One of the challenges for the home bartender is that keeping fresh ingredients on hand is more difficult, since (hopefully) you do not use them as fast as a public bar does. We’ve previously discussed keeping vermouth and certain other ingredients refrigerated, for example.
Citrus fruit is an ingredient in many classic and modern cocktails, and is a fertile component for innovation. You should always have at least some lemon and lime around, and ideally oranges and grapefruit as well, particular in the warmer parts of the year. Though citrus has a fairly reasonable shelf-life, in drier climates (such as Colorado) the rind will dry out within a week or two even though the inside is still edible. Since I don’t plan my cocktails in advance, but want to have the citrus on hand, this was an impediment to optimal bartending.
I performed an experiment where I put some lemons in a small bowl, then put the bowl in a sealable Rubbermaid container with a little water on the bottom. I put it in the refrigerator, and two weeks later, the lemons and rinds were just as fresh as when I bought them.
I looked around a little and found a few packaged solutions designed for this, from Rubbermaid (only comes in a bundle) and Progressive. I bought the one from Progressive because it was in-stock at Bed Bath & Beyond and as with most of my bar purchases, I needed immediate gratification.
It is working great. I have not been keeping it in the refrigerator and it still seems to keep the fruit supple for a long time; I just add a small amount of water in the bottom and make sure it stays sealed. “Citrus” is not listed on the foods it is designed for, but I have been keeping the vent closed. Note that I also have been putting remainders in the container, though I cover them with plastic wrap.
A side benefit, of course, is that you’re never short a lemon or lime for cooking dinner either!