Bar Basics – Citrus Garnish

For some drinks the garnish is required, for others, there is room for creativity and craft, but in both cases, the right garnish is important not only for presentation but also can change the flavor of a drink. It relays their attention to detail, cleanliness, work ethic, and experience.

There are a few basic techniques that can elevate your drink decorating to the next level, whether at home or at your first bar gig. Garnish cutting is one of the first things that you’ll be asked to do at any bar you work, and with good reason. You can tell a lot about a bartender by their garnish cutting technique.

Citrus is most commonly used in one of three forms, wedges, wheels, and twists. Wedges are easy to make, but there are some techniques that make for easier and more consistent produce. Wheels are mostly decorative and allow for a variety of flairs. Twists can be cut directly from whole fruit, pulled from wheels, or made by cutting strips from the fruit.

For all of these options, other than twists cut directly off the fruit, you’ll start the same way. First, wash the fruit, then roll the fruit to break up the membrane and that’ll result in a juicier garnish. Cut the stem and base ends off the fruit. This serves two purposes, first, it makes the final product look cleaner, and second, allows you to stand the fruit on its end for easier cutting.

For wedges the next step is to slice the fruit in half from end to end and then use your knife to slice partly through the center of the fruit, this is known as a “roof cut” and allows the fruit to hang on the rim of the glass. Lastly, lay the fruit flat on your cutting board and cut into 3 or 4 equal sliced wedges from each half.

Wheels are mostly decorative but easy to make. After cutting the ends off the fruit, cut from one side approx. halfway through the fruit, to create the roof cut. then cut equal size discs (about quarter-inch thick) and then they can be hung on the edge of the glass, or after removing the pulp of the fruit can be used as a twist.

Our favorite way to create twists is to start with the base for wheels, and then remove the pulp using a spoon. Then roll the peel tightly, and slice into pieces of equal width, the resulting spirals are a great way to add the oils from the lemon or orange to the top of a drink and give it a decorative touch.