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The flamed orange zest


The history of the flamed orange zest must be rewritten. It was not, as is commonly reported, in Hollywood where this technique originated. The origin lies far in the past – it is reported as early as the 16th century.

The Oaxaca Old-Fashioned is prepared with a flamed orange zest. To do this, the oils of an orange zest are splashed over a glass while holding a flame in the other hand – the orange oils catch fire. However, this is not the first mixed drink to be refined in this way. We therefore went in search of its origins.

First of all, we would like to repeat what is commonly reported: Dale DeGroff first saw the flaming of an orange peel in 1970 at Mamma Leone’s, an Italian restaurant in the Theatre District of Manhattan. There, old Italian waiters would ignite the oil from orange peels over an espresso. Soon after, Dale DeGroff saw this technique again, this time in a bar: Chasen’s in West Hollywood. This was a popular meeting place for Hollywood stars in the post-war years. Pepe Ruiz was the bartender there from 1960 to 1995. Around 1970, Dean Martin asked him why the bar didn’t have a drink named after him (Dean Martin). In response, Pepe Ruiz developed the “Flame of Love Martini”. This is a variation of a dry Vodka Martini. In addition, four orange zests are flamed over the glass. The shaken drink is poured into the glass and the fifth orange zest is flamed over it. When Dale DeGroff opened the Rainbow Room in New York in 1987, he suggested to his boss Joe Baum that he use this technique for a series of mixed drinks. Since Dale DeGroff was an influential bartender, other bartenders adopted the flamed orange zest. [2] [3-277] [4] [5-281]

William Schmidt: The Flowing Bowl. 1892, page 172.
William Schmidt: The Flowing Bowl. 1892, page 172. [1-172]

However, the history of the flamed orange zest goes much further back in time than usually portrayed. William Schmidt writes about the Pousse Café in his book “The Flowing Bowl”, published in 1892: “You may drop in a little bitters on the top, and set fire to the brandy. While burning, squeeze a little orange-peel on it, which will produce a fine pyrotechnical effect.” [1-172]

Otherwise, we have not found any references in the old bar books. But even William Schmidt is not the inventor of the flamed zest.

Antonio Mizauld already reported on it. He is also known as Antoine Mizauld or Antonius Mizaldus. He was a French astrologer and physician. He was born in Montluçon in 1510 and died in Paris in 1578. There he was a professor of medicine and wrote many books on medical, astronomical, botanical and meteorological subjects. He wanted to make the general public less dependent on pharmacists and gave advice on various remedies that could also be picked from one’s own garden. [6]

In 1577 his book, translated into German, was published in Basel with the title “Artztgarten von Kreutern so in den Gaͤrten gemeinlich wachsen / vnnd wie man durch dieselbigen allerhand kranckheiten und gebrechen eylends heilen sol” (“Garden of herbs that commonly grow in the gardens / and how to cure all kinds of illnesses and ailments with them”). In it is written something important; in more modern English the text reads: “The rind of all bitter orange is warm and hot, as the taste testifies: for it is tart and bitter. If you squeeze the oil of the rind over an open flame, it ignites easily and gives its power to the wine most easily because of its thin substance; splashed into a glass even from far away.[7-290]

Antonius Mizauld: Artztgarten. 1577, page 290.
Antonius Mizauld: Artztgarten. 1577, page 290. [7-290]

– “Die rind von allen pomerantzē iſt warm vnnd hitzig / welches der ſchmack bezeuget: denn derſelb iſt herb vnnd bitter. Wo man deßhalbē den ſafft bei einē liecht außtrucket / ſo wirt er leicht angezuͤndet / vnd gibt ſein krafft dem wein am leichteſten von wegen ſeiner duͤnnen ſubſtanz / in ein glaß auch von weitem her geſpritzet.« [7-290]

This is evidence that as early as 1577, a citrus peel was squeezed over wine, flaming it.

Antonius Mizauld: Alexikepus. 1575, Seite 85.
Antonius Mizauld: Alexikepus. 1575, Seite 85. [8-85]

The text was translated into German from Latin. This appeared in 1575 in »Alexikepus, seu auxiliaris et medicus hortus, rerum variarum, & secretorum remediorum accessione locupletatus.« It says there: »Cortex omnibus calidus & igneus est : quod gustatu deprehenditur, nam acer est & amarus : hinc contra lucernarum flammulas expressus ab eo succus, ignem facilè concipit : transitq; expeditè in vinum essentiæ suæ tenuitate per vitreum calicé, vel è langinquo iaculatus.« [8-85]

Antonius Mizauld: Secretorum agri enchiridion primum. 1560, page 159.
Antonius Mizauld: Secretorum agri enchiridion primum. 1560, page 159. [9-159]

But here too there is a predecessor text, by the same author, from 1560: »Cortex omnibus calidus & igneus cēsetur esse: quod gustatu deprehenditur: nam acer est ac amarus : cuius succus in flammulam lucernarum iaculatus, ignem facilè concipit : transitque in uinum contra uitreum calicem uel è longinquo expressus : digito mador deprehenditur, & infusus liquor corticem redolet.« [9-159]

Unfortunately, we have not found any older evidence, because we may assume that it was not Antonio Mizauld who invented the custom of flaming an orange zest over a cup of wine. We would not be surprised if this was already done in the times of ancient Rome.

  1. William Schmidt: The Flowing Bowl. When and What to Drink. Full Instructions How to Prepare, Mix, and Serve Beverages. New York, Charles L. Webster & Co., 1892.
  2. https://punchdrink.com/articles/flamed-orange-twist-cocktail-garnish-history/ Al Culliton: Flamed Orange Twist Burnout. 12. April 2023.
  3. Jeffrey Morgenthaler: The Bar Book. Elements of Cocktail Technique. ISBN 978-1-4521-1384-5. Chronicle Books, 2014.
  4. https://imbibemagazine.com/recipe/flame-of-love/ Dylan & Jeni: Flame of Love. 11. February 2015.
  5. David Wondrich & Noah Rothbaum: The Oxford companion to spirits & cocktails. ISBN 9780199311132. Oxford University Press, 2022.
  6. https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antonio_Mizauld Antonio Mizauld.
  7. https://archive.org/details/hin-wel-all-00002430-001/page/288/mode/2up?q=pomeranzen Anthonius Mizaldus: Artztgarten von Kreutern so in den Gaͤrten gemeinlich wachsen / vnnd wie man durch dieselbigen allerhand kranckheiten und gebrechen eylends heilen sol. Basel, 1577.
  8. https://archive.org/details/BIUSante_pharma_res012068x05/page/n193/mode/2up?q=vinum Antonio Mizaldo: Alexikepus, seu auxiliaris et medicus hortus, rerum variarum, & secretorum remediorum accessione locupletatus. Paris, 1575.
  9. https://archive.org/details/hin-wel-all-00002427-001/page/n350/mode/2up?q=aurantiorum Antonio Mizaldo: Secretorvm agri enchiridion primvm, hortorvm cvram, auxilia, secreta, et medica praesidia inuentu prompta, ac paratu facilia, libris tribus pulcherrimis complectens. Paris, 1560.

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Hi, I'm Armin and in my spare time I want to promote bar culture as a blogger, freelance journalist and Bildungstrinker (you want to know what the latter is? Then check out "About us"). My focus is on researching the history of mixed drinks. If I have ever left out a source you know of, and you think it should be considered, I look forward to hearing about it from you to learn something new. English is not my first language, but I hope that the translated texts are easy to understand. If there is any incomprehensibility, please let me know so that I can improve it.

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