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How to Use Kumquats in Your Cocktails

Kumquat Smash / Tim Nusog

Kumquats are stubborn little buggers.

For starters, this tiny orange citrus fruit originally grown in Southeast Asia yields almost no juice. What’s the point of them then, you might ask? Especially when lemon, limes, and grapefruits, by comparison, produce a river of vitamin C–rich liquid goodness.

Well, kumquats have an amazing flavor profile that sits somewhere between a lime and a tangerine. These characteristics can be extracted and enjoyed in cocktails in several other ways that don’t involve juicing.

The most common technique is to muddle the fruit into a pulp of sorts. Dimitris Kiakos, the owner of the now-shuttered but legendary Gin Joint in Athens, Greece, does this in his Kumquat Smash. I like to do the same in my Camparinha, a twist on Brazil’s national cocktail, the Caipirinha.

There isn’t a spirit out there that doesn’t find a happy place with kumquats, no matter the form. One such application requires cooking the fruit into a marmalade, perhaps with some hard spices. Then you simply shake this into a cocktail, such as a riff on the iconic Breakfast Martini created by London bartender Salvatore Calabrese, now at the helm of the Playboy Club.

Brown spirits also play nicely with kumquats. Try turning the fruit into a syrup by boiling it with water and sugar. Shake this into a Whiskey Sour with egg white, fresh lemon and your chosen dram and you have something sublime. Or if you want a more warming drink, use this syrup in a Hot Toddy.

If you ever find yourself close to Dade City, Florida, in January, you might want to visit the town’s annual kumquat festival organized by the local chamber of commerce. It attracts thousands of visitors, and the nearby town of St. Joseph is the self-proclaimed kumquat capital of the world.

1. Camparinha

Camparinha cocktail / Laura Sant

This twist on the beloved Brazilian classic Caipirinha sees kumquats muddled with sugar, then joined in the glass by cachaça and Campari over crushed ice to create a tart and bitter cocktail that's every bit as refreshing as its predecessor.

Get the recipe.

2. Kumquat Breakfast Martini

Kumquat Breakfast Martini / Tim Nusog

A riff on Salvatore Calabrese's modern-classic Breakfast Martini, this cocktail starts with a homemade kumquat marmalade, A heaping barspoon goes into the shaker, along with London Dry gin, Cointreau, and lemon juice, adding fruity sweetness to the mix.

Get the recipe.

3. Kumquat Smash

Kumquat Smash / Tim Nusog

From the legendary but now-shuttered Gin Joint in Athens, this drink sees muddled kumquats shaken with Old Tom gin, Luxardo maraschino liqueur, and lemon juice to produce a richly sweet-tart cocktail.

Get the recipe.