How to Slice a Strip of Citrus Without Risking Life and Limb

How to Slice a Strip of Citrus Without Risking Life and Limb
Photo: Claire Lower

One of the nice things about going to a bar (or bars) is that they have all the stuff. The good ice, the fancy cherries, the perfect strips of lemon zest — these things are ready and waiting to be deployed. Buying a jar of cherries is easy, but peeling thin strips of zest off of a citrus fruit is tedious.

A y-peeler makes it easier, but as esteemed bartender and cocktail book author Jeffrey Morgenthaler explained to Emily Farris of Epicurious, those things are kind of dangerous:

“I’ve watched so many bartenders cut off part of their finger with those peelers,” award-winning Portland mixologist Jeffrey Morgenthaler told me. “One got such a bad cut that she started putting a cut-resistant glove on her hand every time she made a citrus peel for a drink — and it takes a lot of time to get that glove on!”

Jeff’s solution? A humble, $15 cheese slicer. (In terms of brand, Jeff recommends this one, so that is the one I now own.) “It’s so much safer and actually makes a better twist. It’s just kind of a better tool, honestly,” he said. The top portion of the slicer acts as a guard, keeping your fingertips out of harm’s way.

I tried it for myself, and it did feel sturdier and safer than using a y-peeler did. The zest strips that were peeled with the cheese slicer came out a little thicker and with more pith, which made them easier to shape into curly twists. (Pith can add a bitter flavour to the cocktail as the strip steeps in the drink, but cocktails are best consumed quickly, while they’re still very cold. Unless there’s a ton of pith — or you drink very slowly — this shouldn’t be a problem.)

The strips peeled with the y-peeler didn’t have any pitch, but they were almost too thin; the complete lack of pith meant a complete lack of structure, so they had a tendency to break when twisted, and they had a hard time keeping any sort of curly shape.

I doubt it will completely replace my y-peeler — sometimes I want an impossibly thin piece of zest! — but it is nice to know there is a safer option that makes a thicker strip that holds its shape. (Bonus: This safer option also slices cheese.)

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