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How to garnish cocktails, now that you're clinking glasses with friends again

As the pandemic comes under sontrol, and you are able to gather with friends again, bring out colourful cocktail garnishes to celebrate. Photo for The Washington Post by Scott Suchman

As the pandemic comes under sontrol, and you are able to gather with friends again, bring out colourful cocktail garnishes to celebrate. Photo for The Washington Post by Scott Suchman

Published Mar 19, 2022

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We're finally getting there. Places are starting to open. Masks are coming off. Shots are going into arms.

Cocktails, I hope, are coming out of little plastic takeaway bottles and going into coupés.

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Olives are getting skewered. Mint is getting fluffed. Ice slingshots (how I've missed preposterous drinks!) are getting stretched out.

If you're starting to welcome friends back, remember: A drink without a garnish can absolutely be delicious, but a drink with one? It says you really bothered. You're celebrating that they're here with you. You made an effort.

Citrus peel

There is no more essential garnish: Citrus oils add hugely to the aroma and flavour of a drink.

Basic: Strip off a swath with a peeler or sharp knife, avoiding the white pith. Twist it over the surface of the drink to express the oils.

Next level: Clean up the slice by trimming the edges and cutting the ends diagonally. Or use crimping shears for a scalloped edge.

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Cherries

Don't go for those neon red things. Look for cherries that are so dark they look almost like black olives. There is nothing better in a Manhattan (except maybe combining said cherry with an orange twist).

Olives

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I'm a fan of olives stuffed with lemon peel and preserved in vermouth. But bright green Castelvetranos are another great option. And if you have a hard time picking between an olive and a twist of lemon for your martini, remember: Sometimes more is more. After expressing the twist over the drink, curl it up with an olive and skewer them both on a pick.

Bitters

If you add 15ml of egg white (or a few drops of cocktail foamer) just before shaking a cocktail, you'll get a little head of froth on the surface of the drink, a great canvas for the colour and aroma added by such bitters as Angostura and Peychaud's.

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Basic: Add a few precisely placed drops.

Next level: Drag a toothpick through those drops, connecting them for a swirl effect.

Fruit fan

This works best with firmer fruits such as apples and pears. Place the apple upright on a cutting board and slice off a thick chunk. Lay the chunk cut-side down, and slice it into thin leaves. Skewer the leaves on a cocktail pin, then fan them out gently.

A herb infused mojito. PICTURE: Jennifer Schmidt/Unsplash

Herbs

Look for the freshest unwilted herbs. Wash them before use; just before inserting a sprig into a drink, rub it briefly or slap it between your palms to release its aroma.

Cucumber

This is one of the most underused cocktail tools - heck, strips of it even enhance water deliciously. In a gin and tonic or other spring highball, it adds a crisp, fresh note.

Basic: Slice it into thin wheels and drop them into the glass, alternating with ice, before pouring the drink.

Next level: Use a peeler to strip long ribbons, then drape them (or use a cocktail pick or tweezers to help position them) around the inside of the glass. Add ice, then the drink.

This article first appeared in Saturday Insider, March 19, 2022

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