There was a time when big, bold – okay let’s not beat around the bush here – in-your-face garnishes were the epitome of naff. Those twirly, girly umbrellas, citrus twists that looked like they’d exploded from a party popper and lurid-coloured straws weren’t for discerning drinkers – in fact, if you had any pride you’d run a mile from them. They were for Del Boy and Tom Cruise doing his bit in Cocktail.
Fast forward 20 or so years and garnishes are back. And this time they’re serious. You see them adding an artistic flourish to the glassware at some of the swankiest bars around – we’re talking everywhere from smart speakeasies in east London to award-winning five-star hotels.
Marian Beke does a grand job at Nightjar in Old Street. Making a feature of everything from intricate origami birds through to dried star fish and mini pineapples his decorative flourishes are truly a work of art. Then there’s JJ Goodman at the London Cocktail Club. Here the ‘extras’ are on the fun, foodie side: a slice of crispy bacon here, a Custard Cream biscuit there – even pieces of toast adorn the cocktails at his two good times bars in central London.
Alex Kratena and the team at Artesian at The Langham do extremely good garnishes. As well as flowers, toasted fruit and sugar balls – don’t be surprised to find an alligator’s skull or a full-sized sombrero providing a playful sub plot to the genius cocktails on the menu in this award-winning bar.
Obviously, we’re not saying you should brush up on your origami skills or start playing around with dried fish (although if that rocks your boat, why not?) but you can give your cocktails more character by thinking about your garnish. Take your cue from bars such as Bassoon where the citrus twists are cut to resemble birds taking flight, perched on the side of your glass. Or, keep it simple and say it with flowers.
Edible petals are a nice way to add colour and interest to your glass. Find a good selection at Uncle Roy’s. For something a bit more dramatic, seek out the wild hibiscus buds from Lakeland. Add one to your glass, spoon in some of the syrup and top with Prosecco or Champagne and wait for the petals to unfurl. Or try dressing up your cocktails with a sprinkling of gold or silver leaf, if bling is your thing. Find edible dust and flakes at Sous Chef.
The Cocktail Lovers say:
Adding a final flourish to your dry martini with a lemon twist adds aroma as well as visual appeal. Cut a thick piece of peel, avoiding the bitter white pith, then point the skin towards the surface of the drink and give it a firm squeeze to release the oils. Drop it in and you’re good to go.
This week we’re loving:
Cocktails in the sky onboard Virgin Upper Class flights to New York. Sit at the custom-made bar and watch as your Martini or Negroni is mixed to your exact requirements – now if that isn’t the height of decadence, we don’t know what is.
Written for The Independent Dish of the Day blog 13/3/2013