Watch out, Kaiser Penguin. Doug is gunning for you.
I am hardly “gunning” for Rick. He retired the World Champion Garnisher trophy long ago.
But, since he hasn’t posted in almost two years, I thought it’d be a shame to let the sport completely die….
Garnishes are always cool in a cocktail. In some cases they are functional, in others ornamental. The best are both. And garnishes are particularly important for Tiki drinks. A really kicking Tiki garnish is like the Triple Lutz in figure skating; it isn’t technically required, but you won’t win the Gold Medal unless you pull one off.
The first garnish I want to post on is one I’m calling the Kulahua Orange Peel. I’ve never seen it done before, so I’m claiming its invention. It is a modification of the Tattooed Lime Wedges I make, which are a direct reverse-engineer from Audrey Saunders’ Pegu Club.
You can physically do the tattoo technique on lemons as well, but there is so little visual contrast between pith and peel that it is seldom worth doing, really. I had never really thought to try with oranges though, chiefly because I don’t usually have them around in my bar. This Tiki Month I’ve made the commitment to working out how to employ the “sweet citrus” without ruining drinks, so I keep lots on hand right now. After tattooing a lime for a guest one night, I was staring at some left-over wedges the next day when it occurred to me to see just how cool a tattooed orange would look. The result is not only cool-looking, but a serious garnish multi-tasker.
To start, you will need a good, clean, unblemished orange of a variety with thicker skin. You will also need a citrus zester like the one pictured below. It is a kitchen tool with four or five tiny channel knife blades in a row on the end. One of these is also hugely helpful for making falernum, or even marmalades.
This will make a mess, so hold the orange over a towel or the trash, depending on if you have a use for the zest at the moment. Press the upward curved edge of the zester against the skin of the orange, and draw it toward you in a sweeping diagonal line or curve. Shake the zest loose, and repeat. Try to build an interlocking patchwork of different runs and curves.
It takes a little practice to get the hang, so expect to have a few fairly abused-looking oranges your first try or two. After you get good at it, you can cover a piece of fruit in tats in about a minute.
When the entire surface of the orange is covered in lines, you could cut it into wedges, as with the limes shown above. But oranges have a characteristic that limes do not: A thick skin. This allows us to make the Kulahua Peel. Set aside your zester and grab your basic, household peeler.
Hold the orange upright and peel it all the way around the fruit, rotating it around the stem and flower axis. Be sure to press hard against the fruit to flatten it slightly where you are peeling to get the widest, sturdiest slice you can. The result will be a long, half-circle of orange zest. You can get two per orange.
The peel is the same size and shape as you’d get peeling an orange for an extra large Old-Fashioned twist, but the tattooing gives it texture, and the added bonus of the jungle foliage edge that I was not expecting when I first gave this a whirl.
This twist is a fabulous base for at least three families of cool Tiki (or other) garnishes.
The first of these you may have already seen earlier this month adorning the Queen’s Road Cocktail. Cut two pairs of deep diagonal lines, following the zester grooves wherever possible, and weave the peel onto the edge of a cocktail glass, giving you Princess Kulahua’s Tiara.
The Tiara is nifty, and gorgeous, but it has a hard time staying in place, and won’t work well with coupe glasses. I like it, though.
The lovely though slightly unwieldly Princess Kulahua’ Tiara is hardly all you can do with your Kulahua Peels. The next thing to try is to curl the peel up into a narrow cone and fix it in shape with a discrete toothpick, turning it into a pretty flower.
I already employed a basic one on my post about the Beachbum’s Own.
This Kulahua’s Bouquet is nice on it’s own, but you can dress it up nicely. Notice that I left the point of the toothpick on the inside of the flower and pointing up. That way, you can use the point to secure something inside the flower, such as the cherry you saw in the picture atop this post.
You can stick any garnish element of a nice contrasting color in the flower center, and doing so covers up the lighter sheen of pith on the underside of the peel. Another example I’ll offer, that works well with all sorts of drinks, but especially the Mai Tai, is to thread a sprig of lightly bruised mint or two down through the orange peel. If you leave the stem on the mint, it helps keep the garnish on the surface of the drink.
The last use that I’ve come up with, which I call Kulahua’s Crater, is a wrap for a spent lime hull. Simply wrap the peel around the spent lime and run a single toothpick through, making sure to go through where the ends of the peel overlap. It looks great whether with the outside up…
…or perhaps better, it adds some extra pizazz with the hollow turned up. Just drop a sugar cube in there and douse with 151. Apply a lighter, and presto!
Tiki garnishes are really little mixed-media sculptures in fruit, foliage, paper and wood. Go wild with them. They can be complex or simple, extravagant or minimalist. Just make sure they are fun.
And hey! This post is part of Tiki Month 2013 here at the Pegu Blog! Be sure to look around for LOTS more Tiki stuff all February!