Do you keep in mind the flamed orange twist? The showy garnish dazzled bargoers with dramatic pops of fireplace as orange oil was spritzed by way of a lit match over the floor of a drink. The approach turned a well-known flourish at craft cocktail bars all through the aughts, an indication of the seriousness of the drinks inside, however has since all however disappeared.
To uncover the destiny of the flamed orange twist, we first have to seek out its origin, which takes us again half a century to a New York Italian restaurant and a chili joint–turned–Hollywood sizzling spot.
Esteemed bar world persona Dale DeGroff has lengthy been a proponent of the flamed orange twist. However the first time he encountered it, it wasn’t being utilized to a cocktail. The 12 months was 1970 and DeGroff discovered himself at Mamma Leone’s, the sprawling Italian eatery within the Theater District of Manhattan. He observed the outdated Italian waiters igniting oil from orange peels over espresso proper earlier than dropping the verify—a method of placing on somewhat present whereas enhancing the flavour of the espresso. Quickly after this primary encounter, DeGroff moved to Los Angeles, the place he noticed the approach once more, this time in a bar. “It was Pepe [Ruiz] who turned me on to truly utilizing it for drinks,” he remembers.
Ruiz tended bar at Chasen’s in West Hollywood from 1960 till its closing in 1995. As soon as a humble chili shack, the postwar years noticed it grow to be a favourite hangout of film stars and entertainers like Carol Burnett, Bob Hope and, germane to the historical past of the garnish in query, the Rat Pack. In keeping with Ruiz, someday round 1970 Dean Martin requested why there wasn’t a particular cocktail named for him on the restaurant. Ruiz set to work and created the Flame of Love Martini. A riff on a dry vodka Martini, Ruiz’s recipe requires 4 orange twists to be flamed over a glass, which is then rinsed with fino sherry and crammed with vodka that’s been shaken till very chilly. It’s completed with a fifth flamed orange twist.
Since these first encounters, the flamed twist has woven itself into the material of DeGroff’s bartending aesthetic not solely as a type of aptitude, however as a approach to improve aromatics. When he was opening New York’s Rainbow Room in 1987, he pitched his boss, restaurateur Joe Baum, the thought of utilizing the flamed orange (or lemon) twist on plenty of the drinks. Baum wouldn’t cease to speak to DeGroff about it, so he demonstrated the approach as they walked down the corridor collectively. Baum was offered. “I prefer it,” he mentioned. “Let’s do it with all of the drinks which have twists.”
And so it went on the Rainbow Room. Drinks unique to the bar, just like the Ritz Cocktail (Cognac, lemon, Cointreau, maraschino, Champagne), received the flamed twist remedy. So, too, did new drinks from the higher zeitgeist, like Toby Cecchini’s Cosmopolitan, which DeGroff placed on the menu in 1996. Certainly, DeGroff and this explicit approach are so intertwined that the quilt of his 2002 ebook The Craft of the Cocktail (and its 2020 reboot) depicts the bartender’s fingers poised to execute it. (The British model options the quilt DeGroff initially wished, capturing the second the oil ignites over the drink.)
With out DeGroff’s notable affect on the time of the cocktail revival, the flamed twist could by no means have survived into the aughts. Generationally, he acted as a hyperlink between the Italian waiters and Los Angeles bartenders working towards the approach within the late twentieth century and the crop of early craft cocktail bartenders who carried it ahead. Each DeGroff’s program on the Rainbow Room and his seminal ebook served as fashions for this new technology; consequently, a number of trendy classics name for the approach.
In San Francisco in 2004, Jon Santer developed the Revolver, a coffee-laced Manhattan riff, and credit its flamed orange twist to the picture gracing the quilt of DeGroff’s ebook. Over at New York’s Loss of life & Co., Phil Ward used the approach to nice impact on his now-famous Oaxaca Previous-Usual. The flamed twist even made its method throughout the Atlantic, the place Trailer Happiness’ Dry Daiquiri—with Campari, a “sprint of pash” and, sure, a flamed orange twist—made an everlasting mark on the London scene.
But, what was as soon as a ubiquitous sight at high bars throughout the nation and past has pale into relative obscurity. So what occurred to the fiery garnish? Ned King, of Gigantic in Easthampton, Massachusetts, means that the flamed orange twist is collateral harm within the transition to the brand new age of sunshine and brilliant bar design. “As we’ve moved away from the dimly lit speakeasy because the dominant model of craft bar, the influence of the flamed orange twist has misplaced a few of its sexiness,” he says.
Extra considerably, maybe, the approach feels incongruous to the dominant aesthetic of at the moment’s burgeoning hypermodern pressure of cocktail tradition, which regularly eschews contemporary citrus altogether in addition to the performative bartending model to which the flamed twist belongs. Frequent Punch contributor Tyler Zielinski asserts that these high-concept bars method the garnish in a drastically completely different method from these of 15 and 20 years in the past. “[There’s] both no garnish, a technique-driven garnish reminiscent of one thing disbursed from an iSi whipper, or a garnish that’s a byproduct of the labor-intensive ingredient-development course of,” he says. On this setting, a flamed twist feels too old-timey, too primitive for such a futuristic aesthetic.
Although the flamed twist can often nonetheless be seen within the wild, it’s clear that it’s following within the footsteps of the neo-speakeasy itself. Its disappearance may appear insignificant, however for DeGroff, the approach is about extra than simply aesthetics. “It offered drinks and it received folks speaking to 1 one other, ?” he says. “These are the roles of a bartender.”