Like the saying from the musical "Annie", "You're never fully dressed without a smile," a cocktail often feels incomplete without that last little bit of careful attention - the garnish. A lot of thought goes into the garnish, such as how it adds to or compliments the aroma and flavor of the drink, and how the recipient will utilize it. A lime wheel might be pretty but a wedge is actually functional. Garnishes should be practical as well as pretty, too. A busy bar will grind to a halt if the bartenders are making intricate, elaborate garnishes for every drink. So obviously there has to be a balance.
On the other hand, I have been known to throw these rules out the window and create fanciful, whimsical garnishes out of multicolored citrus peels. These fun and funny creations have caught the eye of a few people more than once, and I am often asked how I do it. So here's a brief tutorial on my process.
Start out with fresh citrus. Whatever color palette catches your fancy.
For large swaths of peel, cut sharply off the fruit with a knife, then scrape off the pith to make the peels more pliable.
I always start out with a drawing to guide the creation. A fine, sharp scissor is a secret weapon.
Meyer lemon peels are incredibly soft and malleable - great for eliciting movement:
The body is taking shape ...
Using separate sections as well is a great way to adjust movement and get things "just right".
The old fashioned "Y-peeler" is a go-to tool, a must have for any bar.
Finally, little details go a long way.
Brandied cherries make perfect little heads! Bamboo skewers help to stabilize the garnish and prop it up for the presentation.
And ... viola! This is the "Shoomaker", a Gin Ricky variation (the Gin Ricky was invented at Shoomaker's Bar in Washington, DC).
Check out the history of this cocktail and some other tomfoolery at:
Boxes and Booze: Roll With It