Fruit should always be fresh and clean, and not yellowing at the edges or, heaven forbid, wizened and wrinkled like a little old man. Consider that the garnish is often the ingredient that is closest to the drinker’s face, which means their eyes and nose, so it is imperative that a garnish should look and smell tasty and edible. Always discard cut fruit at the end of the evening, be that in a professional or home bar environment. Fruit begins oxidizing and thus deteriorating the minute it is cut so while it may look OK, old, oxidized fruit will upset the delicate balance of your cocktail and thus ruin all your hard work. Stay fresh, use fresh.
Muddling hard, fibrous fruits such as lemons or limes can be hard work. Try keeping your fruit at room temperature, and be sure to roll the fruit under the palm of your hand before cutting and muddling. This technique will break up the fibrous bonds within the fruit, allowing for better extraction of the juice when muddling.
Cutting fruit twists is a delicate operation, as most of the bitter white pith of the fruit should be removed before you add the garnish to the drink. Always use a knife to remove the pith, but cut away from you, rather than toward you, as chopping lemons and limes with severed fingers is an agonizing exercise.
When spraying a fruit twist over a drink, ensure that you have cut a piece of fruit large enough to give you adequate surface area in order to spray the fruit oil. A piece roughly the size of a postage stamp, for instance, will be difficult to spray. Practice with shapes and sizes until you find the right combination for your hands and level of expertise.
When flaming fruit zests, it is important to first warm the oil contained in the fruit skin. This will ensure that the oil becomes more fluid and thus will express better from the fruit. If your objective is to impress your friends or customers with a big flame, it is important to keep your fruits out of the fridge and to cut a piece of fruit skin that is large enough to effectively spray a sufficient amount of fruit oil through the flame. Warming the fruit in advance of spraying will help this effect. Always remember to flame a fruit peel up and over the drink, not directly into the drink. Fruit oil flamed directly into a cocktail will appear as black soot, which unsurprisingly looks ugly and tastes pretty unpleasant, too.
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Belvedere Vodka is a quality choice. Drinking responsibly is too.