Unique Garnishes Add ‘Wow’ Factor to Cocktail Menus

The latest way that restaurants and bars are flexing their creative muscles is through unique adult beverage garnishes. Preparation is key to specialty cocktails and taking the time to create an intricate or handcrafted garnish can impress guests.

Visually, garnishments can add a pop of color, a change of texture or an exciting “wow” factor to drinks. Presentation is the first thing a consumer notices when being served a drink and the time taken to simply throw in a fruit peel or herb sprig goes a long way. Operators are going a step further with eye-catching garnishes, branching away from the traditional citrus wedges to explore less expected options. Sugar Factory American Brasserie is a multi-unit chain offering a bevy of uniquely garnished, super sweet cocktails, such as the Ocean Blue Goblet adorned with floating shark-shaped gummies and the Bubba Bubba Gum Martini embellished with a skewer of bubble gum tape.

We are also seeing a garnish “war” among Bloody Mary cocktails with operators trying to one up their competitors by introducing the most indulgent, attention-grabbing garnishes. For example, Sobelman’s Pub n Grill in Milwaukee gained a lot of attention for its Chicken Fried Bloody Mary, an 80-ounce cocktail garnished with olives, onions, pickles, cheese, sausage, mushrooms, scallions, shrimp, tomatoes, celery, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, lemon, two skewers of bacon-wrapped jalapeño cheeseballs and a whole fried chicken. Priced at $50, this cocktail isn’t for the faint of heart.

Fried Chicken Bloody Mary

Fried Chicken Bloody Mary at Sobelman’s Pub n Grill in Milwaukee (Facebook 5/9/15)

Garnishes not only serve as a decorative statement but can also add next-level flavor to a specialty concoction. Some operators are differentiating their alcohol drinks by utilizing additional preparation methods for the garnish alone, such as smoking, dehydrating, roasting, stuffing and candying. These preparations can draw out interesting flavors in a garnish that may not otherwise standout within a cocktail.

Here are some noteworthy cocktails featuring interesting prepared garnishes:

  • Bloody Mary, Summer House Santa Monica (Chicago)—garnished with candied bacon and a blue cheese-stuffed olive
  • Harvest of Mexico, Apotheke (New York City)—garnished with a roasted wheel of corn
  • Nice & Sloe, Establishment (Atlanta)—garnished with a skewer of brined blueberries
  • No.6, Trick Dog (San Francisco)—garnished with a chocolate-covered olive
  • The Phoenix, Eastern Standard Kitchen & Drinks (Boston)—garnished with lemon ashes
  • Truffle Pig, FT33 (Dallas)—garnished with a seared hen-of-the-woods mushroom

Kristin Menas

Kristin Menas is an Associate Editor of Canada and Adult Beverage at Technomic Inc. in Chicago. She is responsible for writing, editing and analyzing content for the company’s newsletters and reports, which cover the Canadian foodservice market, U.S. adult beverage industry and convenience-store sector. She also contributes editorial content for Technomic’s Digital Resource Library, MenuMonitor and Digital Resource Information Knowledgebase (DRINK).

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