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Between storms, tree disease, and citrus-stealing cartels in Mexico, limes have been in short supply this year, hiking up costs for margarita makers. But that doesn’t mean D.C. Mexican restaurants and bars are going to let a little Limepocalypse sour their Cinco de Mayo deals.
Richard Sandoval Restaurants Beverage Director Rob Day, who oversees the bar at El Centro D.F, says the price of limes has gone down slightly over the past few weeks, but it’s still “more than double the amount we expected.” Normally, Day says the price for a case (around 175 to 200 limes) is only $50 to $60 in May. Now, he says it’s around $100. Meanwhile, Casa Oaxaca manager Joahna Hernandez says her Adams Morgan restaurant is paying up to $160. And Passion Food Hospitality Beverage Director Scott Clime, whose restaurants include Fuego Cocina y Tequileria and Ceiba, says there were times this year when an ounce of lime juice cost more than an ounce of some tequilas.
Despite their increased costs, Day, Hernandez, and Clime all say they refuse to change their recipes or their prices for now. All the restaurants will offer happy hour specials today with $5 margaritas. “I’m just praying that it goes down,” Day says. “We don’t want to steer our clientele away from any of our restaurants because of this whole lime thing, so we’ll make that investment on our end.”
Clime says he is trying to at least save costs by instructing bartenders to ask patrons if they want a lime in their Corona rather than automatically give them out. Bartenders are also slicing limes into eight wedges, rather than six, for cocktail garnishes. Hernandez says Casa Oaxaca has switched from a lime garnish to a lemon garnish. The restaurant has also tried to shift its cocktail menu from lime-based drinks to lemon-based ones. “It was a really big debate among our team and the management. We didn’t want to sacrifice the flavors, and we also didn’t want to raise our prices,” Hernandez says.
Even with their lime conservation efforts, the restaurants will tear through a ton of limes for Cinco de Mayo. Day says he’s planning to go through 10 cases of limes at each El Centro D.F. location today alone—the same volume the restaurants normally consume in a week.
Looking for a place to drink margaritas today? Check out Cinco de Mayo deals around town here.
Photo by Jessica Sidman