Cocktail Garnishes and Sustainability
Some garnishes are edible and add to the flavor of the drink. Others are aromatic and add to the aroma. And others are just there for aesthetic reasons. We can eliminate garnishes, reduce the amount of ingredients we use in them, make them from repurposed ingredients, and/or ensure they create less waste.
- If possible, garnishes should be functional, adding to the aroma or flavor of the drink. Orchids are beautiful on top of drinks but do they really add to it?
- Can you make your garnishes from waste products, such as citrus peels when the juice is being used for other drinks?
- Can you use less of a garnish in a drink, such as a couple mint leaves rather than a whole sprig?
- Can you achieve a garnish with color, such as a float of something bright atop a drink or bitters dashed on top of the ice?
- See Citrus page for citrus garnishes.
- Dehydrated flowers last much longer than fresh ones.
- Whether purchasing your own or dehydrating in-house, make absolutely certain the flowers are safe for food use. [guide to flower safety]
- If you use mint for garnish, use the stems to make a syrup. See the Other Produce page for mint stem recipes.
- Flavored sugar or salt rims can be made with all sorts of reused/leftover ingredients such as:
- citrus zest
- dried flowers
- Dehydrated beet pulp - recipes from Nich Box here.
Leftover Garnishes at the End of the Night
- Freeze them into ice cube trays for colorful ice, as Aisling Gammill of Water Bear Bar does.
- For cut citrus garnishes, turn them into oleo saccharum as Luuk Gerritsen does.
- You might also be able use them in a citrus stock the next day.
- Fruit Leather
- Make fruit leather with leftover pulp from juiced fruit, especially high-pectin fruits like apples, and also pineapples. Some recipes from Nich Box here.
- Apple sauce and apple pulp make a great neutral base for flavored fruit leather that you can then flavor with other fruits such as strawberries.
- Pineapple pulp can also be made into fruit leather without additional flavoring fruit.
- Orange pulp on its own wasn't very tasty as fruit leather, but it could be mixed with other flavors.
Garnishing With Liquids
Rather than a solid piece of citrus or other non-edible garnish atop a cocktail, we can reduce waste while making beautiful drinks by layering a contrasting colored liquid on top of the drink. Some examples are:
- Bitters on top of a crushed ice drink, like the Queen's Park Swizzle [picture]
- A spray of bitters atop of a drink instead of dashes. Place bitters in a refillable atomizer. Nicholas Box says that this uses less bitters than dashes.
- Float a dark liquid atop a clear drink, such as the coffee float on the Mai O Mai from True Laurel [picture]
Garnishing with Ice
Colored or flavored ice, or ice with garnishes frozen inside, can act like a garnish inside the drink rather than on top.
- For non-edible garnishes like mint leaves and other herbs, citrus peels, flowers, leaves, and the like, you can freeze them into ice cubes/balls. While this doesn't eliminate waste of these ingredients - they'll still be discarded when the ice melts - in the situation where these might spoil/dehydrate/go off at the end of the night/after an event/after cutting off other parts of the plant you can preserve them by freezing them into ice.
- For tips on freezing objects inside clear ice cubes, see the Clear Ice section on Alcademics.com.
- Colored/Flavored Ice - You can color ice with food coloring (natural and otherwise), bitters like Angostura, or freeze juices like cranberry or orange juice into cubes and spheres.
- While it might seem efficient to freeze a large vessel all at once and chop it up into ice cubes later, any liquids other than water tend to get pushed around in freezing ice so the colors are not consistent throughout the block. It's often easiest to use ice cube trays for this.