Garnishes are the first thing we notice when we look at a cocktail. While the garnish game has no end, it is important to master the basics. Once you can cut a lime with your eyes closed (please don’t actually attempt this), then you can move on to learning beyond the basics. In this section you will need: a knife, a cutting-board, a peeler, matches, and of course your fruit: Lemons Limes, and Oranges.
Before attempting to cut or peel, please get to know you're tools. The tips of your fingers will thank you for it.
“That’s not a knife” - Crocodile Dundee
You’ll need it to cut fruit, and also for cutting flamed zest quarters.
TIP: it can save you a lot of time (and time = money) if you get a nice knife that is fine-serrated.
Here’s where we’ve got to stop and have a real conversation first.
We’re simply trying to prevent you from cutting your fingertips off. We’ve witnessed chefs with over 20 years of kitchen experience cutting themselves on our bar! Please take a moment to read the following tutorial closely and carefully:
The main principle you’ve got to understand when using a peeler is this:
Pull the fruit with the same hand that is holding the peeler.
Whether you are right-handed, left-handed, ambidextrous or aren’t even sure, you must apply this rule at all times. You can hold the peeler two ways:
with your index finger on the Y (and your thumb pulling the fruit)
With your thumb on the Y (and your index finger pulling the fruit)
Either way, you’ll only be using your off-hand to help you steady the fruit as you pull the peeler with your working hand. Always keep your off-hand as far away from the peeler on the fruit as possible. This is the hand that gets cut if you slip. Now, with this in mind, you’re ready to read on...
AKA: How to cut them and not yourself!
We only recommend cutting lemons in half-wheel.
Limes fall apart easily and the precious juice they contain is difficult to use in this form.
WEDGES (LEMON OR LIME)
You can cut lemons or limes in this form. This is our favorite because it yields a lot of juice.
(Lemon, Lime, and Orange)
STOP - Please make sure you have thoroughly read the section under ‘Peeler’ before proceeding.
To make a peel for a twist:
Grab your peeler (one finger on the Y, the other opposite pulling the fruit)
Dig it in near the bottom of the fruit (upside down), and make as straight a line down as possible
Once you have ½ - 1 inch cut, place your off-hand’s thumb over the existing cut to keep it from flying off the fruit
Continue your peel to the opposite end of the fruit (typically 2 inches on a lemon, 3-4 on an orange).
Pull the peeler away from the fruit
Place your peeler & fruit back in the garnish bowl
Hold your peel skin-side-down over the cocktail glass, and give it a squeeze. You should see (or at least smell) the oils escaping from the peel!
Then twist the sides in opposite directions to form a twist
(Lemon, Orange, and Grapefruit)
Place the fruit atop your cutting board ( - oh, did we mention you should have a cutting board? Any time you have a knife, you should have a cutting board…)
Using your knife, make a vertical cut at the edge of the fruit. This means you are not trying to go along the rounded surface of the fruit, but rather taking a straight route that will be thickest in the center of your cut.
Now, you’re ready to start a fire! Just kidding… but you’re ready to light a match.
Not a smoker from the 1940’s? No problem, we can teach you this part too…
Grab a match from a matchbook. Strike the match against the sandpaper surface to spark a flame. THEN transfer the match to your other hand. Hold it upright.
With the flame (hopefully) still going, pick up the fruit wedge with your free hand, and use the pinky finger of your match-hand to make a little indent on the skin-side. Careful not to press too hard or the oils will bust out prematurely!
Now, hold the indented fruit wedge over the cocktail glass, the (hopefully) still-burning match positioned horizontally just under it, and give the wedge a squeeze!
You should have witnessed a tiny fireworks show over the cocktail glass. If you didn’t, it could have been a number of things you did wrong in steps 1-7 OR sadly, it could be that you just have a dry piece of fruit. When selecting fruit for the purpose of flamed zests, always look for a piece that is soft but not too soft. Ripe but not overly so. This is a great trick to practice - so don’t be discouraged if you don’t get it on the first (or even 7th) try!
Meanwhile, we’ve got more to learn...