Doing the Cocktail Twist

By Cook's Illustrated Published January 2013

Do the different ways of using citrus peel to garnish cocktails produce different tastes?

There are three common citrus garnishes for cocktails: The first is a “twist,” a simple disk of citrus peel that is squeezed into the drink to release essential oils and then rubbed around the rim of the glass and discarded. The second is a “flamed twist,” in which a flame is held between the drink and the peel so that when the peel is squeezed, its oils ignite briefly. The third type is a “swath,” a band of zest with a little pith attached that is twirled and placed in the drink. We made all three types of garnishes with orange peel and tasted each in a simple Negroni cocktail. We found that the twist contributed bright orange notes that enlivened the drink. The flamed twist offered sulfurous undertones and had a somewhat subdued orange fragrance. The swath added citrus notes along with mild bitterness from the pith. In sum, fancy citrus garnishes are more than just ornamental: Your choice should hinge on the flavor profile you’re trying to create.