The Cocktail Garnish

I’d like you to compare a perfectly built cocktail to a finely tuned orchestra for a minute. A little dramatic I know but there are a few different aspects to a cocktail that make it well rounded and complete. Enter the garnish, while some bartenders and mixologist have for many years hidden from creating impressive and unique garnishes, at the bare minimum a cocktail needs some component of a garnish to appeal to the eye. After we all we taste and with our eyes. While a garnish adds a decorative touch to a beverage, it should also provide flavors and aromas to compare, contrast, cut or compliment the final drink.

Using garnish to enhance the aroma a cocktail is a great way to transform a garnish from visually appealing to have some utilitarian values to your taste profile. A strategically placed garnishes can e enhances and completely alter the taste profile and overall experience you receive from a cocktail. Below I discuss three different methods to step your garnish gam up!

3 Techniques to Garnish Your Drink

  1. Citrus Twist: Cut or use a peeler to peel fruit length wise to width specification. Curl citrus of drink to enhance aroma and place in glass.
  2. Classics Toothpick: Use a toothpick to elegantly place different varietals of fruit like a shish kabob’. Using ingredients that were used to build the cocktail is a great plus.
  3. Rim: Enhance your cocktail by lightly soaking it in your desired citrus juice (many use lime juice) and apply salt, tahin or desired ground ingredient to enhance the mouth feel and initial taste of a cocktail.

Ornaments for cocktails. , YES!

Freshness Matters

Most recently you have seen a drastic shift in the cocktail industry to fresher, locally sourced and all natural ingredients. The growth is unparalleled to anything we have seen in the beverage industry for decades. The days of artificial sour and lime juice are gone and enter the world of fresh pressed juice and all natural ingredients in cocktails. Modern day bartenders and mixologist are making homemade juices, syrups and sodas to enhance the flavors of their cocktails. They are raising the bar for the national chain restaurant and bar to create healthier and more naturally flavored drinks. Needless to say there is a health benefit to drinking all natural juices and ingredients as well.

I for one am a huge advocate of fresh ingredients inside any culinary or beverage experience and advice any beverage manager or bar owner to look into this practice. Below I listed the top flavors of juices that are popular right now in order to help build cocktails to the needs of consumer demand.

U.S Fruit Beverage Ranking (Source: Beverage Marketing Corporation)

  1. Orange
  2. Blends
  3. Other
  4. Apple
  5. Grapefruit

Whether you have converted 100% to fresh ingredients or are slowly transition your bar into it, keep in mind that it is important to stay on-top of your freshness dates and codes. If you are not committed to ensuring your produce is fresh I highly encourage you to stay to pasteurized juices and sodas.

In a world of trends, fresh always win!

Classic Cocktails 101

Timeless is a word used to describe objects, people or events that are not affected by the change of time. As I look at the ever evolving world of creative mixology and barmanship, it occurred to me that there are so many timeless cocktails that should not be forgotten. While I highly encourage change and the progressive nature of the beverage industry, there’s an old soul inside of me that cannot let go of the dry martini that the likes of Frank Sinatra drank in the Las Vegas hay day. I have outlined what i think are the 5 most important classic cocktails that all beverage professionals and amateurs alike should know.

  • Dry Martini: Sometimes made with vodka, this is a classic, clear, and very strong cocktail. Serve chilled in (you guessed it) a martini glass.
    • ½ oz Dry Vermouth
    • 4 oz Gin
    • 2 Pimento-stuffed green Olives
    • Directions: Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Pour in the vermouth, followed closely by the gin. Shake while counting to 30. Divide into 2 cocktail glasses. Garnish with 1 olive each.

 

  • Manhattan: Similar to the martini, but with a touch of sweetness. This 100-year-old cocktail can also be made with bourbon. Serve in a martini glass or a short tumbler–always chilled.
    • 2 oz Rye Whiskey
    • ½ oz Sweet Vermouth
    • 1 dash Angostora bitters
    • 1 Maraschino cherry
    • Directions: Combine whiskey, vermouth, and bitters in a cocktail mixing class. Add ice and stir until chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

 

  • Bloody Mary: Usually served at breakfast or brunch, the Bloody Mary is easy to customize depending on how strong you like your drinks–and how much spice you can handle. Serve over ice in a tall glass with the vegetable garnish of your choice.
    • 4 oz tomato Juice
    • 1 ½ oz Vodka
    • ¼ Ounce fresh lemon juice
    • 4 dashes hot pepper sauce
    • 2 dashes Worchester sauce
    • 1 pinch of salt and pepper
    • Directions: Combine tomato juice, vodka, lemon juice, hot pepper sauce, Worcestershire sauce, salt, black pepper, and 1 cup ice in a mixing glass. Stir until chilled and strain into ice-filled pint glass or goblet.

 

  • Margarita: A sweet party drink that’s easy to make in batches. Blend in some fruit for extra flavor. You can serve in special rounded margarita glasses or whatever’s handy (serving in a mason jar is increasingly popular).
    • 1 – 6oz can frozen limeade concentrate
    • 6 oz Tequila
    • 2 oz triple sec
    • Directions: Fill blender with crushed ice. Pour in limeade concentrate, tequila and triple sec. Blend until smooth. Pour into glasses and serve.

 

  • Old Fashioned: A sweet, sophisticated cocktail that’s simple to make and goes down smooth. Serve over ice in a short tumbler (also known as an Old Fashioned glass).
    • Sugar cube
    • 1 teaspoon water
    • 1 dash bitters
    • 2 oz Whiskey
    • 1 lemon twist
    • I Orange slice
    • I maraschino cherry
    • Directions: Muddle sugar cube, water, and bitters in an old fashioned glass for 1 minute. Pour in whiskey and stir for an additional minute. Squeeze the lemon twist over the glass and drop it in. Add ice cubes. Garnish with a slice of orange and a maraschino cherry; serve with a swizzle stick.

3 Beer Cocktails, 2 Thumbs Up

While beer has widely been known to be mixed into great concoctions for decades, there is a new found romantic relationship with beer-tails. (The modern day version of your grandpa’s beer float) With the ever evolving world of beer, spirits and mixology it is not wonder how the beverage crowd has elevated the beer cocktail into a stratosphere that can hold its own on a modern day menu. With all of the IPA, stouts, lagers and variety of beer that are available I’m excited to share with you my favorite three recipes to impress your beer geek friends.

1). The Hungry Hungry Hipster

  • 2 ounces Zwack
  • 1 ounce fresh orange juice
  • 1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • Miller High Life, to top
  • Garnish: half orange wheel

DIRECTIONS

  1. Add the Zwack, orange juice, and lemon juice to a cocktail shaker.
  2. Add ice and shake until chilled.
  3. Strain over ice into a Collins glass, top with Miller High Life, and add the garnish.

2). Pimm’s Cup

  • 2 ounces Pimm’s No. 1
  • 1/2 ounce lemon juice
  • 1/4 ounce simple syrup (1:1, sugar:water)
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • soda water
  • Garnish: cucumber spear or slice, mint sprig, seasonal berries and citrus (optional)

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a Collins glass, add Pimm’s, lemon juice and simple syrup and stir.
  2. Add ice, top with soda water and bitters and stir gently to mix.
  3. Garnish lavishly like a flower arrangement with a cucumber slice, fresh mint sprig, berries, citrus and a pocket square.

3). Alstadt

  • 1 ounce Zirbenz Pine Liqueur (see Editor’s Note)
  • 1/2 ounce falernum
  • 1/2 ounce lime juice
  • 3 ounces lager, Vienna-style
  • Garnish: lime wheel and sprig of rosemary

DIRECTIONS

  1. Add pine liqueur, falernum and lime juice to a Collins glass.
  2. Add ice and top with lager.
  3. Garnish with a lime wheel and a sprig of rosemary.

*One artisanal beer a day keeps the doctor away.

hos·pi·tal·i·ty

The friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers and the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guest’s and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way. Well at least that’s the definition of hospitality. But how many times have you been at a restaurant or a bar and the experience is completely ruined because of the terrible service. In my opinion the atmosphere and service is as important as the quality of food or drinks an establishment has to offer. Understanding a few key factors to great service can separate you from the crowd.

In the world of Yelp and online reviews, bad service can be the catalyst for a business to fail. In order to remain hospitable, you have to constantly work on your craft and train your staff to treat people like it’s the last meal or drink they’ll ever have. I’ll discuss a few tactics I’ve learned along the way that can help you succeed in the ever competitive industry that is, hospitality.

  1. RESPECT all of your customers, yes! even the ones you don’t necessarily love.
  2. Consistency is the key to success. Train your staff on standards so customers have great experience every time they come in.
  3. Let your customers be heard. All comments, good or bad are building blocks to better your service.
  4. Value every customer as if it was your last.
  5. Lastly, and most simple. Treat customers how you want to be treated.

Defend, preserve and enhance your business!

In the Summer Time

So it’s hot out, like really hot. The kind of hot that makes everything you do unbearable and sweaty. Luckily, libations can help us enjoy the summer heat at your favorite pool, lake, beach or backyard a bit more. I introduce to you the 3 most important cocktails you will need to stay cool this summer.

While I am not here to re-create the wheel or earn a Presidential medal of freedom, I am going to break down how to easily make some great drinks to enjoy with your friends and family on a hot summer day as well as give you a quick back story so you can be the life of the party with your Snapple lid facts. So sit back relax, take out your blender and enjoy the ride as we navigate The Art of Thirst’s favorite summer drinks.

  1. The Margarita: The story of the origins of the margarita has many versions. Some say it was made by Tommy’s Place in 1942 and others say it was made by Margarita Sames for her guests in her Acapulco home in 1948, but the first known publication of the Margarita was in the Esquire magazine in December of 1953.
    • 5 oz Tequila
    • 1 oz Orange Liquer
    • .75 oz Fresh Lime Juice
    • .25 Simple Syrup or Agave Nectar
    • Lime Wheel for garnish
    • Kosher Salt for rim
  1. The Mojito: Havana Cuba, is the birthplace of the Mojito, although the exact origin of this classic cocktail is the subject of debate. One story traces the Mojito to a similar 16th century drink known as “El Draque”, after Sir Francis Drake.
    • 5 oz White Rum
    • 1 oz Sparkling Water
    • .75 oz Simple Syrup or Suger
    • .75 oz Fresh Lime Juice
    • 3 Sprigs Fresh Mint
    • Lime wedge for garnish
  1. The Pina Colada: The earliest known story states that in the 19th century, Puerto Rican pirate Roberto Cofresi, to boost his crew’s morale, gave them a beverage or cocktail that contained coconut, pineapple and white rum. This was what would be later known as the famous piña colada. With his death in 1825, the recipe for the piña colada was lost.
    • 2 oz Rum
    • 2 oz Coco Lopez (Coconut Cream)
    • 2oz Fresh Pineapple Juice
    • .5 oz Fresh Lime Juice
    • Wedge of Pineapple and Cheery for Garnish

Constructing a Beverage Menu

Making decisions on your beverage menu as a bar owner or beverage manager/director can be extremely trivial. The market has endless amounts of products for you to choose from and understanding the direction you will go in is important to your image and consumer experience. So the first question you have to ask yourself when creating a menu is what do I want the consumer to experience when they are at my establishment?

Due diligence in my opinion is the first step to creating a beverage program. I recommend you scour the internet for what trending and established. Second is doing market research (my favorite part). You should start your search for all things menu by going to national chains like, Chilis, Applebee’s, and Outback. While you might want to be more “crafty” I promise you they are using taste profiles that are selling well in today’s market place. I would also stop by your local mom and pop restaurant and end your search in an arts or hipster neighborhood with mixology bars. Having a good grasp of what’s out there and what consumers are drinking elsewhere is very important to your success.

Finally, let’s construct a menu. While you can go in a million different directions, I suggest you offer your customers defined categories from them to choose from. For example, cocktails should always come first (highest profit item on menu) then beers, wine, after dinner drinks if you have a restaurant and non-alcoholic. From here the beverage world is your oyster. Have fun and make it easy for your consumer to enjoy their experience with your menu. There is nothing worse than going to a bar that you can understand the menu and can barely read it.

K.I.S.S – Keep It Simple Stupid.