I hear from a lot of people that cocktails by myself and other booze bloggers can be intimidating to make because they’re too hard or require to many ingredients or take to long to make. I won’t lie... making craft cocktails takes a lot longer than simply cracking a beer and takes more in your liquor cabinet than vodka and a jug of cranberry juice. BUT, I promise it’s not as hard as it looks.
One very easy way to elevate your cocktails is to have a strong garnish game. Cocktail garnishes range from a simple lemon wedge to flames and everything in between. There are actually some very easy way to step up your garnishes and make them look high class without having to put in a ton of extra work. Even by adding a garnish to a simple spirit and mixer drink you’re already standing above the crowd.
SO you may be asking yourself how can I do this?? Well here’s how:
Start with what you have in your fridge great garnishes can be made with almost ANY type of fruit. Lemons, limes, cranberries, pomegranate seeds, apples, oranges, strawberries… the list goes on and on. Then turn to your garden basil, mint, rosemary, thyme, are all fantastic in drinks! And no need to worry - if you don’t have a garden or don’t have these planted, all of these herbs can be found packed at your local grocery store. The last thing you want to look into is what you have available to rim a glass - salt, sugar, crushed cookie… anything that would pair well with your drink. The key with rimming a glass is it needs to be purposeful and blend well with your drink. For example adding a crushed graham cracker rim to a gin and tonic… but adding it to a pumpkin pie martini? Delicious!
Once you’ve got your possibilities in front of you it’s time to get creative. Below are some ideas but the possibilities are endless!!
You can start with a simple lemon wedge and by cutting stripes around it and then cutting a slice. It makes your lemon wheel pop a bit more than usual because of the grooves. It actually somewhat takes on the shape of a flower! I also rimmed the glass with sugar as is customary for a Lemon Drop Martini.
This next one was really fun to do and not nearly as hard as you might think! To make a strawberry rose all you have to do is find a large strawberry and then using a sharp knife cut little notches along the sides. You will want to alternate your notches so that the slits rotate around the strawberry giving the illusion of petals. After each cut, use your knife to gently pull the freshly cut piece of strawberry away from the berry core. This open up the “petals” and makes it look more like a rose than a chopped up berry. Keep cutting until you reach the top. Once you have your berry looking how you want you’ll need a garnish pick in order to place it on your drink!
My favorite set of garnish picks came from Art Studio 212. Her cocktail picks are handcrafted and use beautiful beads which really add to the presentation of the cocktail. My set are silver and grey because I like the neutrality of them - they pretty much go with anything!! However, she makes them in all different colors and has themed ones too! How fun would it be to use her themed ones for a holiday event? I also love that each one is a little different. Even though all of mine are grey and silver you can see from the various images in this post that they are all a little unique!
Drying out fruit is also really easy! All you have to do is slice it up and then put it in the oven. I set my oven to 350 and my orange slices were in there about 45 minutes. Every 10 minutes or so I would flip them over to get them nice and evenly dried out and to avoid burning. Watching your fruit carefully is important as this isn’t an exact science. A plus to this garnish is it can be done hours, days, weeks in advance! Essentially what you’re doing is making potpourri so it will last. I make a giant batch and then have them on hand for whenever I might need - doesn’t get much easier than that! I placed mine on the edge of my drink balancing it on the ice and glass rim. You can also put a spring of rosemary through the center for an added elegance! Another fun way to display dried garnishes is to use a very tiny paperclip to attach it to the side of the glass.... I'm still on the hunt for a perfect size clip so if you have suggestions please send them my way!
Sugar can be used in multiple ways! As I stated with the lemon drop you can use it to rim a glass, but you can also coat fruit in it! Here I covered cranberries in sugar to give them a frosty “gum drop” look. Then I put them on my Studio 212 pick and simply placed across the glass. You can also melt sugar down to candy fruit. To do this just mix two cups of sugar with one cup of water and simmer in a sauce pan on the stove. Put your fruit slices in and let them simmer on low for about 20-30 minutes. To avoid burning make sure you keep an eye on your sugar and turn your fruit every few minutes. Then let them dry on a coated piece of wax paper! The candied fruit will look like stained glass and is beautiful! I love doing with with lemons and oranges but limes would work as well! Blood oranges would have a beautiful deep color too. Again I skewered mine and simply stuck the pick in the drink.
This is yet again another easy fast way to elevate your drinks, however as I mentioned, it needs to be purposeful. You don’t want to rim them with just anything - but you do want to think outside the box! For my below Candy Corn Halloween Martini I used purple sugar rather than just white to give it an extra halloween twist. I used crushed graham cracker cookie for the middle pumpkin pie martini and the Jolly Pumpkin Tavern used black lava salt for my blood orange margarita rather than just regular salt. Finding ways to have fun and be creative with rimmed glasses is a blast… as long as it makes sense!
These can also be known as a “Twist”. You often see them in old fashions or you might hear something like “Vodka on the rocks with a twist”… this just means the peel of the fruit twisted to let out it’s essence and oils into the drink and add slight flavor. Another fun way to play with twists it to take it very literally. Rolling up the orange peel into a tight spiral and skewering it with a cocktail pick takes 30 seconds and looks beautiful. Twists on garnish picks are a great way to be super creative and are extremely hard to mess up!
Overall, garnishes are a fun way to elevate any cocktail - from the most complex to a simple gin and tonic. Play around and find what you like most! Don't be afraid to think outside the box and try new things and definitely get yourself a pair of cocktail picks because they open up the doors of possibility SO MUCH MORE than without them. If you have some fun ideas you want to bounce off me I would love that! Shoot me a message or DM me on my Instagram page!