…with a cherry–soaked in liqueur–on top. Or with an olive–stuffed with blue cheese–on the bottom. Savvy operators know they can create a niche with creative cocktail garnishes that catch the eye and tickle the taste buds.
Kahunaville spices up its cocktails with extreme presentation.
So, is the garnish on a cocktail really so important?
“Are you kidding?” exclaims Dale DeGroff, the cocktail expert who, for many years, ran the bar at the Rainbow Room, New York City. “One single garnish almost created a career for me.”
DeGroff’s signature garnish is a twist on the twist, so to speak. As he squeezes the twist’s citrus oil into the cocktail, he flames it. “In the darkened bar, there would be this explosion of light,” he says. “It was a marvelous piece of theatricality. And flaming the twist added a caramelized orange flavor to the cocktail.”
Paul Harrington, the author of Cocktail: The Drinks Bible for the 21st Century, and the cyber-cocktail expert “The Alchemist,” (www.cocktail time.com), agrees wholeheartedly. “The garnish is very important,” he says. “It provides a visual accent. Like a woman wearing a hat, it makes the cocktail stand out in a crowd. And it also adds an additional level of flavor.”
Eat Your Drink
Restaurant and bar operations of all types and sizes have seized upon the idea of creating unique garnishes for their cocktails. It seems even the fanciset concoction must be further gilded these days. At the Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas, for instance, the white chocolate Martini sports a triangular piece of white chocolate that itself has been drizzled with dark chocolate.
At Barramundi in New York City, the signature Lower Manhattan displays dried bing cherries that have been soaked in sweet vermouth. (The resulting cherry-infused vermouth is used, along with George Dickel bourbon, to make the drink.) In Chicago, the same dried cherries may be brandy- or bourbon-soaked before use.
Janet Torelli’s martnipics avbailable at martinipic.com
At Seattle’s Andaluca, a popular Martini is finished with a few drops of an edible gold dust more often used to decorate cakes. “It gives it a lava-lamp look,” says Kathy Casey, the Seattle-based food & drink designer who created it. But new ideas needn’t be so elaborate: at SF’s St. Francis Hotel offers the Dot.Com, a recent green-hued creation dotted with one fresh blueberry. Simple, yet elegant.
Meanwhile, at Gramercy Tavern in New York, a signature cocktail called the Rosmarino (a martini made with rosemary-infused vodka) is garnished with caperberries. (Capers are the flower buds of the caper bush, caperberries are its fruit.) Across the country in Las Vegas, the Rio Suites serves their Sour Apple Martini with a piece of Granny Smith apple suspended in the middle of the glass.
At Fat Mama’s Tamales in Natchez, MS, the Knock-You-Naked Margarita is dressed up with multi-colored tinsel-topped stirrers. And at the Bloody Mary bar at Hoghead McDunna’s in Chicago, guests are given skewers loaded with almost every conceivable garnish for their Bloody Mary, including two types of cheese (swiss and mozzarella), salami, pickles, radishes, three types of peppers (red and green bells as well as pepperoncini, a tiny pickled variety) and, of course, celery. (It’s almost every conceivable garnish because customers can conceive of adding just about anything. DeGroff reports that he has been asked to garnish the cocktail with oysters and clams, while Steve Montgomery, owner of Starboard in Dewey Beach, DE, says of the garnishes on his Bloody bar, “People throw it all in. It’s like breakfast for them.”)