Making a lemon twist is the subject of much passionate discourse. The traditional thinking in this matter is that to take off even the slightest touch of the pith (the white substance between the skin and the fruit) is considered to be bad form. The pith is, to many, a bitter substance best left out of a drink that would call for a twist, like a martini.
As with many things cocktailian, I have my own opinion that disagrees with orthodox thought. And here’s why.
First off, the pith, when integrated properly, can lend structure to an otherwise flimsy piece of string. I’ve seen many a martini drinker fiddling with their twists, only to end up with a crumbly mess at the bottom of their drink. This does not make for an enjoyable finish.
Also, depending on the type of lemon or orange, and the time of year they are harvested, the skin can be hard as a rock, only aggravating the situation further.
My solution? A little-known tool called a channel knife. The channel knife, usually found in food garnishing toolkits, is, in my opinion, a better tool for the job. First off, it’s bi-directional, which means it’s used equally well with the left or right hand. It’s also got a deeper groove than a traditional zester, which brings part of the pith to the party.
Now, why is the structure of the pith important to a twist? Well, to quote so many design students, presentation is everything. With a twist cut with a channel knife, the rope retains its shape much better than a traditional flat twist. In short, it makes a twist, well, twist.
Here’s a page at Amazon where you can find lots of channel knives. Get one, they’re cheap. And play with it. I promise you’ll love the results.
Oh, and if you curl your twist into the shape you desire and then run it under some very cold water for a few seconds, you’ll wash away a lot of the bitterness and the twist will retain its shape much more easily.