the drink a lot, making it sweeter and less palatable.
Other bars are simply sucking it up and paying the inflated case price of $100 (up from $4 a case). I would guess some are choosing to raise the price of their drinks or just eating the extra cost to keep from scaring off their regular customers.
The US does produce their own limes, but they don’t see any serious numbers (1-2% of total demand) and not until late summer and early fall before the crops have enough to meet that demand.
Until this limitation on limes is over, we must make do or pay the premium. Or get creative. I know I will be using more grapefruits for spring and summer drinks. Replace the margarita with a paloma. Use lemons in my gin and tonics. And for the special treat, summer mojitos will get the pricy limes.