Flaming an orange peel, woohoo! This makes for a rather showy garnish for your cocktails, but it also, adds some unique flavor elements. I first encountered this when I ordered a Bartender’s Choice drink at Cook and Brown Public House in Providence, RI. It was great (so was the food)! Honestly, I cannot really remember what the drink was. It was the last one of the night… A variation of something or other, but I do remember the table side flaming of an orange peel.
The objective here is to spray the citrus oils and sugars through the flame and over the drink. The flamed oils create an immediately intense aroma. The sugars caramelize as they pass through the flame adding more complex flavors and a whisper of caramel sweetness.
Here’s how to do it:
Take an orange and using a pairing knife or vegetable peeler slice off a little strip about 1 1/2 inches in width and 2 1/2 or so inches in length trying to remove as little of the white pith as possible, having some is okay. As with most citrus garnishes, make the drink first and trim the peel over the drink. All of that micro misting of aromatic goodness will land on the drink. This adds a wonderful level of freshness.
A successful peel is going to be firm (not hard) with some tension to it. If the peel is to small you’ll potentially burn your fingertips. If it is too flimsy, you are not going to be able to convince those juices to really explode from the peel.
Next step is to light a match. I do not recommend lighters for this. They will work in a pinch, I suppose… However, they can contribute lighter fluid smells and flavors to your drink.
Holding the peel between your thumb and forefinger, lightly brush the flame over it a couple of times. You’ll need to work somewhat quickly depending on your match. Try not to burn your finger tips. You could end up dropping the match in the drink, screaming and knocking over the glass, etc. It will ruin the experience. I would recommend flaming only one peel per match…
Then, holding the match about an inch or two away from the peel and over the glass, squeeze the sides of the orange peel together spraying citrus oils through the flame. Little sparks of flavor and aroma will rain down onto the drink.
The photo doesn’t do this justice. It happens really quick, but it is pretty cool.
If you get the match too close to the orange peel and it looks like this… (Notice the darker strip there.)
Discard the peel and try it again. Otherwise you are going to be adding burnt and ashy flavors. Not really what were going for. Light smokey, maybe. Burnt, not so much. I think this may have been a contributing factor in the first attempt at The Revolver. The coffee liqueur was no doubt ashy as well, but some of the harshness in that first drink was probably from a toasty peel. The subsequent Revolvers were decidedly less ashy.
After the fireworks, I like to rub the peel around the rim of the glass and slide it into the drink.
There you have it, a flamed orange peel. Give it a shot!