How to Make a Lemon Twist

Learn how to make a lemon twist that you can use as a garnish on your favorite cocktails, mocktails, cupcakes, cakes and more. This step-by-step guide will show you two different methods to make this classic citrus garnish.

Two glasses of champagne with lemon slices on them.

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How to Make a Lemon Twist

Anyone else a sucker for a tart lemon drop cocktail? I know it can’t just be me! But I love this classic drink and every time that I make it, I want to give it a classic garnish to make it the perfect upscale beverage.

Learning to make a lemon twist isn’t difficult, but it is a bit technical. While it may seem like an impossible feat for a home cocktail bar, with the right tools and instructions you can make the perfect little spiral curl to use on all of your favorite cocktails.

This versatile garnish looks gorgeous on top of a classic cocktail like a martini and French 75. It makes for a beautiful presentation that takes every drink to the next level.

So, if you’ve never successfully learned how to make citrus twists, then follow along as I give you my best tips and tricks to make the cutest little spiral lemon twists. You’ll never regret learning how to make the perfect lemon curl!

More helpful how-to guides: How to Make Lime JuiceHow to Make Lemon Juice • How to Make Clear Ice

A French 75 with a lemon garnish.

Why you’ll love making lemon twists

Once I learned to make the perfect lemon twists, I couldn’t stop! They’re so much fun and just so pretty:

  • This is a wonderful way to class up all of your favorite cocktails. It’s a really versatile garnish that is elegant and fancier than a lemon wedge, but it’s oh-so-simple.
  • You can use this method to make rustic twists from any type of citrus. Make a lime twist, orange twist, or grapefruit twist — they’ll all work with either method that you choose.
  • The tangy flavor of lemon is added to any drinks topped with a lemon spiral. It’s usually just a touch of that tart tang, but it’s so yummy and a great way to create depth of flavor to your cocktails.
An overhead view of a Limoncello next to a whole lemon.

What is a Lemon Twist?

A lemon twist is a elegant cocktail garnish made from fresh lemon peel. It sits on the edge of the glass or surface of the drink to giving it a more appealing presentation and adding a touch citrus flavor.

Tools & equipment

There are only a few tools you need to make twists. If you are using the simple method, make sure you’ve got a sharp knife and then something to shape the peel. That can be a straw, chopstick, clean pencil or just your finger. You’ll need a chopping board too!

For the advanced method, you’ll need everything mentioned above as well as a vegetable peeler or paring knife. I love this bartender’s knife.

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A lemon martini in a glass with a slice of lemon.

Best lemons for Lemon Twists

All you need is one simple ingredient to make a lemon twist: lemons, of course! But it’s not as simple as that…

Types of lemons: There are so many different types of lemons. Lisbon lemons and Eureka lemons are the most common kinds we find in the grocery store. Meyer lemons are a bit on the sweeter side and have a smoother skin. All of them will work!

Other types of citrus: You can also use any other type of citrus too, so feel free to use this technique to make lime twists if you like! Keep in mind that if you use something with a more tough skin, like orange or grapefruit, be extra careful to only get the zest and not as much of the white pith.

The pith is bitter, making the drink bitter if you drop it in. The peel is the zesty part you want and it is also easier to work with, so use your veggie peeler carefully.

Size matters: A lemon with a wider circumference will make longer twists, so you may want to spring for medium or large lemons if you have the choice. You can feel free to make thicker or thinner twists for different looks.

A champagne Moscow Mule in a fluted glass on a green linen napkin, surrounded by gold confetti.

Step 1: Cutting the lemon

There are two different methods to cutting the a lemon for the perfect lemon twist Choose whichever one will work best for you:

A person cutting lemons on a cutting board.
A person cutting lemons on a cutting board.

Simple method

Use a sharp knife or mandoline slicer to cut thin, circular slices of lemon. Then make a single cut through the peel and carefully remove the fruit. Work your way around the lemon, freeing the peel from the fruit.

Cut or peel off any remaining pith with a sharp knife.

Lemon slices on a cutting board with a knife.

Advanced Method

Hold the lemon in your non-dominant hand. In the other, place a sharp paring knife or vegetable peeler near the top of the lemon.

Peel around the round part of the lemon, not from end to end.

Remove a thin, ¼ to ½ inch piece of lemon peel, carefully avoiding the bitter white pith.

On a cutting board, cut off any rough edges so that you have a rectangular piece of peel.

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Step 2: Twirling the Lemon Twist

Wrap the peel around your finger, a pencil, a straw, chopstick or simply around the peel itself in a spiral shape. Hold it together with your fingers or use a small but gentle clamp.

Hold the citrus twist for about 30 seconds. If the shape doesn’t hold when you unfurl it, then wrap it up again and hold for longer until the shape holds.

A person holding a piece of lemon peel.
A person putting a lemon peel on their finger.
A woman's hand holding a piece of lemon.
A person holding a pair of scissors on top of a marble table.

Wrap the peel around your finger, a pencil, a straw, chopstick or simply around the peel itself in a spiral shape. Hold it together with your fingers or use a small but gentle clamp.

Hold it there for about 30 seconds. If the peel does not hold its shape when you unfurl it, wrap it up again and hold it for longer, until it holds its shape.

I like the clamps because I can let them sit while I prepare the drink, and they are more likely to hold their shape then.

A person slicing a lemon into a martini glass.

Uses for Lemon Twists

Not only can you use a lemon twist on cocktails, but they’re a great decorative garnish on desserts too.

Use them on top of sweet treats like lemon bars, lemon drop cookies, and even this boozy dole whip. They’d be gorgeous on top of a bourbon ginger ale cake or lemon cupcakes too.

As for cocktails, there’s an endless list of perfect drinks made even better by a classy lemon twist. Use them on cocktails like zesty limoncello, a sweet and sour honey lemon whiskey sour, a bitter white negroni or a refreshing vodka lemonade.

Say cheers to the new year with an Elderflower French 75! It's a floral take on the classic champagne cocktail with lemon, gin and St. Germain elderflower liqueur. (via feastandwest.com)

Tips and Tricks

Check out these tips to make the most perfect citrus curls:

  • For the best flavor and aroma, use organic lemons. This is not something completely necessary to do, but I find that the peel on organic lemons tends to be better than conventional ones.
  • Don’t press too hard when waiting for the curl to take shape or you could press the oils out of the peel. The oils add a nice flavor and aroma to a beverage, so you don’t want to lose that!
  • Use different widths for different effects. Make thin strips if you need a lot of garnishes and don’t have a lot of lemons. Thinner ones are really elegant too! A traditional lemon twist is about ¼ inch thick. You can go thinner to ⅛ inch or up to to ½-inch thick, or even make some that are 1-inch thick.
A glass with ice and an orange slice in it.

FAQ

What is a lemon twist used for?

This citrus curl is used to give cocktails and desserts an elegant presentation and a bright aromatic touch. When you use lemon twists in drinks, it can also add slight citrus notes to the beverage giving more layers of flavor.

How long do lemon twists last?

While it is recommend to make this garnish fresh, you can batch them and store for later. Place the peels in an airtight container and store in the fridge for 3 to 4 days. You may need to reshape the curls after storing.

More cocktail garnishes

A glass of lemonade with a slice of lemon next to it.

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A glass of lemonade with a slice of lemon next to it.

Lemon Twist Garnish

Yield: 4 twists
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Learn how to make a lemon twist and add it to every tart cocktail your heart desires! You can even make twists with oranges and limes.
5 from 1 vote
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ingredients

  • 1 medium lemon

instructions

Simple method

  • Use a knife or mandoline to cut thin, circular slices of lemon. Make a single cut through the peel, then carefully remove the fruit and work your way around the lemon, freeing the peel from the fruit. Cut or peel off any remaining pith.
  • Wrap it around your finger, a pencil, a straw or simply around the peel itself in a spiral shape. Hold it together with your fingers or use a small but gentle clamp.

Advanced method

  • Hold the lemon in your non-dominant hand. In the other, place a sharp paring knife or vegetable peeler near the top of the lemon. You peel around the round part of the lemon, not from end to end.
  • Remove a thin, ¼ to ½ inch piece of lemon peel, carefully avoiding the bitter white pith. On a cutting board, cut off any rough edges if there are any, so you have a rectangular piece of peel.
  • Wrap it around your finger, a pencil, a straw or simply around the peel itself in a spiral shape. Hold it together with your fingers or use a small but gentle clamp. Hold it there for about 30 seconds. If it does not hold its shape when you unfurl it, wrap it up again and hold it for longer, until it holds its shape.

notes

A traditional lemon twist is about ¼ inch thick. You can go thinner to ⅛ inch or up to to ½-inch thick, or even make some that are 1-inch thick.
Check out these tips to make the most perfect citrus curls:
  • For the best flavor and aroma, use organic lemons. This is not something completely necessary to do, but I find that the peel on organic lemons tends to be better than conventional ones.
  • Don’t press too hard when waiting for the curl to take shape or you could press the oils out of the peel and cause the peel to lose its shape. The oils add a nice flavor and aroma to a beverage, so you don’t want to lose that!
  • Use different widths for different effects. Make thin strips if you need a lot of garnishes and don’t have a lot of lemons. The thinner ones are really elegant too!

recommended products

As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.

nutrition information

Yield: 4 twists

amount per serving:

Serving: 1twist Calories: 8kcal Carbohydrates: 3g Protein: 0.3g Fat: 0.1g Saturated Fat: 0.01g Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.03g Monounsaturated Fat: 0.003g Sodium: 1mg Potassium: 37mg Fiber: 1g Sugar: 1g Vitamin A: 6IU Vitamin C: 14mg Calcium: 7mg Iron: 0.2mg
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