Lemon Spirals: A Barkeep’s Secret for Making the Best Drink Garnish Ever

How to Make Lemon Spirals (drink or cocktail garnish) BoulderLocavore.com

Ever wonder how bartender’s make those cool Lemon Spirals for cocktails or non-alcoholic drinks?  Well I asked and have the scoop!  Super easy to make at home!
How to Make Lemon Sprials (the secret) - BoulderLocavore.com

I have always love going to the theater and though the past years have not offered as much opportunity to hop down to Denver to see a show, I was recently reminded of a favorite outing that ended up in a blog post sharing a fabulous food find.

Shortly after starting Boulder Locavore I had gone to a holiday matinee performance in Denver.   It was most likely for the Nutcracker ballet (a family tradition) or maybe A Christmas Carol.  A favorite thing to do was to have lunch or dinner following at the now defunct Kevin Taylor Prima Ristorante, housed in a charming urban hotel just across from the performing arts center.  It could always be counted on for great food and cocktails and on this occasion a chatty bartender let me in on a secret I’ve loved knowing ever since: how to make Lemon Spirals.

How to Make Lemon Sprials (the secret) - BoulderLocavore.com

Having been served cocktails with the whimsical swirls before (the ones that look like tiny citrus corkscrew pig’s tails), I was always curious how they were made.  When I asked the bartender he showed me step by step how to do it.  It’s quite easy and was something I would never have figured out on my own.

I originally shared this method in a blog post with a Pomegranate Martini recipe back in 2010.  The photos were a bit deadly and the instructions absent (though the photos do tell most of the take).  It’s a blog post that I recall fondly because the simple process to make the lemon spirals yields such a fun result!

How to Make Lemon Sprials (the secret) - BoulderLocavore.com

Lemon Spirals can be used in any sort of drink, alcoholic or otherwise.   I try to choose larger lemons to yield a longer spiral though any size lemon will work.  The spirals may be added to the drink, trellised over the edge of the glass or both.  However you use them they make the drink more eye-catching and fun!

How to Make Lemon Sprials (the secret) - BoulderLocavore.com

How to Make Lemon Spirals (drink garnish)


  • Lemons
  • Supplies: sharp knife, toothpicks, bowl or jar


  1. Slice the ends off a lemon to create a flat surface.
  2. Make one slice down the length of the lemon. Gently separate the peel from the inner fruit of the lemon.
  3. Gently roll the peel lengthwise to form a tight spiral (leave no space between the layers). Insert 2 toothpicks on either end to secure the lemon peel.
  4. Place in water in the refrigerator for a minimum of 2 hours, preferably overnight.
  5. Remove from the water and remove the toothpicks. Slice into 1/8-1/4 inch slices. Uncoil and place into a drink or hand off the side of a glass.

This content was originally published in December 2010 and has been updated in 2016.


  1. says

    This is great, I’ve never seen this trick before! I’m definitely going to try it.

    One note – it’s best to get as little of the white pith as possible, as it can add some bitterness to your drink. You could try using a vegetable peeler to remove a thin section from the center of the lemon without all that white stuff.

    • says

      Yes it truly is!! That is why I was so excited to share it when I first started my blog. I couldn’t imagine the impressive end result was this easy to create!

  2. says

    I have always wondered how lemon peels are shaped for garnish. I think I am far too heavy handed to pull these off, but am willing to bet my husband can make them no problem.

  3. says

    How great! I have wondered this as well. I never would have thought to soak overnight. I’ve tried before on-the-fly and it didn’t quite work. Makes sense now! Thanks for the info! Now to make a cocktail….

  4. Don Cresswell says

    I use a kitchen/bar tool called a “Channel Knife” it gives you a “twist” but without the bitter pith. To make a spiral from your twist, simply wrap it around your cocktail stirrer like a candy cane or barber pole.

    • says

      Thanks for the tip Don. I have not noticed any flavor from the pitch of the spirals when adding these to drinks. It was something I tested in the beginning not loving the taste of pith…imagine that!

      • Don Cresswell says

        Theoretically it can be bitter but in retrospect I didn’t notice anything in my vodka or bourbon drinks when being served by a barkeep who hand cuts the peels. This clearly states that my taste buds are focusing on the finer things in life…LOL!

  5. says

    This is so cute and not something I would have ever thought to do. I will definitely be making these for my next get-together, or even just for my glass of iced tea at dinner. Thanks for sharing!

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