Do you garnish your cocktails with the same wedge of lime or orange wheel, curl, peel or twist? The same olives and cocktail onions? The same notched strawberry on the rim? The standard celery stick in a Bloody Mary?
Expand your garnish horizons. Presentation is everything; and while no one would turn away an ungarnished cocktail, clever garnishing makes it that much more appealing.
Today we take on general garnishes. Tomorrow: glass rims. After that: holiday garnishes.
Don’t hesitate to combine two or three garnishes. Simply skewer them with a cocktail pick or toothpick (photos #2 and #4). Cocktail picks turn the garnish into a mini-bite.
Make everything edible. Raw cranberries may be seasonal, star anise may look great, but no one can eat them. They just get thrown away.
Consider cocktail drinking straws as an optional holder for the garnish (photo #1).
Pair the flavor to the drink. A piece of gourmet licorice may be great with an anisette-based cocktail or even a Martini, but not much else.
Contrast the color. The garnish should stand out from the drink.
And while it doesn’t need to be said, we’re saying it:
LIST OF COCKTAIL GARNISHES
We’ve been playing with different ideas for years. Here’s our master list (and we don’t claim that it’s all-inclusive):
Apples, pears: fresh slices, dried chips on a pick or straw.
Berries: on a pick, on a rosemary sprig “pick,” on a lemon wheel, with a basil leaf.
Candy: cotton candy, gummies, licorice, caramel or plain popcorn, toasted marshmallows, served on a pick.
Chiles: A whole chile looks pretty in the glass, but a slice of chile is more likely to be eaten.
Citrus: Make citrus garnishes more special by combining them with a fruit, herb or both.
Foam: If you use foams in cooking, use them in cocktails. Here’s a video.
Grapes and currants: Grapes on a pick (mix the colors?) are a tasty snack. A small cluster of currants (a.k.a. “champagne grapes”) can be draped over the rim. Some currants are too tart to eat: Taste one before buying.
Meat: bacon (plain or candied), jerky, ham cubes, turkey breast cubes. Pair cubes on a pick with olives or a gherkin.
Melon balls: These may be more appropriate for summer cocktails. They look their best when different varieties (cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon) are combined on a pick.
Other fruits: An avocado pick in a Martini? A quarter of a fig? Look around the produce department for inspiration.
Oil droplets: use a medicine dropper to add droplets of basil, chile or citrus oil to a cocktail (photo #3). They float on top and look great, while adding hits of flavor.
Pickles: There’s a vast choice of pickled vegetables beyond cucumber pickles. You can pickle your own, or check out our favorite line, Tillen Farms. Consider packing a pick with a selection: caperberry, cocktail onion, dilly bean, gherkin, peperoncini, peppadew, pickled jalapeño and their friends, the grape tomato and the olive.
Tropical fruit: Pineapple chunks on a pick, spears or wedges; starfruit (carambola) on a rim, aren’t used often enough. But guava, kiwi, mango, papaya slices or cubes and pomegranate arils make an even more colorful showing.
Spices: We don’t like to waste food if we can help it, so we don’t stud citrus with cloves or use cinnamon stick garnishes. An alternative: dip citrus or other garnish in chile powder or flakes, chives, dill, thyme, etc. Or grate cinnamon or nutmeg over the top of the cocktail.
Vegetables: baby corn, carrot curls, cucumber ribbons (photo #4), fennel spears, florets (broccoli, cauliflower), pea pods, spears of grape tomatoes in different colors (you can roll them in dried or minced herbs), water chestnuts…the list goes on and on. We love to use microgreens: unexpected and very tasty.
Have we left off your favorite? Let us know.
Tomorrow: glass rimmers.
 Use a pick or a straw to present garnishes as “bites.” Here, apple chips (photo courtesy Olmstead Restaurant | NYC).
 Pair tasty combinations; here, mango and jalapeño (photo courtesy Tanqueray | Facebook).
 Oil droplets add panache and flavor (photo courtesy Kindred Restaurant | NYC).
 Combine two or three different items; here, a cucumber ribbon and grapes (photo Oscar Wilde Restaurant | NYC).
 Create mini hors d’oeuvre on a pick (photo courtesy Crate And Barrel.