It’s hot: time to gather the family and taste limeade. We started with the straight stuff. Simply Limeade ($2.99 for 59 oz. at Sprouts) can be found in most grocery stores. “It smells like lime snow-cone syrup,” said Isaac. Olivia sipped. “It’s kind of thin and watery, as if you can taste the water in it. And it’s not too tart.” Patrick swished it around in his mouth. “Most of the liminess is up in my sinus cavity,” he said.
Trader Joe’s Fresh Squeezed Limeade ($1.99 for 32 oz.) was a crowd-pleaser. “Wow, 19 percent juice,” noted Patrick, “and never pasteurized.” Isaac offered, “It doesn’t have a huge lime smell, but it does have a big lime taste, and I love the strong acid finish.” I suggested that the finish came from the added lemon juice.
Columbia Gorge Organic Limeade ($6.59 for 64 oz. at Whole Foods) had a good, complex lime-rind smell. Olivia was delighted to see that it was sweetened with agave, which gave the juice a richness. But I thought it tasted more like (good) sweet-and-sour mix than limeade. “The acid isn’t integrated,” agreed Patrick. “It’s separate. You get sweet and then sour. It just doesn’t have the right balance for me.”
Everyone agreed that Trader Joe’s won the round, even with the lemony note.
We moved on to lime combo drinks, starting with Califia Farms Ginger Limeade ($4.49 for 48 oz. at Vons). “All I get is ginger when I smell this,” said Olivia. She sipped, then grimaced. “It’s really light at first and then there’s this massive ginger hit. And no lime flavor to speak of.” Isaac added, “Plus, it’s kind of soapy, like licking a fancy ginger soap.”
All that ginger had us worried about the Evolution Fresh Organic Ginger Limeade ($4.34 for 15.2 oz. at Whole Foods), but it turned out the expense was worth it. “I love the pulpy feel in the mouth,” said Olivia. “And it has the perfect balance of sweetness, acid, and lime flavor,” I said. “There isn’t really a ginger flavor,” said Isaac. “The ginger just picks up the lime and strengthens it, the way the right amount of salt does with food.” Several people named it the evening’s winner.
Our high hopes for Golden Hill’s Krakatoa Café Cherry Limeade ($4 for 16 oz.) were dashed by an unpleasant cardboardy taste. “It tastes like a cereal box smells,” said Isaac. And while we did find a strong lime core, the cherry was a no-show. But we found happiness in the Guava Limeade from Lemonade in Hillcrest ($3 for 20 oz.). Counter clerk Theresa told me, “That’s my favorite. It’s basically made with lime juice, guava juice, and pure cane sugar. Please come back August 20. It’s National Lemonade Day, and we’ll be giving out free 12 oz. lemonades and samples of all our new flavors.” And that was before we tasted. Guava dominated the nose and offered more tropical pleasure throughout, but I loved the lime finish and the way the lime acid gave the whole thing structure. (Patrick said he didn’t taste much lime but agreed it was a delight to drink.)
On to the sparklers. We liked the fancy bottle and hinged stopper-top on the Lorinda Coconut-Lime Pop ($5.99 for 25.4 oz. at BevMo), but everyone agreed it smelled and tasted like coconut hand cream. “Positively soapy,” said Olivia. “And no lime.” We also didn’t find much lime in the Sprouts Lemonade Tangerine-Lime flavor ($1.49 for 11.2 oz.), but at least it smelled and tasted like brightly ripe tangerines. The clear winner was Whole Foods’ Bibita Autentica Italian Lime Soda ($3.09 for 25.4 oz.). Here, the lime was creamy and struck a happy midpoint between tart and sweet. The delicate, almost foamy bubbles washed over our tongues. “I’ve never had an Italian soda let me down,” said Isaac. “Old faithful, coming through.”
Finally, Patrick and I tried a couple of alcoholic entries. Neither of us liked the Bud Light Lime-a-rita Splash ($8.49 for six 12 oz. bottles at Vons). “It tastes like sour beer,” complained Patrick. But the White Claw Hard Seltzer Natural Lime Flavor ($9.99 for six 12 oz. cans at BevMo) didn’t taste like alcohol at all. “It’s just like mineral water with a squeeze of lime wedge,” I said. “I’d have to be careful with this.”