How to Cut Perfect Cocktail Garnishes Every Time

By Bevvy

Every great cocktail deserves a great garnish. Beyond just making for beautiful presentation, garnishes are often used to add subtle flavors and aromas to a drink that can’t be achieved by simply adding another ingredient to the mix.
While there are many garnishes that require little more preparation than skewering them with a toothpick, there are several that take a bit more work. This guide will walk you through four of the most common, classic and essential garnishes you’ll need to master for your home bar.

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Lime or Lemon Wedge

Let’s start simple: the lime wedge. It might be one of the less interesting garnishes, but it’s ubiquitous (just try to make a Gin and Tonic without it) and you need to know how to prepare one without accidentally lopping off any fingers.

First, slice about a quarter inch off of each end of your lime or lemon. Then cut the fruit in half, lengthwise, and set one of the halves cut side-down on your cutting board. Finally, slice it at an angle, lengthwise, and you should have a perfect little wedge.

While it may be more aesthetically pleasing to have a smaller wedge, the point of this garnish is to let the drinker squeeze the juice into their cocktail, so you don’t want to make it too small. Depending on the drink, you can adjust the size as needed, but it’s really a matter of personal preference.


Lime or Lemon Wheel

Cutting a citrus wheel is actually even easier than slicing a wedge. Since it’s a garnish used more for its good looks than for any flavor it might impart, you have more freedom to make it thin and sleek. Use a lime wheel on the rim of your favorite Margarita or a lemon wheel on a Tom Collins.

To cut a citrus wheel, start by slicing the fruit in half crosswise. Then, simply make another parallel cut about a 1/8 to 1/4 inch in from the edge of the first cut.

A wheel is typically presented on the rim of a glass, but to do so you’ll need to make a final cut from the center of the wheel to the edge. Then, you simply slide the wheel over the rim and serve.

Lemon or Orange Twist

Moving towards the fancier end of the garnish spectrum, we have lemon and orange twists. There are two standard methods of cutting a twist, and the first one we’ll look at is a channel knife twist.
Channel knife twists are usually used in refined, classic cocktails—James Bond’s favorite Martini recipe calls for one—and they’re very elegant. To prepare one, you’ll need to get your hands on (you guessed it) a channel knife, which is a small knife with a U-shaped blade.

Take your lemon or orange in one hand, and with the channel knife in the other, cut a strip of peel about three inches long. Then, over the surface of your cocktail, twist the peel into a tight spiral and then release it. It should hold its shape somewhat, and you can then use it to neatly garnish your drink.

Rough Lemon or Orange Twist

Somewhat more popular in craft cocktail bars than the channel knife twist is the rough twist, which forgoes the clean, fancy look for more of an organic feel. It’s called for in a classic, manly Old-Fashioned recipe (and in the Negroni, among many others), as it allows you to express the essential oils over the surface of the drink, imparting a subtle flavor of citrus.

All you need to prepare one is a regular paring knife or a vegetable peeler. Like the other twist, take your citrus in one hand and use the knife or peeler to cut a one-inch wide, three-inch long segment of peel. Then, fold the peel while holding it over the surface of the drink, releasing a fine mist of oils, and drop it into the glass.

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