Purchase: All citrus squeezers are designed very similarly - there are minor variations, but they all work. The pricier options are just a bit more comfortable to use.
1. New Star Hand Juicer - This basic yellow guy is the most affordable option. It comes in different sizes for limes and oranges with corresponding colors of green and, well, orange, but yellow is a good size and very versatile. The only issue is the enamel coating will eventually start to chip after a few years, depending on how much you use it. But, considering the price and how much better drinks are with fresh juice, I don't think there's a better few bucks you can spend to improve your cocktails.
2. Stainless Steel Lemon Squeezer - This is a great upgrade for about $10 more. It's solid metal, so it's heavier and there's no chipping enamel. The added weight makes juicing slightly easier. It's also a bit larger so it can accommodate some larger fruit; sometimes big lemons won't fit in the New Star Juicer.
2. Electric Juicer - These give you the highest volume with the least amount of muscle. All you have to do is press the cut side of the citrus onto the spinning knob in the center. This extracts the juice, which then flows out the spout. The only downsides are the price tag and maintenance. They have multiple parts so cleaning them is a bit of a chore and, like all machines, malfunction is always a possibility. But the more you spend on one, the more durable it will be. These range from $20-$700. If you’re buying for a bar you should definitely shell out cash for a good one. The cheaper ones, while fine for light home use, have a hard time keeping up after awhile.
Black and Decker Citrus Juicer - A solid economy electric juicer for home use. It's compact, won't take up too much space and is highly rated.
Breville 800CPXL Citrus Press - This is the upper tier of home electric juicers. It will work well for a bar of medium capacity too. It's a good deal at $200.
Sunkist Juicer (Pictured) - This is what you get if you're a high volume bar. It gets the highest marks for performance and durability. When you're moving at peak speed, it's amazing how quickly you can make juice. Back when I was barbacking I used to race against my personal best on one of these.
Good cocktails need freshly squeezed citrus juice; it may take a little more effort but the difference in quality is huge. That makes the citrus juicer is perhaps the most important cocktail tool you can have.
You'll typically be juicing lemons and limes, which are the primary citrus used in cocktails, so those are what you should be most concerned with when choosing a juicer. Grapefruits and oranges are also used, but to a lesser extent - with some notable exceptions of course.
Juicers range from simple tools to elaborate machines. At home all you need is a manual swing top hand juicer, aka citrus squeezer, which is also fine for many smaller bars. If you need to make juice at a higher capacity, if you're, say, a cocktail bar or squeezing fresh orange juice everyday, you'll want a commercial juicer. Either one with a pull down lever or, for the highest volume, an electric juicer.
High Capacity Juicers
These produce juice at a much higher volume with less work and can juice any kind of citrus. They're also quite large. A hand juicer will disappear into a drawer or cabinet, but these lunks take up a whole lot of real estate on the counter. So keep that in mind when weighing your options.
The two types in this category are the commercial juicer - which is still a manual press but on a large scale, and the electric juicer which has a spinning bulb-like knob on the inside for pressing citrus onto. The two differ wildly, so deeper explantations of each are included in the purchase sections below.
Manual Hand Juicers, aka Citrus Squeezer
Manual swing top hand juicers with the perforated holes on the bottom, or "citrus squeezers" as they're often called nowadays, are far and away the best choice for cocktails at home and small bars. They're effective, affordable, easy to use, easy to clean and fast. If your station is set up well, you can bang out a cup of juice in just a few minutes, which will get you around 15 cocktails.
These only have a few drawbacks, which are mostly labor related. Juicing for higher volumes with one of these can be a real work out. Here's one method you can use to lighten the burden on your hands and forearms. They also have a propensity to create errant sprays of juice, here and there, which can be irritating, so juice slowly. It's not a race. You can read more about that and juicing technique tips on the juicing page.
Citrus Reamers: Best for Oranges and Grapefruits
Citrus reamers are not ideal everyday juicers for cocktails. They are designed for general kitchen use, like say, to make lemon juice for salad dressing. Unlike the double sided citrus squeezer, they require you to supply all the pressure, and from one direction. So for lemons and limes, the most common type of citrus you'll be juicer for cocktails, if you're juicing any more than one or two, it is much more labor intensive.
However, these are great for oranges and grapefruits which, as I said, citrus squeezers are not. So they are helpful to have around whenever you need to juice one of those in smaller quantities - Hemingway Daiquiri anyone?
1. Commercial Manual Juicer - With their pull-down levers, these are much easier on your arms for volume juicing. They are also easier to clean than an electric juicer. And let's not forget their biggest draw: they are super cool looking. This makes them a great option for a home upgrade or a low to moderate volume cocktail program at a restaurant or bar.
You'll find a bunch of these online, ranging from around $50-$250. Here are two solid options:
RA Chand Juicer (Pictured) - The choice for heavy duty use. A colleague of mine who used to work in a juice shop swears by this one for it's durability. A great option for a bar.
New Star Juice Press - This caters more to home use. It is highly rated and very affordable.
3. Chef'n FreshForce Citrus Juicer - This is the only juicer that has a functional difference from the other three, and it is a great one. There's a gear embedded in the joint, so when you press down, it reduces the strain on your hands and forearms considerably. It's also the largest of the four, which means it can fit bigger fruit, maybe even a smaller juice orange. Though that does make it bulky; it'll definitely take up more space in the cabinet. Still, at just over $20, this has real tangible value.
4. Bellemain Juicer with Silicone Handles - This is literally the #2 option above it but with silicone handles for about $3 more. Personally, I don't think it makes a huge difference. But it is the top selling hand juicer on Amazon, so that's something.
Finally, the only disadvantage from a cocktail standpoint is most hand juicers are too small to effectively juice larger fruits like oranges and grapefruits. So if you need to juice those often in large quantities, you'll want to opt for one of the high capacity juicers below. But if you only need a few ounces here and there a citrus reamer will work - see below - or you can try one of these techniques.
3. Zumex (not pictured) - Looking for a (almost) completely hands off juicing experience? A Zumex is the droid you’re looking for. Dump a bunch of citrus in the top compartment and watch as it cuts and juices continuously as you reap the citrusy benefits.
It’s designed for oranges, but additional pieces are available for lemons and limes. Outfitting it for grapefruits is a little pricier.
To be clear, these are not entirely a labor free magic bullet. They require some supervision, but once you get accustomed to their quirks they deliver. I would only recommend these if you need upwards of several gallons of juice a day. Otherwise, it’s not worth the $7,000 (that’s right!) investment.
Unlike most bar tools, there isn't really a good substitute for a citrus juicer, which is why I think it's so essential. That being said, if you're in a pinch, you can use a citrus reamer, or even your hands, to squeeze the juice out of a piece of citrus. I’ve certainly done both. They're not exactly sustainable, but effective enough.