Ahh the garnish, one of the most lively parts of any cocktail, dish, or dessert. But why is it there? The dish is still steak without the chives on top. The Moscow Mule is still a Moscow Mule in a red solo cup instead of a tin mug.
Yes, this is all true. But there are many aspects to garnishes. Some enhance the flavor, others are just for the look. So let's dive in!
The most obvious reason for adding a garnish to your drink is for flare, excitement, aesthetics, and something you can't get at home. When the bartender makes your drink in front of you and draws a pretty design with bitters, or adds mint and lime to your mojito, it's not quite presented the same way as it would be at home. Aesthetics make the drink more desirable by other potential customers and onlookers, or just give you a better reason to promote the product as a consumer. So it's important, especially for specialty cocktails at a bar, that your drink is aesthetically pleasing, with a lovely garnish. #ForTheGram
Another important aspect of the garnish is the addition of flavor it might bring. For example, the classic Gin and Tonic will rarely be served without a lime wedge. Simply put, the lime enhances the citrus in the tonic and opens up potentially intriguing components in the gin (assuming the gin is quality gin of course!) for the consumer. Other types of flavor enhancing garnishes include the orange peels in an Old Fashioned, the cucumber in a Spring Fling (Eastside), the lemon in a Long Island Iced Tea, the olive in a Martini, and of course the bitters atop a whiskey sour.
The last reason for a garnish is tradition. Tradition might be a combination of aesthetics and flavor enhancing capabilities, or it might just be because that's how the original cocktail crafter made it. For example, the Tom Collins drink, a gin based drink with soda water and lemonade OR seven up, is ALWAYS garnished with a lemon or lime half wheel and a cherry. Does it enhance the flavors of the drink, not necessarily...but in some ways, yes. Is it aesthetically pleasing? Sure! So some drinks just have a traditional garnish which bartenders continue to use when they make those drinks.
I hope I could teach you a little something about garnishes and what their importance is to the drink. Maybe try making your own garnishes at home! They're easy to create with fruity drinks. The best fruits and small foods to use for garnishes are as follows:
- Maraschino Cherries
- Stuffed Olives (usually with red pepper)
- Edible Flowers
And many more!
Grab a few tooth pics and mini skewers and get cutting!