Barschool - Decoration

Art of Decorating a Cocktail

Presentation is everything

Chefs do it by plating an entrée with great looking garnishes. Bartenders can do the same thing so that a cocktail is that much more eye appealing. Sure, you can just throw the drink into a glass and slap in a straw and people will drink it. But if you want to make a drink that people will be talking about for years to come, the art of decorating a cocktail needs to be a primary concern.

Garnishing with Fruit

Citrus can be cut 3 different ways:
  • Wheels
  • Wedges
  • Twists

A wheel is a slice; a wedge is an 1/8 of the fruit, and a twist is a slim, rectangular slice of the rind or peel.

Other fruits can be frozen, strained, muddled or served whole. They can be skewered, submersed in the drink or placed on the rim.

There used to be a code in the bar industry of what fruits got paired with what drinks. Cocktail servers would have to memorize these and garnish every drink the right way. A whiskey sour would always get an orange slice and a cherry. A rum and coke would always get a lime wheel.

Today’s bar is a lot different. It’s about showing off and having fun. Freeze some blueberries and toss them in a martini in place of an olive. Line the rim of a glass with an orange, lime AND lemon wheel. Get creative because there aren’t any real rules to garnishing a drink anymore. Just remember a cocktail will look much more attractive if it is decorated.

Sugar and Salt

Sugar and salt can line the rim of a glass to add some flair. These cannot be used with every drink, however. No one wants sugar on the rim of their Manhattan.

What you can do, however, is buy various colors and flavors of the sugar and salt. It’s a great way to make a margarita, martini or punch look a little bit more inviting. At any liquor store, you’ll be able to find sugars and salts that are flavored. They’ll range from fruity and sweet to bolder flavors like tomato or chocolate.

Using Umbrellas and other “Non-Edibles”

Unless you run a resort in Hawaii or the Caribbean islands, no one will expect a tropical umbrella in their drink. There are various other non-edible decorations you can place into a drink, too. You’ll find them at any bar supply store. They are typically a waste of money and when a person has too much to drink, someone ends up choking on one.

There are other things you can do to make a drink more fun, though.
  • Fun shaped ice
  • Gummy food

Ice molds come in every shape. You can fill them with water and freeze them or you can use fruit juices to add colors to an otherwise ordinary drink. Consider the options here, especially when you are doing themed drinks for holidays or showers. Gummy food can easily take the place of garnishes and people get a little dessert out of it, too. Gummy worms, fish, bears and every other shape can “jump” into a drink and make something a little more exciting. Fish bowl sized margaritas have been famous for adding a little gummy fish inside for a whimsical look. Best of all? It’s edible so there’s no choking hazard.