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December 6, 2012

Experts' Experts — Do different ways of using citrus peel to garnish cocktails produce different tastes?


Above, the lead question in the January & February 2013 issue of Cook's Illustrated's Notes From Readers section.

The good people at that magazine — as obsessive a group as ever existed outside Jony Ive's secret studio in Cupertino — drilled down deep as only they do to bring us all back enlightenment, in the form of the following reply.

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 "swatch," 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.

December 6, 2012 at 03:01 PM | Permalink


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Was the test double-blind? If not, well, the end result was rubbish.

Posted by: Rocketboy | Dec 7, 2012 8:24:45 AM

Never had a flamed cocktail that I liked. The best cocktails that I've ever had were at JSix in San Diego. And, I've thoroughly enjoyed some of the finest libations that New Orleans, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Paris and Madrid had to offer.

Oddly, I've had a better Sazerac at NY's Algonquin Hotel than at any place in New Orleans (a twist of Orange is a major flavor component of the Sazerac, a cocktail widely believed to be the first true cocktail).

Posted by: 6.02*10^23 | Dec 7, 2012 5:17:56 AM

to flame the oils is to destroy the essential orange flavor...i think bartenders do it for effect

Posted by: rob | Dec 7, 2012 1:16:31 AM

as a start -


Posted by: sherlock | Dec 6, 2012 8:27:43 PM

i must see if i can replicate their results

Posted by: sherlock | Dec 6, 2012 8:21:00 PM

En fin, "Sorry, Charlie?"

Posted by: jim` | Dec 6, 2012 7:18:27 PM

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