As a bartender, I used to bring a paring knife to work every day. There were a few reasons for this: I needed something to cut lime wedges and halve any fruit that I felt like juicing, but, more importantly, I also required a razor-sharp implement to produce paper-thin twists.
A twist, if you’re unfamiliar, is a delicate strip of citrus used to garnish a cocktail. Depending on the citrus you use (lime, grapefruit, etc.), the size can vary - but the shape should be roughly that of a Band-Aid. Twists are pretty much a default garnish at this point (when in doubt, go for lemon), and they can be used for a little pop of flavor in anything from a Martini to a French 75.
It took me about three years to master my twists using a paring knife, and, once I was consistently proud of the ones I was making, a coworker walked into work one day and handed me a Y-shaped vegetable peeler. “Use this,” they probably said. “It’s easier,” they probably also said. No matter what words this person used, they were 100% correct.
For perfect twists every time, all you need is a Y-shaped vegetable peeler. Skeptical? Don’t be. It’s common knowledge at this point, but I thought I’d share this information, in case you’re still cutting twists like the younger, more bubbly version of my bartender self. To understand how this works, it’s important that you know what makes an ideal twist.
When cutting a twist, the main thing to avoid is getting any of the chalky white pith of your fruit. It lies just below the surface of the skin, and, while it’s completely edible, it’s also kind of bitter and unattractive. That’s why you need to make your twist (almost) as thin as possible.
Given enough practice, you can definitely accomplish this with a paring knife. Or, you can skip all those years of practice and pick up a Y-shaped vegetable peeler. You see, a vegetable peeler makes intentionally shallow cuts - so it’s the perfect tool for the job. All you need to do is press down firmly and pull the blade of the peeler down the side of your citrus. It might take a few tries at first, but once you get the hang of it, voilà. Perfect twists every time.
When you’re ready to actually apply your twist, it’s easy. Just hold the thin strip of peel an inch or so above the surface of your drink, and give it a pinch (or a twist). The citrus oils should explode across the surface of your cocktail, in a display that doesn’t look like much but would almost definitely be awe-inspiring to a ladybug or an ant. (Want to light your oils on fire? Light a match, then spritz them through the flame. You’ll get a slightly caramelized flavor.)
Despite the fact that they look like toys, vegetable peelers can still be dangerous - so be sure to watch yourself. Once, during service, I was rushing to get a drink out and wound up shaving off part of a finger. There I was, slowly bleeding out, while a server with a heavy French accent passive-aggressively informed me that a New York Times reporter was still waiting for a Martini. So don’t be like me. Safety first, even when taking a highly convenient shortcut.
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