Tiki Garnishing: Kulahua Orange Peel

Kulahua Orange Peel Flower
OK, time for a new series of posts for this and future Tiki Months: Garnishing!

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.
Orange and zester
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.
Tattooing an Orange
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.
Orange and 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.
Kulahua Orange Peel
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.
Kulahua Orange Peel 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…
Kulahua's Vessel Inverted
…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!
Kalahua Crater
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!


  1. Tiare

    18 February

    Now you`re talking! Garnish is my sweet baby even though I don`t do elaborate garnishes as often as I should…

    It`a shame that Rick doesn`t blog and do garnish anymore because we used to have so much fun with it, for example that online garnish session where the Bum was guest. I think Martin Cate was there too, and we showed tons of pictures of the most wild and amazing garnishes on this planet!

    Heck, we even had a live garnish session in New Orleans, me, Rick, and Martin with a live garnish contest. Yes those were the “golden days”….

    So I`m very happy to see this post because we need to keep it up! Garnish is fun, amazing, interesting and beautiful and it DOES matter how a drink is presented.

    Gonna try to do better myself and stop being so lazy..

    Your kulahua orange peel looks amazing!

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  2. Hurricane Hayward

    19 February

    Great post. I’ll definitely be adding these to my repertoire.

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  3. Doug Ford

    19 February

    Great idea, and a clever invention, Doug. I look forward to trying this. If only limes had thick skins…

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  4. Dagreb

    19 February

    I see your orange garnish and raise you… Something. I’ll work on it, you’ll see!

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    • Doug

      19 February


      Here’s a graphic for your response when you manage one!

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  5. Doug

    19 February

    Doug Ford,

    Yes. I love my limes, but what I can do with them is so limited. I occasionally see a fantastic concoction (e.g. pg 87 in Remixed) but I’m never able to do that with lime skin.

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  6. DJ HawaiianShirt

    20 February

    Doug, I see through your marketing BS in that first image. Blue and Orange: http://www.slashfilm.com/orangeblue-contrast-in-movie-posters/

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  7. Tony Harion

    27 April

    Awesome! Boy i’m i late on this one…

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  8. albert wilson

    21 August

    This what life is all about. Good limes plus stunningly beautiful garnish on top of it makes life really better. Also adding vegetable carving on the side of it makes even better.

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