There's nothing wrong with a brandied cherry, but it's fun to see bartenders and home drinks-makers doing something a little more creative on the garnish front. Here are a dozen cool and unusual ideas for decorating cocktails, from cucumber lizards hiding in the bottom of your drink to edible flowers floating on top.
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Most drinks get a twist or a citrus wedge, maybe a brandied cherry or an olive. But have you ever gotten a drink with a banana killer whale emerging from the surface? We want to see your coolest (and wackiest) cocktail garnishes.
All you'll need for this simple cocktail garnish is a sharp knife, a cutting board, and well-washed citrus. A sharp knife is especially important here because a dull knife will squeeze the fruit into a misshapen lump, which will make your wedges look weird. No one likes weird wedges.
Usually a bright piece of fruit, or a briny olive, or a festive umbrella, but sometimes something much more fancy, the cocktail garnish has a solid place in the history of cocktails. Today, we'll look at what garnishes are and how to get started using them to good effect.
It's a classic sight: A tiny cup of dark, bittersweet espresso with a fragrant shave of lemon peel on the saucer. Squeezed, sucked, or dropped into the coffee, there are innumerable ways to use the sour strip—but is the garnish authentic?
This is one of my many mottos: Everyone likes a cocktail that's also a snack. And why would I stir my drinks with a piece of plastic or wood when a piece of bacon can do the job?
Beginning in the late 1800s and continuing up until Prohibition, bar owners and commercial producers began to tinker with the basic recipe of cherries in maraschino. Other boozes were substituted; easier-to-find (and cheaper) cherries were swapped in. The process of eliminating the liqueur from the recipe began well before Prohibition, probably as a cost-saving measure, but once the Great Experiment started, the use of liqueur was doomed, and the DayGlo orbs took over. But cocktail cherries are easy to make at home, and you might find that it's fun to tinker with the recipe, adjusting it to your tastes and needs.
You can think of this recipe as a template, and you can alter it according to your tastes.
Consider the Gibson. Cousin to the martini, its only distinguishing characteristic is the use of a cocktail onion as its garnish. A great cocktail onion is crisp and carries a hint of other flavors, beyond just the piquant onion. Cocktail onions, being small, are generally sweeter and less bracing than their full-sized counterparts. When you buy cocktail onions in the store, you have several choices. But many of them include additives and preservatives that would embalm a horse.
This recipe is adapted from a recipe that Todd Thrasher provided to Imbibe magazine. I've added lime zest and fresh thyme, both of which work well in cocktails. The result is a bright, citrusy onion that tastes fantastic in a Gibson.
In Cocktail Land, there are two basic types of garnish: there's the functional garnish, and then there's the decorative garnish. The functional garnish adds flavor to a cocktail—a lemon twist or a flamed orange peel, for example. The decorative garnish is more for show. Sure, it might add a small amount of flavor, but that's not its reason to be there. Mainly, it provides visual appeal and a bit of fun. A few simple elements can add some visual pop and maybe a hint of aroma and flavor. Let's look at some good options.
Candied citrus zest makes a lovely garnish for summer desserts. It also makes a damn fine addition to summer cocktails, and is the secret ingredient in my rosemary lemonade cake.
Most guides will tell you that the way to rim a glass is to take it, turn it upside down, dunk it in liquid, and then dip it in salt, sugar, or whatever. Of course you can do that. But because you know old Dietsch to be a cranky man of opinion, you can probably predict I'm going to advise you not to.
The flamed orange twist ranks among the most spectacular techniques in a bartender's bag of tricks. At a crowded bar, a quick burst of flame always turns heads and sparks conversation, but it's no less an exhibition at home, when you're serving a cocktail to a guest. Today, I conclude my a-peel-ing miniseries on citrus-twist garnishes by showing you how.
Here are few more ways to prepare a citrus peel garnish for your homemade cocktails. This week you'll master the rustic swath and the dainty spiral.
As cocktail garnishes go, the citrus twist may be easy to demonstrate and simple to understand, but it deserves its place in the cocktailian's basic toolkit for two important reasons: aroma, primarily, but also flavor.
Though beloved by small children (and the occasional grown-up) when dropped atop a sundae, maraschino cherries have developed a reputation as a nuisance to many cocktail drinkers. The bright red orb certainly looks attractive while resting at the bottom of a Manhattan or an Old Fashioned, but the whole corn-syrup, FD&C Red #40, industrial fakery of the garnish is utterly unappetizing for many.