How to Make a Spiral Lemon Cocktail Garnish

I have a confession to make: I’m not a good garnisher! I am very careful when it comes to making the cocktail. (Even though I’m good at free pouring, you will not see me make a drink without meticulous measuring.) But by the end, when it’s garnish time, I’m done being precise. So this tutorial on how to make a lemon spiral, isn’t just for y’all. It’s also for me!

If I’m not worried about making it pretty, I’ll just use a vegetable peeler to peel off a thin piece of lemon zest as a twist for a drink. It’s not fancy, but it does the job. Lemon oil gets added to the drink, even if it’s not elegant looking. But it’s actually not that hard to pizzazz it up a little with a spiral.

A lemon twist or spiral is many people’s Martini garnish of choice as well as a good accompaniment to a French 75 or Sidecar. You can use this technique with any citrus, say, orange for your Old Fashioned or grapefruit for your Salty Dog.

Watch this video with Jamie Boudreau from the Small Screen Network and you’ll see that a pretty citrus spiral just isn’t that hard to do:

For those who prefer a text and photo tutorial, check out this post on citrus garnishes.

How to Muddle

Many cocktails recipes instruct you to “muddle” ingredients. But what does that even mean?

A muddler is a wooden pestle that looks like a miniature baseball bat. The flat end is used to smash ingredients, such as the lime and mint in a Mojito. Wood is best, because it won’t damage glassware. Many muddlers have teeth on the end, which is great for fruits but a little on the aggressive side for those oh-so-delicate herbs. You can even go DIY and make your own muddler; it’s just a wooden dowel when it comes down to it.

Muddling releases the oils from herbs and the juice from fruits and vegetables. If you’re muddling herbs–say you’re making a Mint Julep-put the herbs at the bottom of a glass and press down gently with your muddler and twist rather than pound.

Over-muddling herbs releases the bitterness from the stems, and you want the flavored oil from the leaves. However, if you’re muddling fruit or a sugar cube, go to town on that bad boy and smash away.

So whip out that muddler and try one of these cocktails:

Watermelon Mojito
La Estrella
Mint Julep
Pink Frost
Embarcadero Dandy
Summer Solstice Smash

To learn more cocktail techniques, recipes and secrets, check out DIY Cocktails.

Photo by Jackson Stakeman

How to Make Flavored Syrup

Flavored syrups are an easy way to dress up your cocktails with a little DIY flair. All it takes is water and sugar, along with your favorite fruit … or herbs or even vegetables. It’s as easy as boiling water! This syrup isn’t just for cocktails. Mix it with club soda or sparkling water for an easy homemade soda.

Here is the basic formula and instructions:

Flavored Syrup

1 part water
1 part sugar
1 part flavoring ingredient (this is chopped fruit or vegetables, sprigs of herbs or a combination)

Boil all ingredients for five minutes (or long if you want a stronger flavor), let the mixture cool, strain out the solids and refrigerate the liquid. About one quarter of the liquid evaporates in the cooking process.


  • Adjust the amount of fruit slightly based on how intense you want the flavor and how strong the fruit or herb is. For example, apples are a mild flavor so you may want to add more and let it steep longer.
  • When mixing fruit and herbs, add the herb at the last minute. Then remove from heat and let steep for 10-20 minutes, depending on desired flavor.
  • For citrus, use the rind as well as the juicy part.
  • Don’t discard the boiled fruit; it makes a great topping for ice cream or cake.
  • Try using honey instead of sugar to mix it up!
  • DIY syrup doesn’t keep as long as the store-bought kind. It will last about 3 weeks. Adding a little vodka prolongs the life to 2 months.

Suggested flavor combinations:

  • Strawberry basil
  • Lemon honey
  • Blueberry apricot
  • Honey peach
  • Raspberry mint
  • Orange cranberry

You can learn more about this technique and many, many others in DIY Cocktails. Buy it!

Photo by Jackson Stakeman