Garnish Art

In the tradition of Art Basel, here’s a miniature manual to make sure your drinks look as good as they taste — no matter what the occasion.
Text by Ryan Jarrell | May 15, 2018 | Lifestyle

The drink sent me reeling. And not in the way we all love. My Bloody Mary was a weekly tradition, a ritualized way to toss aside the oh-so-fashionable nervous tic I ceaselessly sported after a grueling week, but what sat in front of me just seemed…wrong. Sure, there was a healthful dollop of my favorite import vodka, of course it bore the signature crimson of quality tomato juice and Texas Pete, but it seemed off, symmetrically dissonant, as if it would slide right off the bar top. That’s when it hit me: no celery. A Bloody Mary simply wasn’t without that signature verdant stalk. Garnishes, although often tossed upon premium cocktails with an afterthought, have the ability to make or break a drink’s core artistry. First, the basics: Any home bar worth its salted rim should have a certain small selection of classic garnishes. These include olives and onions for martinis, a few sprigs of mint, a small lemon, a lime and kosher salt for everyone’s favorite Mexican quaff. An expressive garnish that looks impressive but is incredibly easy is the citrus twist. To make it, simply select your favorite citrus fruit and with a sharp paring knife cut a thin, elongated oval out of the skin. Twist the skin over your drink, making sure to empty out the citrus oil and run the peel along the rim of the glass. Place upon your drink for an added visual zest, and Instagram-worthy photo opps. After all, a garnish doesn’t have to be edible to be incredible. A dainty umbrella or plastic sword can add a whimsical umph to your lackluster liqueur. Beachside resorts and poolside bars around the world swear by it.

Ice, Ice, Baby
Ice is an essential ingredient in almost every cocktail, so why limit yourself to the hum-drum cubes that reluctantly clunk out of your refrigerator’s ice machine? Besides being incredibly easy to prepare, these dashes of sub-zero suave can be formulated whole months in advance of a crucial cocktail party. Adding herbs to your ice tray can add an interesting visual counterpoint to an otherwise standard mixed drink. Another easy way to spice up your ice is freezing fruit juice or other more viscous substances, such as herbs and spices. As the night wears on, the drink is mellowed by the adulterant. For a final trick, try doing both. Grind up some of a drink’s signature herbs, infuse it with an appropriate fruit juice, freeze, and you have a textured drink addendum that keeps on giving with every sip.