Guide to Garnishes
CREATIVE MULES SERIES
Welcome to the third and final week of our Creative Mules Series, Guide to Garnishes! Let’s quickly recap. The first week, we talked all about How to Make Infused Vodka. Then last week we dove into making our own Flavored Simple Syrups. If that’s not already a great start to making your own Creative Mules, today’s post is all about how to create the perfect garnishes to make your mule look just as stunning as it tastes. Let’s dive in!
Although there are endless possibilities for cocktail garnishes, there are a few ingredients and techniques that you’ll come across more often than not, so today we’re going to focus on those. Specifically, we’ll be talking about twists, wedges, vegetables, freshly grated whole spices and rimming.
Twists are both a fun way to add a little extra flavor to your drink and make it look like it was crafted by a professional mixologist. Most commonly made with the peels of citrus fruits — not the white piths — the act of creating the twist by bending the peel in a circular motion doubles as a flavoring agent by expressing some of the peel’s oils into the cocktail.
Here’s how to make a twist:
- Using a vegetable or bar peeler, peel as long of a strip as possible from your chosen citrus fruit. It doesn’t have to be too wide, a quarter- to a half-inch. However, if it’s easier for you to peel it in a thicker strip, you can do so and just trim the width with a paring knife after the fact. Keep in mind that you just want the peel, not the bitter white pith.
- Using your fingers, carefully twist the peeled strip in a circular motion to form a spiral. Hold in a tight spiral for a few seconds and then release. You should now have a pretty twist!
- Prepare your cocktail as desired in your copper mug, then rub the twist around the rim of the mug.
- Hang the twist from the edge of your copper mug and enjoy!
- If you really want to get fancy, you can use two different citrus twists to add that extra flavor and additional color to the drink.
Wedges are probably the easiest garnish to master, and have great functionality as well. After all, if you’re served a cocktail with a wedge, you’ll most likely grab that wedge first thing and squeeze it into your drink for that extra hit of flavor. Like twists, wedge garnishes are typically made with citrus fruits, although you can also often find pineapple wedges gracing the rims of popular tiki drinks.
Here’s how to make a wedge:
- If you’re using a citrus fruit, first take the entire piece of fruit and roll it between your palm and a counter top or cutting board to help release the juices.
- Cut your desired piece of fruit into a wedge.
- Cut a small slit in the area of the wedge where you’ll want to place it on your copper mug.
- Prepare your cocktail as desired, then run the wedge, using the slit you created, around the rim of the mug.
- Place the wedge on the rim of the mug and serve.
Fresh herbs are a fun, easy way to make a cocktail look vibrant and lush. They add a beautiful scent and flavor to an already delicious drink and require next to no skill to make. You’ve most likely seen abundant sprigs of mint adorning our beloved mules, but other herbs such as fresh sage, rosemary or basil have also made their appearance on the cocktail scene. When using herbs as a garnish, always be sure they’re as fresh as possible for maximum impact (and the best-looking cocktail!)
Here’s how to garnish with fresh herbs:
- Find a healthy, hearty bunch of the freshest herbs possible. Pull a good-looking sprig from the bunch and rinse and pat dry with a paper towel.
- Give your sprig of herbs a nice slap with your hand to release the fragrances.
- Prepare your cocktail as desired, then add the sprig, nestling it into the ice on the side of the drink as you would a straw. Drink up!
Vegetable garnishes are typically used to adorn the likes of Bloody Mary’s and martini’s, although with today’s mixology trends you can find them as garnishes in a plentitude of cocktails. Any Bloody Mary lover will tell you it’s not a Bloody Mary without the signature stalk of celery, and the two camps of olive- or onion-garnished martini-lovers are starkly defined.
Here’s how to make vegetable garnishes:
- Because of the various shapes and sizes of vegetable garnishes, techniques can vary.
- If garnishing with a long, thin vegetable such as a stalk of celery or carrot, simply stick it in your finished cocktail like you would a straw.
- If garnishing with onion(s) or olive(s), you can either place them on a cocktail pick, especially if using them in a cocktail that is served over ice, or let them float freely in the glass (if you’re making a straight up martini, for example.)
Although it’s pretty rare to see whole spices garnishing a cocktail, bartenders and mixologists will often grate them over a drink to add an extra dimension of flavor. Some of the most common freshly grated whole spices include nutmeg, star anise and cardamom. They are a perfect addition to cocktails that feature an egg white foam or any sort of whipped cream. You’ve probably also seen a whole cinnamon stick peeking out of certain cool-weather drinks such as hot toddies.
Here’s how to garnish with whole spices:
- Prepare your cocktail as desired. Using a microplane, grate the whole spices over the top of the drink.
- It doesn’t take much freshly grated spice to add a huge punch of flavor, so exercise caution!
Most commonly seen in the form of salt gracing the edge of your margarita glass, rimming is a garnishing technique used in drinking establishments worldwide. It may seem like too much trouble at first, but once you break down the steps and realize how easy it is, you’ll see how it can truly transform a drink. In addition to salt, sugar is another common ingredient used for rimming.
Here’s how to rim a cocktail:
- You will first need two shallow, round dishes, one for the salt, sugar or other solid ingredient you’d like to rim your glass with and one for the liquid you will use to get this solid ingredient to stick (most frequently citrus juice or even just plain water.)
- Take the drinking vessel you are going to be using to make your cocktail and first dip it into the dish with the liquid, making sure the rim gets evenly coated.
- Next, dip the drinking vessel into the dish with the solid ingredient.
- Now your glass is ready for you to build your cocktail!
Although this is a very basic crash course in garnishes, you should now have all the tools you need to at least start venturing into the world of building your own Creative Mules. You’ll find that once you start experimenting with different flavor combinations, you won’t be able to stop!
For some ideas to get you started, be sure to check out our Mule of the Week series featuring mules from some of the best bartenders around the world.
Also, be sure to head over to Moscow Copper Co. for all the equipment you need to really step up your creative cocktail-making game.