Whether you’re a seasoned mixologist or are just starting to enter the world of premium drink garnishes, it is always a good time to come up with creative, new ideas. Updated garnishes serve to increase the perceived value of your drinks and your bar, which creates buzz, increases your sales, and draws in curious customers. No matter what you’re looking to improve in your bar, garnishes are frequently a good way to bring in some changes for the better. Here are a few tips to get you started, or, if you’ve been using standard garnishes for years, to get get you thinking about new, innovative designs.
Assemble Your Materials
l don’t care if you’re Crocodile Dundee, one knife is not going to cut it for your new garnishes. In fact, you’re going to need at least four tools to increase your skills.
1. Paring knife: For cutting almost anything. If you are Crocodile Dundee, you may use your “Now-that’s-a-knife” for this purpose as well, if you wish.
2. Large chef’s knife: For cutting things that your paring knife is just too dinky to handle.
3. Channel knife: For getting rind off of citrus in a lovely manner.
4. Grater: For, er, grating stuff.
Now you need to start thinking about what you’ll be cutting with all those knives.
Consider Your Flavors
Flavor complements are a good starting point for new garnish creations, and the flavor you want to complement is the strongest one. Don’t get too tricky on this step and try to complement a minor flavor–that’s how drink disasters happen.
Flavor brainstorming is the really fun part of your garnish process–invite a few friends over for a tasting and mix up a wide variety of drinks for them. Mix up your standards, using the most commonly ordered liquors in each of your drinks, or you can try mixing up drinks that you want to increase sales on. Before you start the tasting, you’ll want to provide your friends with tasting note sheets and pencils, so that you can refer to their notes later when you’re more inclined to be analytical. Have everyone taste the same drink at the same time, make private notes, and then brainstorm garnish ideas. If you type up a list of garnish ingredients beforehand so that they have a starting point to help them think, you’ll have much better results. Each of your friends will have to think of the perfect flavor (or flavors) that would be exciting with each cocktail. You want a lot of ideas to refer back to, so make sure they all think. This is their price for free booze.
Hint: When you come up with a list of possible garnishes, don’t make any recommendations as to which drinks each garnish should go with, just list each ingredient. Include herbs, spices, fruits, plants, veggies, nuts, meats, cheeses, other alcohols, candies, and absolutely anything else you can think of. World-class mixologists now know that pear-flavored drinks go well with pear garnishes, as well as rosemary, almond, and champagne. They got this insider insight because they were willing to think outside the box.
Rim the Glasses
Here’s a great way to think outside the box: think about the outside of the glass. When you think of new rimming options for your glasses, you can add flavors, colors, and designs that wouldn’t be available if you were only considering things that go inside the glass. For creative rim garnishes (add these to your list!) you can start thinking of hand-colored sugars, hot chocolate, mini marshmallows, crushed-up cookies, crushed hard candies…anything that will stick to a glass.
And while you and your friends are brainstorming, remember to think about presentation. Your friend thinks chocolate-covered strawberries would go really well with that daiquiri? Great! Should it be stuck onto the rim whole, sliced into wheels, used as a flag, or boated with a rose petal?
There are a million ways to have fun with new garnishes. You can have theme parties with garnishes to match; you can offer a build-your-own garnish party (the one time ever that guests can touch garnishes); holiday garnishes; delicious, crowd-pleasing garnishes like fabulously flavored whipped cream or tiny candy bars. You can also make fun ice cubes with ice molds, garnishes with edible sparkle, or add well-washed, non-leaking glow sticks to your drinks as an awesome swizzle. You can also set your drinks on fire, because everybody loves flaming cocktails.
Whatever garnishes you choose to add to your drinks, make sure that you keep a detailed record of your expenses. Deciding on new garnishes is a lot like remodeling a house (except with more drinking, and less construction work). Just as with your house, the process will take some work and time, but the beautiful result will be unmistakably worth more. If you keep detailed records as you go, you’ll know exactly how much more you should charge for each fancy remodeled drink, and your business’s “garnish” will be higher profits.
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