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Making a Lemon-Peel Spiral Garnish

Making a Lemon-Peel Spiral Garnish

Here's a fun and extravagant garnish used for drinks that are served in a tall, chimney-style glass, like the Horse's Neck and Gin Sling. You will need a channel knife, a tool with a flat piece of stainless steel punctured with a sharp hole, through which you can cut a small groove in the skin of the fruit, creating a long spiral length of lemon peel.

  • Remove the small nubs at each end of the lemon.
  • Grasping the lemon in one hand, tool in the other, begin cutting at the pole farthest from you, in a line toward the other pole, maintaining steady downward pressure so the blade will cut into the maximum skin.
  • When the cut is 1/4 inch long, turn the blade sharply to the left and cut in a downward spiral, leaving a 1/2-inch strip of peel on the fruit. Cut all the way to the other pole, and end the cut as you began.
  • The 1/2-inch-wide spiral peel left on the lemon is the garnish for the Horse's Neck cocktail, and it has to be cut from the lemon. Take the paring knife and carefully cut the second spiral peel from the lemon, keeping the knife tilted slightly inward toward the fruit to avoid cutting through the peel.
  • Store the peels in ice water and the spiral will tighten up and become springy. The thicker peel is the Horse's Neck garnish. The spiral garnish has to be placed in the glass before the ice and ingredients. Hook the curved end of the peel over the rim of the glass and drape the remaining peel in a spiral down inside the glass until it reaches the bottom. Hold the portion of the peel curled over the rim of the glass so it doesn't fall into the glass. The ice will hold the garnish in place.

The thinner spiral peel can be cut in shorter lengths and used on the rim of a Champagne flute as a garnish for Champagne cocktails. These same techniques can be applied as well to oranges and limes. The thinner peel will tighten into a spiral when stored in cold water. Curl it around a swizzle or a chopstick—whatever you have handy—in a nice tight spiral, then slide it off into a glass of ice water and let it stand for 30 minutes; it will tighten, creating another decorative garnish that can be cut in shorter sections and used on the rim of a glass.

Adapted from The Craft of the Cocktail, by Dale DeGroff (Clarkson Potter, 2002).