Stocking your home bar might seem somewhat difficult initially, but it is a reasonably simple task if you know what to look for. While you should start with the essential liquor bottles and liqueur, like whiskey, dry vermouth, sweet vermouth, and other spirits, you can take your home bar to new heights by investing in some common mixes and important garnishes, like angostura bitters.
We will cover all of the home bar essential garnishes to help you know which type of garnishes you will need. We will explain why garnishes are home bar essentials and their purpose, as well as how you can stylize your garnishes to impress your guests and take a classic cocktail to the next level.
Once you know the basics about home bar garnishes, we will list some of the most important garnishes and cocktail accents any aspiring bartender should have!
Table of Contents
What Are Garnishes and Why Are They Important?
Within the context of alcoholic beverages, garnishes are considered to be decorative ornaments that can add character and style to a mixed drink or cocktail. Not only can they improve a drink’s appearance and aesthetic value, but you can also use garnishes to add flavor and aroma.
While some garnishes are subtle and are used more for a splash of color or to bring out a certain aroma or flavor, others are bold and extravagant.
So, Why Are Garnishes Important?
Drinking a cocktail is not just about enjoying the flavor of a drink – it should be an experience. Garnishes can raise the overall drinking experience as they demonstrate focused attention to detail.
While there is nothing wrong with having a glass of your favorite type of liquor near or served over ice, adding extravagance through carefully selected garnishes can be a way to treat yourself and your guests. In a more practical sense, garnishes also add flavor and aroma, so they can also alter the way a beverage tastes.
In simple terms, purchasing a few basic garnishes and learning how to use them can really add the finishing touches to your home bar or bar cart!
How to Create Twist Garnishes Like a Pro
Twist garnishes are made from the peel of certain types of fruits. Typically, they are made from the peels of citrus twists, as these add subtle flavor and aroma to drinks and a tasteful and stylish splash of color.
A simple twist of citrus peel is reasonably easy to make, so it is worth learning what to do if you are making your own home bar or building out a bar cart. To do so, proceed through the following steps:
- Take a fresh lime, lemon, or orange and slice a ring that is roughly 1/4 of an inch thick. Take your ring from the middle of the fruit.
- Slice to the center of the ring from one side, but don’t cut the ring in half.
- Take a paring knife and delicately separate the peel from the fruit. You can leave some of the white pith, but the more you leave, the more bitter your twist garnish will taste.
- Once you have your strand of peel, you can clean up any spots of fruit you accidentally left on the peel. From there, simply twist the peel around a clean, straw-like utensil. A metal chopstick or skewer will work incredibly well.
- Hold the peel wrapped around your skewer and wait about 20 seconds. Congratulations, you have created your first twist garnish for your delicious cocktail. The more you practice, the better you will get.
Add your twist garnish to your favorite cocktails to add style and a nice, citrusy, aromatic touch.
How to Create Wheel Garnishes
Rather than just adding a boring lemon or lime wedge to your drink, you can create a wheel garnish, which is just as easy but looks far more impressive.
To start, simply grab a fresh and clean lemon or lime. You will also need a fairly sharp knife, as you will be making some thin cuts.
Start by slicing the fruit in half in the middle of the fruit. Once the fruit is cut in half, you can make another parallel cut. Aim for about 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch from the edge of your first cut. Continue to do so until you have your desired number of wheel garnishes.
While you can simply add your wheel garnish directly into your beverage, you can also slice it from one end to the middle point. This will allow you to position it on the rim of your glass. For even more of a statement, twist the wheel, so it has a more stylish appearance.
How to Cut the Perfect Wedge Garnish
While it may sound pretty basic, learning how to properly cut a wedge garnish will take your cocktail-making skills to the next level.
To do so, take a sharp knife and a cutting board, as well as a washed and fresh citrus fruit. Cut the ends off your fruit, then cut it in half from end to end. Cut from one tip of the fruit to the other, rather than along the width, as you did to make your wheel garnishes.
Place the now-sliced-in-half fruit face down on your cutting board and slice it again from tip-to-tip lengthwise. Each half of your fruit should produce three evenly sliced wedges. You can then remove any visible seeds.
Congratulations, you have made perfect wedge garnishes!
Types of Home Bar Essential Garnishes
Now we will go over some of the garnish essentials you should use to stock your home bar to aid in any cocktail recipe:
Lemons are one of the most essential things any bartender needs. Not only can the peels be used to make various garnishes, but the juice from the lemon is also incredibly useful as it is a primary ingredient in plenty of classic cocktails like the Whiskey Sour, Lemon Drop, Gin Fizz, French 75, and many more!
Limes are just as useful as lemons when mixing drinks and classic cocktails. Just like lemons, the peels can be used for twists, while the fruit is also useful for wheel and wedge garnishes.
Like with lemons, the juice of a lime is also beneficial for making cocktails, including the classic margarita, daiquiri, gin gimlet, mojito, and more!
While lemons and limes are more commonly used for garnishes, you can make excellent use of oranges. The bright color looks great as a garnish for a tropical beverage, and the light, sweet, and citrusy flavor can complement a wide range of liquors and liqueurs.
You can also take plenty of mixed drinks to the next level by adding freshly squeezed orange juice rather than store-bought concentrated juice. Whether making a Tequila Sunrise or adding some flair to a light mimosa, an orange can go a long way when used correctly.
Cherries are one of the easiest garnishes to add to a cocktail. Whether you are dropping a fresh cherry into a tropical drink or a preserved maraschino cherry into a classic Old Fashioned or Manhattan, keeping cherries behind your bar will really come in handy.
Olives are one of the most iconic cocktail garnishes, thanks to their presence in the world-famous Dirty Martini. While this is their most common use in any bar, they also make great garnishes for any tomato juice-based mixed drink.
While you may not think of an onion as an item you would find behind a bar, preserved cocktail onions certainly have their place. They are one of the most important ingredients in a Gibson dry martini, as they replace olives.
While cocktail onions are less critical than primary garnishes like lemons and limes, they can still be useful, especially if you enjoy drinking and serving martinis!
Celery stocks are also surprisingly useful in a bar setting. Their long stems and flared leaves catch the eye and can even serve a practical purpose as a natural stir stick. Celery is usually used in tomato juice-based beverages, like the Bloody Mary, Bloody Maria, and the niche but delicious vodka-based Canadian Caesar.
Mint, or a mint sprig, is an incredibly useful garnish. Not only does mint have a vibrant and fresh appearance, but it also adds a refreshing aroma to the drink. In some drinks, mint can be used more for stylistic purposes as a basic garnish, while other cocktail recipes rely on mint to play a central role in the overall flavor of the beverage.
As you would expect, mint plays a central role in the Mint Julep and the Mojito, but it is also useful for a surprising number of tiki cocktails, like the Zombie. Keeping mint in your bar fridge, or even growing it yourself, will only encourage you to use this exciting garnish.
While it may sound obvious, sugar can be a useful ingredient when making cocktails and mixed drinks. While most will rely on simple syrup to add sweetness to drinks, you can also add a sugar rim to your drinks to really satisfy that sweet tooth. You can also use it for aesthetic value on certain beverages.
Coarse salt is also a very useful garnish to keep near your bar. When most people think of salt in a bar setting, they think of a salt rim for a classic margarita. While salt is critical for margaritas and tequila shots, you can use it in many other ways.
You can kill some of the sourness of a lime wedge by giving it a quick sprinkle of coarse salt. You can also add salt to drinks to enhance the sweetness and help balance excessive bitterness. Many sour cocktails can benefit from a few grains of coarse salt.
Since it is so easy to store behind a bar, you cannot go wrong with keeping a small tin of high-quality, coarse salt near your bar!
For More Information
You can also visit the Moody Mixologist and read their informative guide to The Art of the Cocktail Garnish, which explains the many ways you can use garnishes to improve the presentation and flavor of your favorite cocktails.