A single olive submerged in a glass of martini, a lemon wedge sitting poised on the rim of a tall glass, a curl of lime leaning on the side or a few botanical leaves floating atop the surface.. a carefully crafted cocktail experience waiting to be sipped.
But do you ever wonder what role a garnish really has in drinks and cocktails? Is it just about the presentation or does it serve any other purpose? Does a drink even need a garnish?
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If we had to draw an analogy, we could compare it to the fruit cherry that is often placed atop cakes. A cake is alright by itself, but a little cherry on top makes it look prettier and well, tastier too. Besides, who doesn’t like gram-worthy preparation?
A garnish in cocktails and drinks is like in the case with food, most often it is used as a decoration or an embellishment. It is also defined as “an ornamental item that adds appeal to a cocktail.”
But TBH, this is more like a textbook definition, because when brought to life, a garnish is much more than that. Enhancing the visual appeal is indeed one celebrated reason why a garnish is used. However, beauty and presentation are not the only purposes it serves in our cocktails and drinks.
A garnish serves many purposes. In bars, they are a way of displaying creativity and adding some theatrics to the drinking experience. They also act as visual cues to what the drink is about and what flavours it contains. Apart from this, garnishes also make a drink look fresh and appealing, carefully-crafted, which increases its perceived worth and appreciation by a customer. If you’re given a glass of brown liquid in a glass or one in a highball glass with perhaps a sprig of herbs, or some other garnish atop or in the mix, what would you choose? Which one would you pay more for?
Now, you could say that it really depends on the taste of the drink. Absolutely! And garnishes few people might not believe, also act as flavour enhancers as well as add to the aroma. Garnishes are a great way to bring in a subtle balance of the drink, and when used craftily carefully can even add a whole new dimension to the drink. A garnish is beneficial in adding a final touch to the drink and tie the flavours together or give a contrasting flavour.
A good garnish is capable of doing many things to you. It can hit the chord with any of your senses – the sense of smell, sense of taste, and ofcourse needless to say, the sense of sight if it’s a pretty one. As part of the drink, it can subtly but evocatively work to engage all your senses, cueing you to first feast the drink with your eyes, then proceed to play with your olfactory sense as you sip and then lead you to enjoy its playful flavours on your palate. It’s the whole drinking experience that gets transformed from ordinary one dimensional to memorable and savoury just with this simple addition. You have to experience it and you’ll know it.
The Garnish game
The game is simple. A garnish to a drink may be small or big, submerged and mixed in the drink or placed atop, it can even be edible or inedible. As such it may be simple or extravagant and elaborate, afterall, there are no rules to creativity! The only rule is – it shouldn’t overpower the drink but work to subtly enhance it.
So how should a garnish be? That is up to you how you like your drink. If you like your drink flavours balanced, subtle garnishes that add a little aroma and slight flavour are best. If you like zesty flavours and contrasting notes, floral, citrusy garnishes, in the mix, would please you. Some drinks are good sans garnish altogether.
At the bar, if you have preferences, convey them to your bartender. And let them curate the drink for you. Trust their creativity and instincts, sit back and enjoy.
When you’re making your own drinks at home, you have all the liberty to let your creativity flow and experiment with different garnishes to elevate your drinks.
Want to make your DIY drinks look and taste wow?
If you desire to try your hands at it, let’s help you with a few garnishes that you can store and use in your home bar to make some really cool DIY cocktails and DIY mocktails. Here you go –
Garnishes for DIY cocktails and DIY mocktails
Most popular and also the most readily available (there’s always lemon in the kitchen! ) Lemon Zest, the thin colourful outer peel of the skin is a classic cocktail garnish that pairs with almost everything from vodka, tequila, white rum to even whiskey.
A little sweet, a little sour, orange zest is a classic old fashioned choice! This simple and subtle citrus garnish gently contrasts the heavy flavours of cocktail drinks to make them savoury.
Wonderful sight always to see cucumber slices and curls in the clear drinks! Cucumbers, also readily available, just like vodka in our bars, add a freshness to the drinks. Apart from classic G&Ts, they can even go into your mojitos.
Mojito staple, Mint leaves are a versatile herb that make excellent garnishes in drinks – muddled or unmuddled.
A gentle muddle can add freshness of flavour and aroma to the drink that uplifts your senses. Slightly sweet and peppery tones are a great pairing with tequila, Gin. They are easily available in India.
If you can get your hands on rosemary, it’s perfect to add the botanical touch and herbal flavour.
Infusion of floral aroma and flavour, lavender is the perfect finish to botanical spirits like gin.
Cinnamon sticks from your spice cabinet are whiskeys mate and pair well with warm liqueurs.
Cherries, strawberries, and all the very tasty fruits like pineapples, passionfruit you can always add to your sangrias and punches in loads.
To master the art of making great drinks, you don’t have to be an expert mixologist or cocktologist. All you need is the right ingredients for prep and finish! Now that you know what garnishes you can use and with what, go make yourself some amazing drinks!
To make your DIY cocktail mocktail experience at home even more easier, we have one more thing you might need – tasty premix flavours to add to them spirits! Head over to our shop at SWA Artisanal Syrups to see our range of herbal natural syrups, made from fresh fruits, herbs and spices, locally sourced and completely preservative-free.
Just add them to your glass along with water/club soda/ or spirit, whichever you prefer, give it a mix and a refreshing drink bursting with fruity flavour is ready! Top with some garnish and taste heaven!
Handmade by our skilled team of women, they are crafted to make your drinking experience ahhmazing! Buy them here.