I have always been used in the definition of “garnish” as “on or around food to add color or flavor”. Drink garnish, I eve ere, do not cut. With me, because my definition of cocktail garnish is something that combines both color and flavor. A thin slice of dried lemon peel or half a wedge of brown lime that rests on the surface of your drink is not garnished. , Are two words that are paramount for garnish presentation: plentiful and fresh. A garnish should be chosen for size, beauty, and freshness. And when I say size, I’m not getting bigger is better.
A juice is not acceptable for orange. Garnishing because its skin is very thin. Then again, the large, thick-skinned navel that garnishes wonderfully is very stingy in the juice department — not to mention expensive. The orange should be just right. Preparation is also important, that too. The beautiful navel can be divided into small pieces at the bottom or nothing or maintain the original shape and beauty of the whole fruit. The first cocktail books in the mid-nineteenth century,
The first cocktail books, in the mid-nineteenth century, take a simple approach to the question of garnish. In 1862 book, The Bon Vivant’s Companion, or How to Mix Drinks, “Professor” Jerry Thomas instructs us to “dress” or “ornament the top with fresh fruits in season.” Finding fresh fruit year-round was no easy task back then, so Thomas solved the problem by using dried fruit. He created a novel concoction called Burnt Brandy and Peach , prepared by burning Cognac and sugar together in a saucepan and pouring it over dried peaches. According to Thomas, it was ” very popular in the Southern states, where it is sometimes used as a cure for diarrhea.” ( Thanks, Jerry.) These days , the long and short cis: Buy whatever you can, as long as it’s absolutely fresh.
Lemon and Lime Wedges
Wedges should be cut in the following way:
- Being by cutting the ends, or poles, off of the fruit; cut about an eighth-inch nub off each end, being careful not to cut into the fruit.
- Cut in half lengthwise ( through the poles) and lay the two halves face down on the cutting board.
- Holding one half at a time, make two cuts lengthwise, at a 45-degree angle, creating three wedges; then do the same with the other half. With larger fruit it’s possible to get four wedges (instead of three) out of each half.
- Cut lemons will remain fresh for two days if covered with a damp cloth and refrigerated . Cut limes, however, oxidize quickly, turning the edges brown and unusable for garnishing after one day. ( Use the day-old lime wedges for juicing and for muddling in drinks such as Caipirinha.)
- Depending on the time of year and the source, lemons have more seeds than to he other times, so one more step is nece: After the final cut , you’ll notice that the seeds are generally gathered along the centre line of the wedge. With a quick cut, remove that quarter -inch of seeds-filled gutter.
Cut off both ends, then cut one-inch-thick slices crossways ( through the equator to not pole to pole). Cut the slices into a wheel of eight wedges for garnishing.
Flaming Lemon and Orange Twists
The aroma and flavor in citrus fruit is concentrated in the oil cells of its peel. Chef and Bartenders often extract this oil along with the juice to add the essence of the fruit to various dishes and drinks. In cocktails, the oil in the citrus peel provide van additional advantage because it can be flamed.
- Always use firm, fresh fruit; the skin will higher oil content.
- Use large, thick-skinned navel oranges and large lemons; ask your grocer fir 95-count lemons (as opposed to juice lemons, which are 165 count).
- Cutting uniformly sized, thin oval peels that flame up well takes control, concentration, and practice. If you are just developing confidence and skill with kitchen knives, begin with this easier technique: First cut a half-inch nub off each end as described above in Lemon and Lime wedges. Place the fry on the cutting board with one of the poles resting on the board. Hold it firmly down on the cutting board and, using the pairing knife, cut thin oval-shaoed twist 3/4 inch by 1 and 1/2 inches long.
- The peel should be thin enough that the yellow shows all around the circumference with just s small amount of white pith visible in the centre. This type of peel will maximize the amount of oil expressed into the drink and minimize the amount of bitter white pith on the twist. Cut twists in a downward motion from the middle of the fruit down to the bottom, following the curve of the fruit and turning the fruit after each cut until you circled the fruit completely. Then turn the fruit over and perform the same operation on the other half. Navel oranges should yield twelve to fifteen twists and large lemon ten to twelve twists. If the large 95- count lemob available and be sure the skin is fresh and firm; as the fruit dried out, the skin will feel softer and much less oil.
There’s another technique for cutting these types of twists that give me more control and produces a more uniform twist consistently – the problem is I break a couple of the saftey rules for handling knives. The technique is not dangerous– it just requires concentration. ( To avoid accidents when practicing, use cut-resistent gloves.) Grasp the lemon or orange firmly in the palm of your hand with your fingers on the lower half so they will be well clear of the top surface, which you will be cutting. Begin at the top of the lemon and slowly and carefully draw the pairing knife toward you, cutting a thin ocal- shaped peel 3/4 inch by 1&1/2 inches long. Continue in this fashion , turning the lemon as you go so that you’re always cutting along the top. This should yield ten to fifteen twists.
Now that you have the peels, you can create festive pyrotechical display for your guests with the oil present in the skin of lemon and oranges. To flame the oil:
- Hold a lit match in one hand , and pick up the twist in the other very carefully, as if holding an eggshell; if you squeeze the twist prematurely, the oil will be expelled.
- Hold the twist by the side, not the ends, between thumb by theside, not the ends, between thumb and forefinger, skin side facing down, about four inches above the drink.
- Don’t squeeze or you’ll lose all the oil before you flame.
- Hold the match between the drink and the twist, closer to the twist . Snap the twist sharply, propelling the oil through the lit match and onto the surface of the drink . ( Be sure to hold the twist far enough from the drink to avoid getting a smoky film on the glass. )
Lemon- Peel Spiral Garnish
Here’s a fun and extravagant garnish used for drinks that are served in stall, chimney- style glass, like the Horse’s Neck and Gin Sling. You will need a channel knife, a tool with a flat piece of stainless steel punctured with a sharp hole, through which you can cut a small groove in the skin of the fruit, creating a long spiral lenght of lemon peel. Begin the same way as you would make peels above:
- Remove the small nubs at each end.
- Grasping the lemon in one hand, tool in the other , being cutting at the pole farthest from you, in a line toward the other pole, maintaining steady downward pressure so the blade will cut into the maximum skin.
- When the cut is 1/4 inch long, turn the blade sharply to the left and cut in a download spiral leaving a half – inch strip of peel on the fruit. Cut all the way to the other pole and end the cut as you began
- The half -inch- wide spiral peel left on the lemon is the garnish for the Horse’s Neck cocktail, and it has to be cut from the lemob. Take the pairing knife and carefully cut the second spiral peel from the lemon, keeping the knife titled slightly inward toward the fruit to avoid cutting through the peel.
- Store the peel in ice water and the spiral will tighten up and become springy. The thicker peel is the Horse’s Neck garnish. The spiral garnish has to be placed in the glass before the ice and ingredients. Hook the curved end of the peel over the rim of the glass and drape the remaining peel in a spiral down inside the glass so it doesn’t fall into the glass. The ice will hold the garnish in place.
The thinner spiral peel can be cut in shorter lengths and used on the rim of a champagne flutes as garnish for champagne cocktails. These same techniques can be applied as well to oranges and limes. The thinner peel will tighten into a spiral when stored in cold water. Curl it around a swizzle or a chopstick –whateve you have handy– in a nice tight spiral , then slide it off into a glass of ice water and let it stand for a half hour; it will tighten, creating another decorative garnish that can be cut in shorter sections and used on the rim of a glass.
Orange slices for Garnish
- Choose fresh , thick-skinned navel oranges.
- Cut both ends off the orange; note that some oranges have an inch or more of pith before you actually reach the fruit. ( Navel oranges at the pole often have skin up to an inch thick that has to be cut away before you reach the meat of the fruit.)
- Next cut the oranges in half lengthwise, through the poles, then both halves flat-side down on a cutting board and cut half-inch slices, following the line of equator, not from pole to pole. ( If your glassware is small , halve the slices into quarter-round pieces.) When you combine one of these orange slices with a maraschino cherry, you have the famous “flag”, a popular garnish for collinses and sours.
Mint and Other Herbs
Mint for garnishing has been a part of the American beverages since colonial times, when it appeared in the first brandy and peach-brandy juleps that were a signature early-American drink. When choosing mint for beverage application, find springy young mint. Some varieties are more suited to garnish and beverage application. Avoid what I call the elephant-ear mint, with large floppy leaves; they look witled on top of a drink. After muddling or shaking mint in a drink, strain the drink through the julep strainer to remove most of the bits of mint that are floating in the drink. It is not necessary to shred the mint when muddling, only to bruise the leaves to extract flavor. A mint garnish on top of a drink should look generous and bushy. Drinks garnished with mint should be served with straws.
Other useful herbs include pineapple sage, which has a wonderful aroma that would enhance lots of drinks like my Pineapple Julep, or even tropical drinks with pineapple as an Ingredient.
Black peppermint, besides adding a dramatic visual to a drink with it’s dark maroon stem veins, pack the most concentrated peppermint aroma of any in the category; try it with whiskey and sweeten with sugar or a liqueur like orange Curacao. Verbena and lemon Verbena have dark green leaves that add a refreshing lemony note when muddled into a citrus-based vodka, gin and rum drinks. And borage, used in the famous Pimm’s cup, has a cucumber aroma that would be a perfect partner to the quinine-based aperitifs of France and Italy.
For herb-flavored simple Syrups, take a quarter cup ( tightly packed) of the leaves of the herb you wish to infuse, and bruise them in the bottom of a ceramic bowl. Pour 1 cup of boiling water over the herbs and let steep for 30 minutes. It is fun to throw in some citrus peels for additional flavor. Strain and save the water and use it to make Simple Syrup. Simple Syrup can also be flavored by macerating different spices like cinnamon or vanilla. Drop two vanilla beans in a quart of Simple Syrup or four cinnamon sticks and refrigerate for a couple of days. Try your own flavored syrup with spices of your choice.