Flowers: After working for years in a cocktail bar, I can say with confidence that nothing is more popular than a drink with flowers. With flowers, be careful to let a drinker know if its edible or not! I am not opposed to an inedible flower garnish, if its appearance is striking or the aroma is strong. Edible flowers come in and out of season. Edible orchids and micro pansies are the most common, but if you can ever find basil flowers (sweet and aromatic) or nasturtiums (spicy like black pepper) give them a try. Rose petals are a common inedible garnish and work very well with a spray of rosewater to amplify the aroma. While most cocktails garnished with a flower fall into a tropical, refreshing or springtime style, you can really mix up a more spirit forward cocktail with a flower. Check out the cherry blossom martini from bar goto, or mix your Manhattan with a little St-Germain and drop a rose petal on top.
Spices, Sprays and Powders: Grated spices - such as cinnamon and nutmeg - will add a powerful aromatic punch. They work better on egg white and crushed ice drinks. Floating bits in a drink served up isn’t the most textually appealing. Larger spices will carry a visual and aromatic punch, like star anise.
Many herbs and flowers will carry powders rather well. Who doesn’t love powdered sugar on mint leaves for your Mint Julep? You can buy a shaker for them, just dust through a dry mesh strainer for a beautiful even coat.
There are endless edible sprays. Rosewater, bitters, edible essential oils. Find something unique, fill up an atomizer and see what a bouquet you can make. Using these on egg white cocktails can create beautiful gradients or bold visuals with stencils
Non-edible: Non-edible garnishes are a bit divisive. If you can’t taste or smell is, it better make a very distinct impression visually. This is space where you can be fun and creative. Playing cards may transport you to Vegas while origami makes you feel like you’re in Kyoto. Dried flowers are delicate while hay is rustic. Give your drink a costume or a toy to be a little playful, but just do so with intention.
Fire: This is everyone’s favorite. There are a lot of show stopping and flammable ways to craft a cocktail. A safe place to start is a flamed citrus peel. This is most common with orange peels, but any citrus can theoretically produce flame. Cut a short swatch or coin of citrus. Let a match burn for a second and then use it to warm up the oils on the skin of the peel. As the peel gets warm, express the oils into the flame and over the drink. The result should be a toasted citrusy aroma. Discard your peel; it’s probably a little charred by now.
Here are a few more ways to incorporate fire, but please do further research before lighting anything on fire.
• high proof spirits in atomizers, sprayed into flames for a tiny fireball
• Smoldering spices. Burn a dried spice (cinnamon sticks are most common) and then blow it out. Place the spice on top of or next to the drink for a smoke show, or capture the smoke under a glass.
• Fill a citrus shell with a high proof spirit and light it on fire. This usually works best when you put your little bowl of fire on top of a crushed ice drink. Gently dust some cinnamon powder into the flame for some tiny fireworks.
This is just the beginning of how to garnish. Once you need more inspiration, browse the instagrams of bartenders and cocktail bars. Sit in front of a service well bartender and watch everything they put together. There are no limits to the aesthetic you can create.