The difference in quality is vast between homemade or store-bought 100 percent fruit juices and the misleading myriad of nectars and fruit drinks that crowd supermarket shelves. While the majority of juice consumed in the U.S. is restricted to simple citrus fruits, the surge in popularity of home juicing and smoothie making has created some exotic, healthy combinations of berries, citrus and tropical fruits.
As one of the ingredients in the pina colada cocktail, pineapple embodies the spirit of vacation -- the majority of pineapples consumed in the U.S. come from laid-back Hawaii. Ideally, pineapple juice needs to be kept refrigerated to stop its sugars from fermenting and giving it a fizzy taste, although a popular Dominican drink, guarapo de pina, involves pineapple skin fermenting in sugary water for a few days. The U.S. is also the world's biggest importer of mango, the second most consumed tropical fruit globally after the banana, according to the UN Conference on Trade and Development. While some might find mango juice overly sweet, with a rather cloying texture, it blends well with other tropical fruits such as banana and pineapple in smoothies.
Arguably the most refreshing juices are the citrus variety, of which orange juice, with or without pulp, accounts for almost 40 percent of the entire juice market. For a refreshing thirst quencher, chill orange juice to just above freezing, or dilute with a little iced water to temper the sweetness and bring out more of the sour notes. For a light, clean version, stick with freshly squeezed homemade orange juice, and strain to remove the pulp. All citrus juices, including grapefruit, lemon and lime, make great marinade ingredients for pork, fish and shrimp, and some cultures use them to wash raw meat before cooking to remove some of the aroma. Goat meat, in particular, greatly benefits from washing with lime to remove its powerful raw scent.
Noted for its tart, sour flavor, cranberry juice has a refreshing, palate-cleansing consistency with less sweetness than other fruit juices, making it a worthy foil for spirits in cocktails. As with most berry juices, however, cranberry is fairly difficult to prepare at home, but it is readily available in the U.S. -- world production comes almost entirely from North America. Because of their skins and seeds, as well as high sugar content, berries such as blueberry, raspberry and strawberry lend themselves more to making smoothies rather than drinking neat, and the absence of citric acid allows them to be combined with milk or yogurt without curdling. Make sure your berry juice is labeled "100 percent" and not "drink" or "cocktail," or you'll wind up with added sugar.
Apple juice is the second most popular juice after orange, but it's worth seeking out niche brands from smaller producers -- particularly those producing cloudy apple juice -- for the light, crisp, slightly dry taste reminiscent of small farm orchards. When making homemade apple juice, bear in mind that it will begin to ferment within two to three days, even if refrigerated. Grape juice makes a pleasant pairing with apple, balancing its sweetness, but preparation at home is something of an artisanal venture involving funnels and bell jars, so shop-bought juices are the less time-consuming option.