Debunked: The Bitter Pith Myth

You’ve been told that lemon pith is bitter. It’s not true.

Published June 7, 2021.

Despite its reputation, the cottony white layer of pith on citrus fruits (grapefruit excepted) isn’t bitter. In fact, it’s completely flavorless. (It’s true—slice off a piece and try it for yourself.) And the zest tastes only subtly bitter. 

So why does your homemade lemonade sometimes turn out bitter?  

It happens when the pith and zest are abraded together, as they often are when preparing citrus-based drinks: Acid and enzymes convert the peel’s flavorless compounds into new ones with pronounced bitterness. 

If you aren’t going to be rubbing the two substances together, don’t worry about leaving some pith on your zest. But if you are, as in our Lemonade Concentrate recipe, we recommend using a vegetable peeler to harvest the zest with minimal pith. This zest will impart just enough bitter flavor to add complexity, but not enough to obscure the drink’s sweet-sour balance.


Simple Lemon Drop

A cocktail that is both sweet and sour, the lemon drop is perfect for the warm weather.
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This mixture of beer and lemonade makes for the perfect summer drink.
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Lemonade Concentrate

This formula combines the convenience of concentrate with the complexity of fresh squeezed—and the nuanced truth about how lemon flavor works.
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