The Best Kind of Garnish? A Functional Garnish

Nov. 7, 2018


A good cocktail garnish is much more than decoration.

“Garnishes should be functional,” said Dan Dufek, Breakthru Wisconsin Beverage Development Specialist. “The garnish should have an aromatic or flavor component that ties into the cocktail and reinforces the flavor that is already there by adding another layer of complexity.”

For instance, to make a top-quality Mint Julep, not only are you going to use fresh mint for muddling while you build the cocktail, but you are also going to garnish the cocktail with even more fresh mint.

Dufek detailed some key tips to consider if you are getting serious about taking your garnish game to the next level.

1) Stay Fresh

Dan Dufek: I’m a big fan of fresh herbs for garnishes. It’s so eye-catching and it signals to the customer your commitment to freshness in your drink program. It’s definitely more work, but the effort is appreciated. If someone walks into a bar and sees a container of fresh leaves or mint on the bar, they know they’re about to order an incredible cocktail.

2) Color is Key

Color contrast in a cocktail is great and really pops on the bar. If the drink is red, garnishing it with an orange wheel or a lemon wheel really plays off the drink well.

3) Create an Atmosphere

Aromatic garnishes like nutmeg or cinnamon should always be grated fresh on top of a cocktail instead of using packaged ground spices. You just miss out on the great visual impact when you don’t grate it yourself. Again, it’s more effort but it’s a great layer of excitement for the customer. Plus, grating gives off delicious aromatics that makes the cocktail even more memorable.

4) Be Accessible

Storing garnishes is different for each one, but for any bar program to be as efficient as possible, you need to set up a bar where all garnishes are easily accessible for the bartender. I’m talking about within an arm’s reach. Have them displayed on the bar top for added scenery. Whenever a bartender has to turn their back and walk away to the fridge for a garnish, it’s not a great look.

5) Show Off

So, you have your garnish game down and you’ve made a beautiful cocktail. Show it off! Take photos of your cocktails and promote them on your website and social media pages so you can give potential customers a taste of what your bar program has to offer.

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