Best Zester for Cocktails and Drink Garnishes

If you’re looking for the best zester for cocktails, the most important factors you must consider are the sharpness of the blade, its versatility, and price. To help you shop, I’ve found the best products and outlined a handy buying guide with reviews for improving your garnish game.

Cocktails and just about any non-alcoholic drinks wouldn’t be complete without a garnish. Not only does garnish add character to your drinks, but it also provides a way to add your personal flair. That’s when a good zesting tool comes in handy.

Zesters are very useful in making decorative garnish for your drinks. In bartending, there are multiple kinds of zesting tools for different tasks. Some offer a fine grate and others provide blades wider than a regular grating tool for a twist. 

The citrus peel is often referred to as the zest, which can be confusing. So, when you’re looking for the best tools for zesting, make sure you’re getting the right one for the type of garnish you want to create, whether that be a lemon twist or a fine grating of citrus to use in your cocktail mix or as a light dusting of garnish on top. 

My Top Picks for the Best Zester for Cocktails

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • Dimensions: 12.8 x 1.38 x 1.18 inches
  • Featurest: Perfect zest, lightweight
  • Brand: Microplane
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  • Dimensions: 3.4 x 4.5 x 12 inches
  • Features: Versatile tool, removable zester
  • Brand: OXO
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  • Dimensions: 1.65 x 4.35 x 10.45 inches
  • Features: Great for "twist" garnish
  • Brand: OXO
View On Amazon →Read Our Review

Reviews: The Best Zesters for Cocktails

The following reviews for the best zesters were created based on product testing, what other customers say, their prices and their various purposes. Here are the best zesters for garnishes to use in your drinks and how they are used.

Microplane Premium Classic Citrus Zester – Best Overall

If you’re looking for the best zester, the Microplane Premium Classic Series Zester is what you want. It’s sharp, easy to handle, and creates finely grated zest perfectly every time. This citrus zester is a top tool among bartenders and kitchen professionals alike. 

This Microplane zester features a sharp and durable stainless steel blade. And this is useful in creating precisely grated zests every time. It has a lengthy surface with many square-shaped blades, as well as extremely powerful tiny teeth. Whatever you sweep over it will be shredded like it’s nothing. Watch your fingers!

It features a nice and ergonomic rubberized handle. And you won’t need to worry about getting cut, as cleaning this microplane zester is easy if you have a dishwasher at home. This lemon zester comes from a brand that’s renowned for making the highest-quality kitchen tools. 

In addition, the microplane is one of my personal favorite kitchen tools, and I have tested it on many things. Whether you are grating fresh parmesan cheese or zesting citrus for drinks, this is a great kitchen tool. 

Pros:

  • Very sharp, durable blade
  • Ergonomic handle offers comfy grip
  • Long surface
  • Perfectly fine shredding

Cons:

  • Can’t make a twist garnish with this tool

OXO Etched Box Grater with Removable Zester – Best Multipurpose

Ginger, cucumber, and lemon, or whatever you want to grate could be done in a multipurpose kitchen tool. The OXO Etched Box Grater with Removable Zester features not one or two or three, but four surfaces: medium and coarse grater, an angled slicer, and a removable zester.

This OXO box grater really is the jack of all trades, and you can certainly count on its sharp stainless steel blades for slicing, grating, and zesting for your cocktails. The two most important functions of this grater for making cocktails is the built in slicer (think cucumber slices) and the removable zester for creating a fine zest like the microplane listed above. 

Its handy container captures and measures freshly grated or sliced ingredients. And it’s also lidded, so you won’t have to transfer it to another container for storing. It also features a soft, non-slip handle that has a comfy grip and a non-slip foot that stays on the surface while you do the work. It’s on the pricey side for a box grater, but it’s a great kitchen tool you will need for many tasks aside from making drinks. 

Pros:

  • Multipurpose
  • Ergonomic and easy to use
  • Multiple sharp surfaces

Cons:

  • Bulky
  • The cup doesn’t always fit snugly on the grater
  • Can’t make a “twist” garnish

OXO Good Grips Citrus Zester and Channel Knife – Best for Thin Strips

If you also like garnishing drinks with a “twist,” you may want to check out the OXO Good Grips Citrus Zester and Channel Knife. This channel knife and citrus peeler is a unique tool on the list. It can still create zest, albeit slightly differently. Nevertheless, it is more efficient in certain ways than some others. 

The OXO zester’s channel knife is designed in a distinctive style, as is the zester, which is made of stainless steel, so no need to be concerned about cracking or rusting. The handle is soft and non-slip so I would say it’s comfortable for peeling a lemon. It’s also easy to clean. 

The zester function creates a longer zest than the microplane styles, but a quick chop with a knife can fix that. This is the only channel knife and zester on the list that can create the twist garnish for your cocktails without having to use a knife, which can be tricky. With such a small yet functional garnish tool, you can easily store it anywhere in your kitchen. 

Pros:

  • Channel knife design prevents you from cutting yourself
  • Creates twist garnish

Cons:

  • Produces thicker and longer zests

Buying Tips: Finding the Best Zester for Cocktails

Before splurging on a zester, know what types of garnish and zest you most commonly need for cocktails. You may want to look into a zester’s blade, material, as well as handle. And since many of you will use a zester for other purposes, you may also look for one that’s capable of grating beyond citrus for drinks. Find out more with the handy buying guide below. 

First, consider these questions when comparing zesters: 

Is it made of durable material?

When shopping for a citrus zester, it’s essential to know what kind of material it’s made of. Most zesters and graters are made of stainless steel, so finding a stainless zester won’t be hard. But some zesters and graters bend easily when you put more pressure on them, if the material isn’t thick enough. Reading the customer reviews will help you get to know the product.

Does it have a comfortable handle?

Using a zester requires you to exert a bit of force, which can cause stress on your hands. If the zester’s handle is not comfy, your hands may experience fatigue or pain after only a few uses. Choose a product with a comfortable handle and an anti-slip feature.

A good zester as a non-slip handle that’s ergonomically designed to fit snugly in your hands. All of the zesters and graters I’ve included in the list are equipped with such a handle. So, again, finding a zester that’s comfy and secure to use won’t be difficult. 

Is it versatile?

Many people opt for multipurpose tools that save space in the kitchen. If this is important to you, consider a multifunctional grater or zester like the OXO Etched Box Grater with Removable Zester

How to Use a Lemon Zester:

Citrus zests are the least common garnish on cocktails. The citrus spiral peel and wedge are rather typical in bar drinks. And though zests are often optional,  they provide a lovely citrus aroma to frothy, rich drinks and crushed ice cocktails. To effectively use a zester, follow my step-by-step guide below.

  1. Position your citrus on the grater and wipe it back and forth until you get to the white pith.  
  2. Spin the citrus to another part until the skin has been stripped. 
  3. Scrape the built-up zest by flipping the grater over. 
  4. You can now dash the zest over your cocktail.

How to Make a Twist Using a Channel Knife:

Spirals, like twists, provide a similar function but are more delicate. They can be found in many martini glass drinks. Spiral strips make a great ornament to whatever drink you may have in mind. Follow my step-by-step guide below on how to create spirals to plunge into your cocktails.

  1. For this garnish, you have to use only the freshest, firmest, and thickest-skinned citruses.  
  2. Start from the top of the fruit with a channel knife, then cut slowly in a continuous strip.
  3. The ideal strategy is to maintain your one hand very still with the channel knife while rotating the fruit with your other hand. This technique helps you to apply continuous pressure while maximizing the peel. 
  4. Hang the finished spiral into a narrow glass, with one end draped over the rim.

How to Make a Twist Garnish for Your Cocktail with a Knife:

Twists are a more formal cocktail garnish that incorporates a slice of the peel to bring citrus oils and aroma to your drinks. Most often, a lemon or orange peel is used for this. Twists are a bit more complex than wedges or wheels, although they are necessary for the preparation of drinks. Find out how to make a twist garnish with the steps below.

  1. Take a lemon or lime that has just been squeezed. Make a ring out of it by slicing the citrus.
  2. Slice through one side of the peel, and all the way to the rind on the other.
  3. Remove the pulp from the peel, leaving a long, thin strip.
  4. Make a curly-q shape with the peel. The lemon peel should keep its form, naturally.
  5. Release it, and it’s ready now to hang on to your fresh cocktail.

Why Do You Need a Zester?

Zesting tools and graters are essential tools in giving you cocktails and drinks that have flavor and essence. Whenever you want a finer citrus zest, a grater is an ideal tool. But when you aim for wider, longer strips as an ornament and aromatic for your cocktails, you may opt for a channel knife.

The best zester is an essential tool for removing the zest from citrus fruits. They are also useful for many different purposes. And this makes it a versatile bar and kitchen tool. And I guarantee you, there’s no better technique to extract the zest from citruses, all while leaving behind the bitter pith.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to zest without a zester?

If you don’t have access to a zester, cut a strip of the lemon’s yellow skin using either a vegetable peeler or a paring knife. The peeler has to easily scrape just the zest. With the knife, however, you need to be a bit more delicate. If necessary, remove any pith from the lemon strip using a knife.

Can you use a grater as a zester?

You can use a grater as a zester, but the holes sizes are not always best. That’s why a box grater like the OXO Etched Box Grater is a great option because it has a built-in zester. 

What is the difference between a zester and a grater?

The biggest difference between these two is simply the size of the holes. Graters have bigger holes, and they are used to cut ingredients into shreds or strings. While the best zesters have far smaller holes than a grater, making it easier to extract the zest without the bitter pitch. 

Is lemon peel the same as lemon zest?

The zest of any citrus is typically thin. It’s the colorful outer layer of their skin. A citrus’  rind contains the zest and a small amount of the bitter white pith underneath it. While the peel contains the entire jacket, except the flesh. Zest is the most frequently used of the three since it includes tasty citrus oils.

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for the best lemon zester, get the Microplane Premium Classic Series Zester. This zester features a sharp, durable blade with powerful teeth that shred very finely. 

If you are looking for something to create twist garnish, the OXO Good Grips Citrus Zester and Channel Knife will also come in handy. It’s easy to use, featuring a durable stainless steel blade that offers sharp cutting. And it’s very compact, too! Both of these tools would be great additions to your home bar. 

I hope you find this guide helpful in choosing the best lemon zester for your home bar. And as always, good luck!