How to Zest Citrus Fruits

Does your Sazerac need some zing? The essential oils in citrus peels are some of cocktails’ most unsung ingredients. But before you express the peel’s oils into a cocktail, you have to attain the peel by zesting the fruit.

The key to zesting citrus is a sharp knife. The sharper the edge on the blade, the less chance you have of harming yourself. When zesting, try and remove as little pith (the bitter white layer beneath the skin) as possible. If you are leaving a twist in a drink, make sure to clean up the edges of your twist for the best presentation.


  • Sharp Knife Cut

Step One

Take the fruit in your non-dominant hand. Hold the fruit in your palm, your fingers propping it up.

Step Two

Hold the knife in your dominant hand. The sharp edge of the blade should be facing away from you, the handle clutched within all of your fingers except for your thumb, which should act as a guide on the dull side of the blade.

Step Three

Cut away from yourself, with precision, ease and extra care to not cut too deeply into the pith beneath the fruit’s skin. Your zest should be an elongated oval shape.

Step Four

To clean up the edges of your twist (if it will be used as a garnish), place the peel on a cutting board and trim the edges with a sharp knife.