A Twist of Peel

Photo courtesy of Darwin Bell, some rights reserved.

A number of the recipes included on this site so far, and, I’ll wager, a good few more still to come, have called for a twist of peel.  Be it orange or lemon, this is a vital ingredient in the vast majority of the drinks I make.  As well as adding an extra visual ingredient, to help prepare the first-time drinker with the anticipation of a citrus taste, the twist also provides a chance to add a rare drop of citrus oil and to show off some barmanship skills.

The citrus oil is the main reason for including a twist of peel in a drink.  This should sit on top of the cocktail and provide a welcoming citrus scent to the nose of the imbiber.  This also explains why the twist is important in the creation of a Sazerac, even though the purists say it should be discarded and not left to garnish the drink.

The secret to a good twist of peel is to ensure you start with a fresh, unwaxed fruit.  To obtain your twist:

  1. Using a vegetable peeler or a sharp paring knife, cut slowly towards you making sure not to cut too deeply and include too much pith.  Don’t be misguided by the photo above, you are just aiming for a piece of peel large enough for you to hold and twist – no more.  The size of a ten pence coin is about right.
  2. Once you have your piece of peel, twist it above the finished drink, peel side down, so that the oil is expressed into the drink.
  3. After adding a drop or two, run the peel around the rim of the glass and drop it into the drink.

Once you have mastered this, you can introduce the flame effect.  To do this:

  1. Cut a piece of peel about an inch in diameter.  Make this piece a little thicker so it is easier to hold.
  2. Light a match and hold it an inch or two above the drink.
  3. Hold the peel about an inch above the flame, and move it back and forth for a few seconds to warm and soften it.
  4. Twist and squeeze the peel, coloured side outwards and downwards, over the drink.
  5. As the oil passes through the flame, it will flare and then imbue the drink with a caramelised citrus flavour.  With practice you can do this with a swift click of your fingers for added effect.
  6. Finally, run the peel around the rim of the glass and drop it into the drink (or discard if you have a Sazerac in front of you).

Don’t burn your fingers!

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13 comments on “A Twist of Peel

  1. […] into the frosty Martini glass and garnish with an olive or three (on a pick) or a twist of lemon peel if you […]

  2. […] Garnish with a cherry (or twist of lemon peel). […]

  3. […] well and garnish with a twist of lemon peel (purists say this should be squeezed over the glass and discarded, mine fell off the rim just as I […]

  4. […] Strain into a Martini glass and garnish with a twist of lemon peel. […]

  5. […] Garnish with a cherry and/or a twist of orange peel. […]

  6. […] Strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice and garnish with a twist of lemon peel. […]

  7. […] with a fresh wedge of orange (or twist of peel if you’re feeling flash) and a […]

  8. […] Garnish with a twist of lemon peel. […]

  9. […] with a twist of orange. Share this:EmailFacebookPinterestTwitterLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. This […]

  10. […] Strain into the absinthe-rinsed glass and garnish with a twist of lemon. […]

  11. […] Garnish with a flamed twist of orange. […]

  12. […] Twists are the optimal cocktail garnish as they provide an opportunity to show off and draw attention to the drink (or yourself), a great hit of intense flavour, a delicate swirl or pattern on the drink and a chance to chat at great length about all of these elements.  The idea behind a twist is to extract the oil from the skin of the fruit and leave it to linger on top of the drink to greet the nose of the drinker with a clean, crisp citrus smell that announces that the drink is fresh and delicious.  The citrus twist method is explained in an earlier post. […]

  13. […] with either a twist of lemon or a […]

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