Using acids in cocktails - Tips, recipes & tricks!



One of the most powerful tools in the modern bartenders arsenal & one of the techniques that has become more & more present in cocktail bars around the world is use of acids as replacement for citrus in cocktails. Through the ‘Molecular Mixology’ revolution that has swept the bartending world all over we have started experimenting with citric, malic, tartaric & ascorbic acids frequently.

One of the important things to understand is that acids are all around us in different concentrations in most of the natural food we consume whether we taste the ‘sour’ flavour or not in that specific item. Today we’re going to dive into the subject as history, uses & tips of how to use them in your drinks!


Citric, Malic & Ascorbic Acid The most common trio of the acid world & the easiest to get your hands on from beer home-brewing, wine-making & gym online shops around the world. In terms of strength Citric happens to the be the most aggressive & is the usual one found in Lemons & Lime whilst Malic is the predominant flavour of acidity in green apples such the Granny Smith variety. Ascorbic acid can be always called by its alternative name - Vitamin C Powder - & is the lightest in acidity as well as flavour but has the great use of helping stop oxidisation of fresh juices. Back in the day when I worked behind the bar we used to juice green apples for a cocktail almost daily. We would juice the first 3 into about 20g of Ascorbic acid powder, mix to create a solution & then juice the rest. The low acidity of Ascorbic acid stopped the apple juice from oxidising & going cloudy at the same time we could use pH sticks later & add malic acid to the correct level we needed for our final product. This way we replaced lime & lemon juice in some of our ‘Sours’ with an acid-adjusted green apple juice. Tasty.


Tartaric & Acetic Acid The above duo are 2 more naturally occurring acids in the great big world out there. Tartaric is the one found as the predominant acid in grapes with higher concentrations in unripe ones & acetic is the acid that makes vinegar what it is. Tartaric also occurs in smaller doses in things like lime juice & a careful balance can be made to use its unique flavour profile when adding it to cocktails. Again tartaric acid can be found as a powder online & is usually sold in online stores for home wine-making kits. Acetic acid will be much more harder to come across for the regular bartender & is corrosive at higher concentration so should definitely be handled with care. The flavour profile really gets you in the back of the next just like swallowing pure vinegar would be. I still haven’t found a good use for the ingredient.

Phosphoric Acid

This is another one you can find online & another one that can burn your hands & eyes out. Phosphoric acid was even once used by a cereal killer to dissolve his victims so if thats not fair warning to anyone ignoring my warnings then I don’t know what is. It is an ‘inorganic’ acid that does not occur naturally in the world of the living & is synthesised to be used mainly in the food industry. It occurs in all your sweet fizzy drinks & can be found on the label in the back of brands like Coca-Cola for example. It is