Any reasonably well-stocked supermarket carries a surprising number of fruit juices in different formats, from kid-sized drink boxes to gallon jugs for the smoothie-making set. The types of juice inside can range from familiar favorites – apple, orange – to exotics like acai or goji berries. It’s important to recognize that the various juice names have a meaning, and that phrases like “juice drink,” “fruit punch” or “made with real fruit juice” are ways of telling you that other ingredients are added to the juice.
1) Clear Juices
Clear juices are some of the prettiest to look at, but only a relatively small handful of fruits and berries produce a clear juice. Apples are an obvious example, as are grapes. Among other clear types of juice you’ll find pomegranate juice and relatively niche offerings like blackberry and raspberry juice, blueberry juice or cherry juice. Some of these are dark enough that you have to hold them up to the light to tell they’re actually clear.
Clear juices are hard to make at home because they don’t usually happen on their own. Apple juice is brown and cloudy in its natural state, and berry juices typically contain a lot of pulp. Usually, juice producers will need to filter and pasteurize them carefully to give them their beautiful crystal clarity.
2) Citrus Juices
Citrus ranks high on any list of juices, partly because the structure of citrus fruits – fleshy, juicy segments clustered in a neat ring – lends itself to easy juicing. The major citrus fruits are also widely grown and highly productive, which also makes them cost-effective.
Most of the reason that citrus juices are so popular, though, comes down to their flavor. Orange juice in its various forms meets the taste buds with a near-perfect balance of sweetness and acidity, meaning it’s perfectly refreshing but doesn’t need any additional sweetening to taste good. Grapefruit juice skews a little more to tartness, but it’s still perfectly pleasant as-is. Lime and lemon juice are too astringent to enjoy on their own as a beverage, but they add bright flavor and acidity to sauces, cocktails, marinades and mixed fruit beverages.
3) Tropical Juices
Some of the boldest, most distinctive flavors in the world of fruit come from the lush, hot growing regions of the tropics. Pineapple juice is the most notable, but mango, guava, passion fruit and other topical juices are widely enjoyed on their own or as ingredients in fruit punches and other beverages.
Another important use for tropical juices is in cocktails. Bartenders and mixologists draw on the big flavors of tropical juices to give their icy concoctions a clear identity. A blast of pineapple, mango or passion fruit carries a definite tropical message along with the flavor, giving mixed drinks an island-getaway feeling that’s instantly recognizable.
4) Fruit Nectars
Not all fruits lend themselves to conventional juicing. Stone fruits, such as peaches, apricots and mangoes, and high-fiber fruits from pears to bananas turn into a relatively thick puree when they’re pulped or juiced. They’re too thick to pour easily in that condition, so processors hit on the notion of thinning them with juice or water – and sweetening them, if necessary – to give them a still-thick but drinkable consistency.
Fruit nectars have more fiber than other fruit juices, and they work well in smoothies, cocktails and frozen desserts. They’re also useful in a range of recipes, from cakes, puddings and dessert sauces to savory offerings. For Australians of a certain age, for example, three-ingredient “apricot chicken” – chicken, apricot nectar and onion soup mix – is as iconic a ’70s memory as shag carpet, sideburns and avocado-colored appliances.
6) Fruit Punches and Juice Drinks
Mixed juice drinks can be a whole other category of their own. Some are simple blends of multiple juices combined to achieve a pleasing flavor or texture. Sweet and tart juices might be mixed together to balance their tastes, for example, or thick nectars might be thinned with citrus, grape or apple juice for a better texture. These are still 100 percent juice, and they are labeled and marketed as such.
Others contain added sweetening, flavors and colors. Cranberry cocktail falls into this category, because the cranberry juice would just be too tart without sweetening. So does lemonade. Others simply dilute the fruit juices with relatively inexpensive water and sugars, relying on added flavors and colors to make them palatable. These are certainly not the healthiest juice, so be sure to examine the nutritional values of “juice drinks” or “fruit punches.”
Fred Decker is a trained chef, former restaurateur and prolific freelance writer, with a special interest in all things related to food and nutrition. His work has appeared online on major sites including Livestrong.com, WorkingMother.com and the websites of the Houston Chronicle and San Francisco Chronicle; and offline in Canada's Foodservice & Hospitality magazine and his local daily newspaper. He was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.