What makes a great cocktail is the balance of flavors. To achieve a true balance, you often need to perfect the ratio of sweetness to acidity. Lemon juice, along with its citrus counterparts like orange juice and lime juice, does this wonderful because the high acidity level pairs excellently with the often sweet ingredients in a cocktail. You want a good-quality lemon juice for the best cocktails.
There are typically two ways to go about obtaining lemon juice to use in cocktails. You can buy it pre-squeezed or get fresh lemons and juice it yourself.
We have found the best pre-squeezed options and rounded up some great tips for squeezing your own lemons. Give this a read before making your favorite citrus cocktail!
Pre-Squeezed Bottled Lemon Juice for Cocktails
Pre-squeezed lemon juice is a convenient option since bottled juices last longer in the fridge and make it easier to make larger volumes of cocktails.
- Italian Volcano Organic Lemon Juice – Overall Winner
- Master of Mixes Single Pressed Lemon Juice
- Sicilia Lemon Juice
- Nellie & Joe's Key West Lemon Juice
- Lucy's Family Owned Lemon Juice
- Iberia 100% Lemon Juice From Concentrate
- ReaLemon 100% Lemon Juice
- Storing and Preparing Properly
- Use Tools To Help
- Lemon Variety & Complementary Ingredients
- Don't Ignore the Rind!
Not all store-bought citrus juice is created equally, but these are our favorite bottled lemon juice selections that taste the most natural.
Italian Volcano Organic Lemon Juice – Overall Winner
Whether you’re making a whiskey sour or a lemon drop cocktail, the Italian Volcano Organic Lemon Juice is our favorite pre-squeezed store-bought lemon juice.
They use single-origin juice sourced from Sicilian lemons, fresh press them, and bottle it near the Mt. Etna Volcano in Sicily, so it’s never made from concentrate and truly lives up to its name. Sicilian lemons offer a unique flavor profile with just a bit less acidity and bitterness than other varieties. Lemons from this region also have oiler skin, making them fragrant and ultra juicy.
The Italian Volcano Organic Lemon Juice comes in 1-liter glass bottles, which equals the juice of 40 freshly squeezed lemons! It is also USDA-certified organic, meets Kosher requirements, and never has any preservatives.
Master of Mixes Single Pressed Lemon Juice
Master of Mixes has been a bartender favorite for years. The Master of Mixes Single Pressed Lemon Juice holds up to the typical Master of Mixes’ high-quality standards.
They use 100% single-pressed lemon juice with no added sugar. This lemon juice is also gluten-free, dairy-free, certified Kosher by the Orthodox Union, and non-GMO.
The packaging is also convenient, providing a homemade sour mix recipe on the back, a sleek bottle design with a grip to squeeze, and a resealable top that prevents dripping.
Sicilia Lemon Juice
Sicilia Lemon Juice has a bright, zesty flavor that rivals fresh-squeezed juice because they use fresh lemons and a patented lemon oil capsule design to keep the freshness. This product is 100% natural lemon juice, non-GMO, and gluten-free.
The bottle is easy to use as well. Its shape is reminiscent of a lemon with a resealable top, so all you have to do is unscrew the top and squeeze. When you are done, replace the top and store it in the refrigerator.
Lemon Juice From Concentrate
Citrus juice from concentrate simply means that they use a concentrated juice that has had all the water taken out to make the finished product. Concentrates are often used because the manufacturer can control the final concentration or how strong the juice is. Here are our favorite bottled lemon juice brands from concentrate.
Nellie & Joe’s Key West Lemon Juice
Nellie & Joe’s Key West Lemon Juice is rather famous as they have provided quality lemon juice for over forty years. Though Nellie & Joe’s Lemon Juice is from concentrate, it is 100% natural and meets Kosher guidelines.
Just as you would with any juice from concentrate, you may need a bit less than what our cocktail recipe calls for if you substitute this bottled juice for fresh lemon juice.
Lucy’s Family Owned Lemon Juice
Lucy’s Family Owned Lemon Juice was started as a small company in Southern California in 2003. Since then, they have become a go-to bottled lemon juice for professional and home bartenders.
Their lemon juice is from concentrate, but they add filtered water to bring it to the perfect ratio of fresh lemon juice. They also add lemon oil which enriches the flavor.
Each quart bottle has the same amount of lemon juice as 21 lemons so you can make big batches without all the squeezing.
Iberia 100% Lemon Juice From Concentrate
Iberia Lemon Juice is a product of Peru and is made from concentrate. They use 100% real lemon juice and lemon oil to achieve their smooth, tangy taste. Despite being from concentrate, this bottled lemon juice is the natural strength of fresh lemons, which means how much juice your recipe calls for is how much you should use.
ReaLemon 100% Lemon Juice
ReaLemon 100% Lemon Juice is similar to Iberia. It is made from real lemon juice concentrate but has the strength of fresh lemons. Customers love this brand because the squirt top makes it easy to squeeze and go without a mess or add more than you were supposed to.
Tips For Squeezing Your Own Fresh Lemon Juice
Though our friends at Serious Eats have broken down the science of citrus, which is some helpful information, we’re going to simplify things a bit. Here are our best tips for squeezing your own fresh lemon juice if you want to skip the bottled lemon juice options.
Storing and Preparing Properly
To get the most out of your citrus, you want to make sure you are storing and preparing it properly. Lemons should be stored in the fridge as they last longer than at room temperature.
Then, before you are ready to squeeze, put your lemons in the microwave until they are lukewarm. This will release all of the juice the lemon has to offer and save you some squeezing time. Additionally, cutting the lemon vertically opens up the inner pulp lining.
Use Tools To Help
Though you can cut the lemon in half and squeeze it with your hands, you’ll get more fresh juice out of each lemon by using a handheld citrus juicer or even digging a fork into the pulp.
Another great way to help juice a lemon is to put the half between the narrowest section of a pair of tongs and grip the tongs on either side of the half.
Lemon Variety & Complementary Ingredients
There are a lot of varieties of lemons, and each will provide a unique lemony flavor. Meyer lemons are sweeter, while Eureka lemons (the most common variety) are more sour and tangy. When juicing your own lemons, selecting a certain variety can be helpful for the final taste.
Complimentary ingredients are also excellent to add to your fresh-squeezed citrus. For instance, Kaffir lime leaf enhances the flavor of fresh lime juice, and you can boost a lemon’s citrus flavor, which comes from the natural citric acid, by utilizing herbs like lemongrass. These complementary ingredients create complex flavors that you’ll love more than just the fresh juice alone.
Don’t Ignore the Rind!
The lemon peel adds additional tang and rounds out fresh lemon juice due to the natural oils it contains. Don’t just squeeze the juice and toss the rind. Zest a lemon peel into your juice or add a lemon twist to your cocktail.
Whether you go for bottled lemon juice or squeeze fresh lemons yourself, the citrus flavor is perfect for cocktails. Grab your cocktail shaker, add lemon juice, vodka, and a sweetener like granulated sugar, simple syrup, or agave nectar, then shake it with ice. Pour that into a cocktail glass and have a simple, refreshing lemonade cocktail perfect for summer. Bottoms up!