The Fancy Garnish Mistake You're Making With Classic Cocktails

When it comes to a cocktail like the classic Negroni, it's all in the details. Not only do you need to mix your ingredients in the right ratio, but you also need the right glass for the drink and possibly even a citrus garnish to top it all off. When everything comes together, it is magic, but it's also easy to get it wrong — especially with a citrus peel garnish.

Your favorite mixologist most likely tops your Negroni with a slice of expressed orange peel garnish. To express the peel, you quickly twist it over the glass to release more of its aroma and oils into the drink. This enhances the scent and taste, and the orange peel garnish also adds an attractive finish. Some even use a flame twist for a slight caramelizing effect and an increased citrus scent.

However, some make the mistake of taking it a step too far by rubbing the expressed peel on the glass rim. Unfortunately, the concentrated oils from the orange peel may slightly numb your lips and tongue and detract from your enjoyment. This is because citrus peel contains limonene, an oil that can cause a tingling sensation upon contact, an experience you may have noticed when eating an orange. Some bartenders suggest rubbing the twist on the inside of the glass before you pour the drink so that the oils are diffused throughout the drink itself.

Citrus peel is a powerful ingredient

When using citrus peel for twists, another common mistake is using a dull knife. Many bartenders would even rather use a vegetable peeler to make their twists. When you use a knife, especially a dull one, you run the risk of expressing the oil from the peel before you get it anywhere near the glass. A sharp knife, or preferably a vegetable peeler, allows you to get more of the peel and less of the bitter white pith. This means more oil to flavor your cocktail.

Another way to get that citrus-oil-magic into your drink is to make an Oleo Saccharum. This zesty syrup dates back to the 19th century, and it allows you to temper the strength of the oil's aroma and flavor so that it doesn't overpower your drink, and this even adds some sweetness. Simply muddle some citrus peels with sugar and wait a few hours, then you'll end up with a sweet and flavorful syrup that you can add to any number of drinks. You can even use it to make a homemade lemonade that's boldly aromatic.

Citrus peel garnishes both improve the aesthetic experience and add a refreshing zestiness. But use caution, because the garnish is more than just a pretty object; it actually changes the drink's flavor. Whether you rub the peel on the rim, express the oil over the drink, flame express, or simply spiralize a thin slice — citrus peel garnishes make a big, flavorful difference in your drink.