How To: The Easiest Way to Make Food & Drink Look More Classy

The Easiest Way to Make Food & Drink Look More Classy

Lemons, limes, and even oranges compliment a wide variety of both food and drink: gin and tonic, poached salmon, shrimp cocktails, fajitas, and so on. And you can easily step up your hosting game by making citrus garnishes: a presentation that is both elegant and interesting.

All you'll need for these garnishes is a good knife, citrus, and creativity. And don't be discouraged if your garnish doesn't turn out perfect on your first try; with this guide and some practice, your dishes will soon look as flawless as the best metropolitan restaurants.

Food Garnishes

I've made a short video for these three food garnish techniques, and the written steps below are in the same order as in the video.

1. Crowns (Or Flowers)

Crowns are a quick garnish that can be at the center of a shrimp cocktail appetizer. If the fruit is small enough, it can be placed to float in the center of a vegetable soup in need of some zing.

  1. Slice a thin piece from the bottom to make a flat surface—this will stabilize the fruit as you proceed.
  2. Insert your knife into the center of the lemon at a diagonal, pushing all the way through to the middle.
  3. Next to your first incision, insert your knife again on the opposite diagonal; for instance, If you sloped down first, this time slope up.
  4. Continue this "jagged teeth" pattern all the way around the lemon.
  5. Pull the halves apart and gently remove the seeds.
  6. Slice the end of the top half so that it stands up straight as well.

2. Pig Tails

These garnishes are usually served next to a piece of seafood. This extra squeeze of fresh juice can brighten up a mellow, steamed fish at the last minute. In the video above, this tutorial starts at 0:27.

  1. Cut off the ends of a lemon (or lime) so that you have flat and stable edges to work with.
  2. Slice the lemon in half.
  3. Picking up each half, use a paring knife to carefully peel about a quarter inch of rind from the wider rim, stopping just before you've made a complete circle.
  4. Make a knot and thread the rind upward to create a "tail."
  5. On the opposite end, cut a small "v" to act as a spout for the juice.

3. Puzzles

Puzzles are a lovely accent to any dish; however, they look coolest when they're pieced together. Add puzzles to any buffet presentation that requires citrus: your guests will grab the garnishes as needed while being able to admire the fitted pieces.

This particular technique may be a little hard to understand when reading, so I recommend watching the video (skip to 0:48).

  1. With the lemon (or lime) resting on its side, insert a large knife horizontally, but not quite cutting through to either side.
  2. Leaving the large knife in the lemon, use a paring knife to diagonally slice from the top down into until you hit the large knife. The point of the small knife should only come to the midway point of the lemon when you begin slicing (i.e., you should only be making an incision into half of the lemon rind).
  3. Repeat this step on the other diagonal to make a wedge with your two cuts.
  4. Flip the whole lemon and large knife so that the handle is still pointing the same way but the blade is facing the opposite way. Do the same with the small knife as you did before, but this time on the other side.
  5. Pull the lemon apart and you'll have two puzzle pieces!

Beverage Garnishes

Sorry, no video for this section, but they're all fairly easy enough to understand from the written instructions and pictures below.

1. Pinwheels

These are perfect for cocktails served in wide-rimmed glasses. Though they can be tucked onto the side, I like them best when they float in the center of a strawberry margarita or flavored martini. When they float on the surface, the lemon flavor infuses the drink without being too overpowering.

  1. Use a channel knife (or the top of a vegetable peeler) to make vertical grooves in your lemon.
  2. Slice the lemon horizontally for simple but beautiful pinwheels.

2. Corkscrews

Corkscrews are the most elegant of the drink garnishes, in my opinion. They are both quirky and tasteful, as well as perfect for dressing up the aesthetic of a favorite cocktail. When your guests take a sip, the lemony aroma from the peel will be a pleasant addition to the drink.

  1. Using a vegetable peeler, paring knife, or channel knife, work your way around the lemon, removing the rind in an even spiral.
  2. Twist opposite ways with both hands for an extra bit of spiral.

Note: for a clean look, make sure your knife or peeler is very sharp!

3. Twists

These garnishes are great if you're in a rush or bartending for a large and thirsty crowd. Prepping these toothpicks en masse beforehand makes life so much easier—but still allows you to dress up cocktails, even in the midst of a busy party.

  1. Thinly slice a lemon.
  2. Use a paring knife to cut the slices into halves down the center.
  3. Simply flip one half and secure with a toothpick for an elegant twist!

Always Elegant, Always Appropriate

The small touches or ornaments on a drink or platter can really kick up their impressive factor—and citrus garnishes are an easy way to wow both friends and family.

If you prefer to keep it simple, however, we have a great way to juice citrus while keeping the seeds out of your business. Preserved lemons are another way to enjoy citrus without quite as much bite. And if you've still got more lemons lying around after all of these hacks, don't just make lemonade out of them—they have a whole bevy of uses.

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Photos by Laura Holman / Food Hacks

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