Collage by Wine Enthusiast
Like many cocktail professionals, Joann Spiegel feels strongly about her peeler.
“There’s nothing we bartender nerds like arguing about with other bartenders more than why our tools are better,” says the general manager of the global Miracle bars franchise*. She’s partial to “a sharp, cheap Y-peeler. Many of them are always in my armory behind the bar.”
Peelers are vital to bartenders because how you peel a fruit or vegetable changes its appearance and flavor. For example, the white pith just below the brightly colored skin of citrus fruits is quite bitter. If you leave on too much when you add a lemon twist to your martini, that’s all you’ll taste.
“Any tool has functionality,” says Ezra Allen, bar professional, beverage consultant and co-owner of Cane Collective in Baltimore, Maryland. “Of course, a peeler is meant to peel, but how you manipulate that peeling action really matters.”
So, what’s the best peeler for your home bar? There are two main categories: a Y-peeler, also called a Swiss peeler, which has a blade perpendicular to its handle; or a straight-edged peeler, which is shaped like a pen.
We talked to drinks professionals across the country to ask about the pros and cons of each type, and the models they swear by.
“A Y-peeler is pretty amazing in terms of how it allows you to manipulate the object you’re peeling in a range of motion,” says Allen.
If you want an orange peel for a Negroni, for example, you can hold the bulbous fruit “like a baseball,” he says, and lightly press the peeler from top to bottom to artfully remove an even strip.
“A pro of using the Y-peeler is that it’s able to slice a very thin slice of peel, thinner than what you can get using a straight peeler,” says Camille Wilson, founder of The Cocktail Snob. “And the Y-peeler is best for bigger fruits with a round shape.”
Allen is a fan of Kuhn Rikon’s Swiss Peeler, which starts at $5 each, or the $5.99 peeler from Cocktail Kingdom.
Whatever you do, Spiegel says, don’t spend a ton of money on your peeler. Instead, buy in bulk.
“They get rusty pretty quickly on your well or sink,” she says, and the blades inevitably dull. “It’s like shaving your legs with a disposable razor. I always end up going back to my stack of disposable. They get the job done. When they dull or rust, they’re cheap enough to replace.”
“Although a Y-shaped peeler is what many professional mixologists use, as a home bartender, I prefer a straight peeler,” says Wilson.
For her, it’s all about comfort and confidence.
“Since I’ve been using a straight peeler to peel veggies and fruits for years, it’s just more comfortable for me… I’m only able to get long pieces of peel using a straight peeler, which makes for a really pretty cocktail garnish.”
“As a home bartender, I prefer a straight peeler.” —Camille Wilson, founder, The Cocktail Snob
Her favorite model is an OXO Good Grips Swivel Peeler with a large handle.
“It’s comfortable to hold and gets the job done quickly and efficiently,” she says.
Find the model that feels best in your hand, and you’ll be prepping ingredients and garnishes like a pro in no time.
“Don’t overthink it,” Spiegel says. With the right tool, “you need to peel, you blink your eyes and it’s already done.”