Twists are one of the most famous of all cocktail garnishes, but also one of the most misunderstood and mishandled. Disasters tend to happen when there’s no understanding of the ROLE that an ingredient plays, and in the case of a twist, WHAT it even is!
Now, there are numerous different ways to add citrus peel to your drink, or balance it on the rim of your glass. However, simply dropping a piece of peel into your drink is NOT adding a twist.
A TWIST is actually the process of extracting essential oils from within the citrus peel itself, and adding it to your drink. If you’re not extracting these oils, then you’re literally just sticking a piece of peel into your drink! This can of course look pretty, but it completely misses the point!
Because you want BOTH aromatic essential oils and visual impact.
Use a peeler (you can use a paring knife…but a peeler is quicker and easier!) to cut a piece of citrus peel from the top to the bottom of your fruit. This will give you a long strip of peel that will be perfect to work with. Take care though, it’s easy to add a slice of skin to your citrus peel!
To release the oils hold the piece of peel (with one or two hands) by its edges, with the outside of the peel facing towards the top of the drink.
Pinch the sides of the peel together, bending it outwards. This will stretch the surface of the peel to the point of breaking its cells, expelling their essential oils.
Try not to pinch the peel so aggressively that you break or snap it where it bends.
Repeat the process, shifting your fingers to change the point where the skin bends, because this is where the oil is being released from. This will require you moving your fingers from the edge of the peel to where you just folded it and then pinching the fruit together again.
Once you have extracted all the oils you want and dispensed them over the top of the drink, the next step is (usually) to trim your piece of peel (unless your drink is on the more rustic side of things). The peel can be trimmed into any one of numerous attractive shapes of appropriate size, before being added to the glass for visual impact.
If there’s a lot of pith (the white, almost furry substance on the inside of the peel) attached to your piece of peel, in an ideal world it should really be removed, either cutting it out with a flexible blade or simply scraping it out. This is mainly about the aesthetics but pith is also bitter and in some drinks can have a negative impact.
After you have expressed the oils from the piece of peel, simply cut it into a smart and simple triangle or rectangle and then add it to your glass for a simple but elegant presentation of the garnish. You could even wrap it around a chopstick to add an elegant curl.
Finally, please don’t smear the powerful oils that are stuck on the surface of the peel around the rim of the glass that’s about to be drunk from, unless that’s all you want to taste!
When you want to add the essential oils from a twist to your drink, but don’t want to add the peel because:
The glass or drink does not suit a piece of peel floating in it, or the rim of the glass is too small to have a twist attached to it; for example, this happens quite often with drinks served in champagne flutes.
You only want to add a light spritz of essential oils, but don’t want to overpower the drink by adding the peel which is coated in essential oils.
Express the oils over the top of the drink as normal, but then do NOT put any peel into the drink. Instead you DISCARD it, i.e. throw it away. See, now the title makes sense, like many things in life, when you know you know!