Bartending Skills: The Art Of Garnishing Drinks

In today’s bar and club environment, presentation is just as important as the drink itself. New drink recipes surface every day, and the affluent customer is always seeking a unique environment that’s appealing to the eye. Imaginative and creative bartenders help create the desired scene, and an important part of the equation is how well drinks are served and presented.

Why Garnishing Is Important

Years ago, all that mattered was taste, whether it was a cold draught beer or a refreshing martini. Garnishing was simply an afterthought, but that’s no longer the case. Bartenders are expected to beautifully and skillfully garnish a drink. In fact, the difference between a middling tip and a great tip starts with how the drink looks.

A garnish is appropriate for just about any drink you can imagine. Whether it’s the slice of orange with a wheat beer or a sprig of mint with a mint julep, there’s a garnish that’s appropriate for whatever your customers drink. There are a few tried and true garnishes that have been around for generations, like olives in martinis or celery stalks in a Bloody Mary. But beyond that, creativity rules. Here are a few tips to help you be a Garnishing Star …

Tip #1: The garnish should complement the drink, not overwhelm it. Be generous, but not over the top. A good rule of thumb is garnish a drink the way you’d like to be served.

Tip #2: Match taste and color. To use an extreme example, a sprig of mint would match poorly with beer. Fruit should accent the drink and blend with the flavors. When in doubt, simply get a bit creative with the old standards.

Tip #3: Make sure your garnishes are fresh. Brown celery, soggy olives, or overripe fruit will only distract from the drink.

Tip #4: Certain kinds of fruit look decidedly better with a bit of powdered sugar sprinkled on top. This is also true for mint sprigs served with a mint julep. Simply put, it’s a better presentation.

Tip #5: Garnish spicy drinks with a contrasting piece of cold cut meat. As an example, a small piece of rolled ham or pepperoni is a perfect complement to a robust Bloody Mary.

Tip #6: Ask for feedback. After all, it’s your customers who are the ultimate judge. There’s nothing wrong with asking a regular if they mind if you experiment a bit with the garnish on their drinks. Most will appreciate the personal attention and your creativity.

Most important, pay attention to sanitary conditions because you can be assured your customers are doing just that. And have a little fun. After all, you’re in the public service business, so take your successes and missteps with the same level of good humor.

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