A cheap lime hard to find for Cinco de Mayo

Just when American drinkers turn their collective attention to the margarita, there's a lime shortage.

The fruit is an essential part of celebrating Cinco de Mayo — or the Fifth of May, in English — a holiday commemorating the Mexican army's 1862 victory over France. Mexico mostly ignores it, but in cities like Nashville, it's an excuse to drink tequila-based cocktails and binge on corn-based carbs.

And retail prices for limes have gone nuts, reports Josiah Johnson, director of operations for Rosepepper Cantina in East Nashville. A case of 200 that cost about $15 or $20 last year is $125 now. So don't expect a big ol' lime wedge garnishing their margaritas. And the option for a fresh lime margarita — instead of with Rose's Lime Juice, like in their house version — went from a 50-cent upcharge to $1.

"You can only do so much," Johnson said. "If the price of beans went through the roof, it's not like we could stop selling those."

The problem is a combination of citrus canker that took out Florida's groves more than a decade ago, unusually heavy rains in Mexico and drug cartels that use violence to extract money from growers, the Associated Press reported.

Dealing with the shortage isn't as easy as just substituting different citrus in drinks, said Alexis Soler, owner of East Nashville craft cocktail bar No. 308. She and her team are agonizing over a summer menu that's less lime-forward, now that life has given her (cheaper) lemons.

"But lemon and sugar is a sour. Lime and sugar is going to be more clean and crisp," Soler said. "It holds up better. It just has a different impact that can't be done with a lemon."

Of course, Limegate is not a huge deal for everyone. Diego Ramirez, the cashier at the actual Cinco de Mayo restaurant downtown, was surprised to hear about the shortage. They use margarita mix.


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