Garnishes: How to up your cocktail making game

Many classic cocktails are not complete without a garnish—be it a citrus twist on the lip of a French 75 flute, or a maraschino cherry at the bottom of a Manhattan. Garnishes can add an essential flavour to a drink, or an aesthetic element; and often provide both. Here we describe how to make simple yet stylish garnishes for your cocktails at home.

 

 

With a twist

Using a small, sharp knife, remove a band of citrus peel from the circumference of your fruit. Next, trim along the lengths so that you have a long clean rectangle, as thick or thin as you prefer. Twist the strip of peel tightly around a straw, a swizzle stick, or stirrer to form a tight curl—as you’re doing so, allow any oils being expressed from the citrus skin to drop into your drink (this oil is intense and fragrant, don’t waste it!). Remove from the straw, and place the twist delicately over the rim of your glass (Hint: a specialty channel knife will cut an exact strip of peel every time)

A lemon twist perfectly sets off a Cosmopolitan and prohibition-era cocktails like the Boulevardier

 

Citrus zest

Cut off a wide piece of citrus peel with a knife, removing as little of the pith as possible. Hold the peel between your fingers to warm it, counting to twenty. Next, squeeze the peel to release the citrus oils and rub those oils around the edge of the glass. Place the peel down into the glass before pouring in you cocktail, to get more mileage out of the oils (Hint: try a vegetable peeler instead of a knife for easy peeling)

Orange zest is an important accompaniment to the Sazerac and the Negroni. Try grapefruit for a slightly different flavour profile

 

Aromatics

This technique is good for any delicate herbs, such as basil or mint. Place the herb sprig in the palm of one hand and slap your other hand on top, making a loud clap. The impact will burst the volatile oil in the herbs and release their aroma for added flavour

(Hint: when it’s cocktail time, keep your fresh herbs in a glass of water so they stay full of bloom and unwilted)

Mint is essential for Mint Juleps and Mojitos, and great in a Moscow Mule. Try fresh sage in a Tequila Smash, or fresh rosemary in your Pimm’s. Basil adds an interesting note to gin-based cocktails such as the Gimlet

 

Salt & Sweet Rims

Use citrus juice or a simple syrup as your liquid for attaching a sugar rim; use citrus as your liquid for a salt rim. Take a slice of lime and coat the outside of the glass rim with juice from the cut fruit. Slowly run the glass rim around in a shallow dish filled with coarse salt or sugar. Rimming only the outer-lip of the glass keeps salt from falling into the drink where it would concentrate at the bottom and ruin those last sips (Hint: add chili powder to any salt or sugar rim for a spicy kick)

Don’t skip on the salt rim around your Margarita

 

Edibles

Olives, cherries, berries and more—simply drop them in your drink, or use a skewer placed into the glass or resting on the rim. An unbreakable rule is to add either 1 or 3 garnishes: two olives in your Martini is bad luck, and the sign of newbie bartender. If you’re using quality alcohol, don’t skimp on the quality of your garnish ingredients

Try bourbon-soaked cherries with a Whiskey Sour, or add blackberries to a summery G&T