A garnish is considered the “finishing touch” in the industry of consumption. Not only does it provide an extra sensory experience and aesthetic value, but it often serves to enhance the aromas and flavors of the drink. A common misconception for many bar owners, is that beer never gets garnished. In fact, you’d be surprised at how many are actually complemented by one.
Knowing how to properly garnish a drink in your bar, not only shows you know the flavor profiles of the drink, but care about “the look” as well. A garnish is so much more than a colorful umbrella. The following are the tools to use, common garnishes, and their general flavor pairings.
The first step to proper garnishing, is equipping your bar with the necessary tools. Some sets can range from 15 to 20 different types, but there are really only three main tools every bar should have:
- Paring Knife: Your most used tool of all, always make sure these are the sharpest in your toolbox. A dull knife can slow prep time, and is also a safety risk. This knife is ideal for cutting garnishes like lime wheels, or lemon wedges.
- Channel Knife: Recognized by it’s v-shaped blade, it’s used to turn citrus peels into artistic twists, by simply rolling it over the fruit of the skin. Be careful not to peel any rind, as this can affect the flavor of the drink.
- Grater/Zester: These are generally used with dessert garnishes, like nutmeg, chocolate, or orange zest.
Whether a garnish is speared, floated, or draped over the glass, certain drinks, get certain types.
- The Wheel: Made of lime, lemon, or orange, these garnishes sit atop a variety of drinks from margaritas, to craft beer
- The Twist: Typically citrus and made with a channel knife, these garnishes complement drinks like martinis.
- The Spear: Generally comprised of olives, spears are made after the drink is poured. They also can include items like pearl onions, or in some cases, even shrimp for a Bloody Mary.
- The Cherry: Usually this garnish comes in the Maraschino jar, but some crafty bars have used dried cherries instead. These can plop straight into a drink, like a Manhattan.
Once you have the proper tools stocked, and the side station prepped, the last thing to worry about is mixing the flavors. Although creativity in garnishing is often encouraged, you should know which flavors pair well, before experimenting.
- Citrus: This flavor should never be paired with any milk or cream based drinks.
- Orange complements Belgian whites, like Blue Moon.
- Lime goes with Spanish influenced beer, gin, vodka, and tequila.
- Lemon also pairs well with vodka-based drinks.
- Cherries: Although these go great with a Pina Colada, or even a stiff Manhattan, cherries should never be used in a standard martini.
- Mint: It always pairs well with rum. Especially when it’s muddled in a Mojito.
- Vegetables: Other than the obvious olive in a martini, vegetable garnishes tend to go with tomato-based drinks, like the Bloody Mary.
- Cinnamon/Coffee/Chocolate: These types of garnishes, are often grated over dessert cocktails, like a mudslide or chocolate martini.
The best rule of thumb when garnishing a new drink, if you are not sure, is to consider the overall theme of the drink. Use the primary ingredient to guide you. For instance, an Asian pear martini, can always be garnished with simply that….a pear.
Don’t be afraid to get creative. Inventing new drinks and flavor profiles, with an eye popping garnish, is sure to liven up any menu. Add a pickled bean to a Bloody Mary, or a mango spear to a new fruity drink. You can also use your knowledge of the craft beer flavors you have on tap, to even experiment with some beer pairings of your own.
Just be sure that if you invent the next latest craze, you use a company like TapHunter, to get the word out there. Just the click of a button on their easy dashboard, sends a shock wave of new flavor, through all of your social media channels. Before you know it, everyone will be talking about that new garnish pro in town!