"Garnishes have to fit in with the ingredients of the cocktails, and not be too out there," recommends Josh Klein, director of mixology at Bar M and M's Restaurant in the 84-room, 11-suite and 12-condominium Hotel Madeline Telluride and its sister property the 32-suite Inn at Lost Creek in Telluride, Colo.
All the activity and creativity in garnishes begs the question: Is this just a fad or a solid trend?
"Slowly but surely the whole cocktail trend, including creative garnishes, is making its way out of the major cities, making its way here," says Rowe, whose bar is in a small town about 75 miles from New York City.
Although original garnishes
may seem challenging to execute well, especially for large chains, they generally are well worth the time and money investment.
"The foam creates a nice little cloud to float garnishes on," he says.
Other fun garnishes recently spotted around the country include candied rhubarb swizzlers in the Meyer Lemon Press at Two in San Francisco.
Trendsetting chef Sam Mason and partner Eben Freeman, who will soon open Tailor in New York City, create produce garnishes as an integral flavor and experiential component of a drink.
Golden and garnet carrots, Militon squash, heirloom red cipollini onions, okra, cauliflower--Finnegan says she pickles what's in season to use off-season as drink garnishes. For Manhattans, she cures organic Chilean cherries in cinnamon, star anise and pomegranate juice with amaretto, brandy and lemon juice, adding a splash of the reserved cherry syrup instead of sweet vermouth to the finished drink.
Move up the cocktail list, and other libations feature pink tourmaline, diamonds, tsavorite and aquamarine jewel garnishes
"Ninety-five percent of the garnishes you see in restaurants are just awful," he says, "brown-edged limes, ugly, dried-up olives." His tips: clean the fruit you are going to use ("Soak the lemons for a while or, at least, rinse them because they are going into someone's drink," he says.
And that brings us to the most often voiced pet peeve of cocktail garnishes. "What do bartenders do wrong?
As with anything else, every operation has to consider the cost and labor involved in its garnishes. At a fine-dining restaurant, for example, it is more likely that the bar staff can rely on the kitchen to prepare some garnishes, such as, say, pickled carrots.