May 20, 2014

Lime shortage impacts Austin bar sceneWhether you order a beer or a cocktail, it’s likely that your drink just might be garnished with a slice of fresh lime. Margaritas, one of Austin’s top drinks, also includes the bright citrus fruit. But this drink may be a bit more difficult to attain these days. Due to a citrus bacterial disease known as Huanglongbing that has attacked Florida and California crops, there is a lime shortage throughout the Austin bar scene.

Prices rising
Because of the shortage of limes, the prices for these vibrant citrus fruits have skyrocketed. According to Rachelle Fox, bar manager of Vespaio, a box of limes traditionally was about $27. But now, she’s looking at a hefty price tag of $130 for just one box of limes. And the price isn’t all that’s suffering. The quality of the limes have significantly declined – many of them are dried up and smaller than usual. Even grocery stores are taking a hit, causing the price of limes to rise to almost a dollar at about 79 cents per individual lime.

How bars are reacting
So what are bars to do without this essential cocktail garnish and margarita must-have ingredient? Many establishments, like the South Congress Italian eatery, have actually removed lime drinks from the cocktail menu rather than raising prices altogether. But drinks aren’t the only items on the menu suffering, as guacamole and salsa both require limes in order to be made. Some bars are using second-grade limes to make the food, which taste similar to fresh limes, but certainly don’t look as pretty. Those bruised limes, however, simply aren’t going to cut it when it comes to garnishing drinks. This is why lemons are currently replacing the green fruit as the top cocktail garnish.

Contigo maintains a positive outlook
Contigo, an East Austin restaurant owned by Ben Edgerton, is getting creative with their menu. The establishment’s menu will instead include drinks that don’t require lime juice. For happy hour, the margarita is no longer in the spotlight. Instead, Edgerton has replaced it with a tequila daisy, a drink which uses lemons. Despite the major shortage of limes and the impact that it’s having on the bar scene throughout Austin, Edgerton is maintaining a positive outlook.

“There is such a vast array of cocktails that we can use other citruses for, “Edgerton told Austin360. “It just gives you an opportunity to step out and experiment.

Austin culinary arts school offers a wealth of information on a variety of citrus fruits and how to incorporate them into cocktails and beverages.