A channel knife has a small, u-shaped blade cut out of a wider metal piece, similar to a narrow cheese slicer or vegetable peeler. It allows you to create uniform grooves in vegetables and fruits, and to remove thin strips of peel or zest for curls and spirals. Commonly used to make garnishes for cocktails, it's also indispensable for carving and sculpting more complex decorative touches.
Cocktail Garnishes With a Twist
Bartenders commonly use the channel knife to cut strips of citrus peel from lemon, lime or oranges for to make spiral drink garnishes or citrus peel curls. To make a curl, press the blade against the side of the fruit near the top until it cuts through the zest. Carefully drag it around the fruit, removing strips of the peel. You'll end up with a loose curl of yellow, green or orange peel. To tighten the curls into spirals, wrap them around a cocktail stirrer or chopstick, then slide them off into ice water for about half an hour.
To garnish a Horse's Neck cocktail, stretch a thick lemon peel spiral to the bottom of a Collins glass or champagne flute. Add whiskey, ginger ale and ice to the glass, holding the end of the peel against the rim of the glass to keep it from dropping to the bottom. Garnish other drinks with thinner citrus spirals hung over the rim of cocktail glasses or drop them into the drink. For an unusual variation, tie a curl loosely into a knot before dropping it into the cocktail.
Edgy Cocktail Garnishes
You can also create decorative cartwheels from lemon, lime or orange slices. Cut off the top and bottom ends of the fruit. With the channel knife, peel a strip from top to bottom, creating a white stripe. Carve evenly spaced stripes around the entire circumference of the fruit. Turn the fruit on its side and cut it into even slices. To garnish a drink, cut one slice from the center to the edge, creating a slot that you can slide over the rim of a glass.
Pretty up a soup or make an attractive garnish for a salad tray by sculpting carrots or daikon radishes into simple flower shapes. Scrub the vegetable under cold water, then make evenly spaced lengthwise grooves around the entire circumference with the channel knife, cutting into the vegetable about 1/4 inch. Turn the vegetable on its side and slice it into thin disks. The grooves create notches around the edge of the disks, making them look like flowers. You can use them as is, or gently round the outer edges of each "petal" with a paring knife. Float the shaped carrots or radishes in soup or use them to garnish a salad plate or platter.
Carved Fruit Bowls
Turn a watermelon or cantaloupe into a work of art using a channel knife. It's not unusual to scoop out a watermelon and fill it with fruit salad. A channel knife allows you to add a decorative touch to the resulting bowl. Lightly draw a pattern onto the watermelon rind, then excise it with the channel knife to reveal the white beneath the green outer rind.
- The Craft of the Cocktail: Everything You Need to Know to Be a Master Bartender: Dale Degroff
- Liquor.com: Horse's Neck Cocktail
- Photo Credit Eising/Photodisc/Getty Images