For many drinkers, a Martini wouldn’t be a Martini without its gin-and-vermouth soaked olive, nor would a Mojito seem quite so enticing without its mint leaves. Whether it contributes flavor or merely beauty, the garnish or accent often makes the drink.
An ingredient can serve as a garnish, an accent or both. For example, the pineapple spear in a Pina Colada is exclusively a garnish, since it doesn’t contribute a new flavor; however, the grating of pungent nutmeg atop Ponche de Crème is both an accent and a garnish, since it adds both taste and visual appeal.
Although certain garnishes and accents are traditional, there’s no requirement that you stick to. Many bartenders improvise these days by adding the likes of coffee beans or tiny pickled onions to Martini’s, floating a slice of strawberry in a champagne cocktail, or hanging a crescent of watermelon off the lip of a Daiquiri. Nowadays, it seems almost any ingredient is fair game as a cocktail garnish, so let your imagination and good sense be your guides.
Following is a list of the garnishes and accents commonly used in a professional cocktail bar. Unless you are planning a large gathering with a tended bar, you won’t need all of them. But it helps to keep the essentials on hand.
Sprigs of fresh mint can add great visual appeal to drinks such as the “Mojito”. Keep the mint refrigerated until use and wash them thoroughly before adding to the drink.
A jar of pimento stuffed green cocktail olives in brine is necessary to any bar serving Martinis (and the brine itself is the accent in a dirty Martini).
Used as garnishes and accents as well as sources of fresh juice, citrus fruits are indispensable at any bar.
Three beans are often dropped into Sambuca, which is then flamed to release the coffee flavor.
This is the most common garnish found in most bars and restaurants and can be used in many cocktails.
Source: The Bar Guide by William Sonoma
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