Food Seattle Select Guide: Cocktail Garnishes
In this edition of the Food Seattle Select Guide we feature cocktail garnishes. The alcoholic apocrypha of the bartender dates back to Jerry Thomas’s Bartender’s Guide of 1862 in which he created a sensation of aura and pride for many dedicated cocktail artists in North America.
Nothing reflects the classic idea of the bartender more than Patrick Gavin Guffy’s Offical Mixers Manual of 1934: “The bartender should be neatly shaved, and his hands and nails should be kept immaculately clean. A good bartender wears a fresh linen coat, and I personally fancy a carnation.” Although these orthodox qualities have been radically made-over by pop-culture, the artistic flair has remained constant since the late 19th century. While the glass and its alcoholic contents are important most bartenders refuse to serve a cocktail without a garnish. From the classic pre-prohibition Manhattan with a quarter slice of lemon or a Vesper Martini with a thin slice of lemon peel, that simple citrus fruit defines the cocktail as much as the rye or gin does.
From SoHo in New York to Belltown in Seattle, the best mixologists and bartenders aim to create cocktails garnished as perfectly and precisely as any bourgeois appetizer or entree found in the same districts. The appeal and need for garnish lends itself to the creative talents of every bartender. Who doesn’t love a vodka –soda? But if that vodka-soda glides across the bar with-out a quarter slice of lime or lemon (placed on the rim), it can often bring out facial expressions ranging from confusion, uncertainty; sometimes even disgust.
During the early 20th century cocktail garnishes were defined by sweet, saccharine products that were only consumed as a delicacy by royalty and the wealthy. The globally renowned maraschino cherry has had a common stake in the garnish world since the late 19th century because of its sweetness and ability to cut through the strong, sharp flavors of hard liquor (bourbon, scotch, rye etc.). The myth of the maraschino cherry grew during the 1920s when it was considered illegal for being preserved in alcohol. Prohibitionists strongly believed in the intoxicating power of cherry and today it serves as a staple of cocktail culture and history.
Cocktail connoisseurs classically recognize the olive as a quintessential marker in a vodka martini. The Mediterranean fruit found its way into our hearts and glasses, because of the brine it is usually preserved in; its saltiness adds to the natural flavor of the vodka. In more recent years, bartenders and mixologists have taken a post-modern approach when creating cocktails; the socially constructed notion that olives must be with vodka and cherries must be with whiskey has been replaced by cucumbers and gin, crushed black-pepper and tequila and toasted hazel nuts and spiced-rum. As a bartender, you have a limitless supply of garnishes to choose from; fresh organic produce not only belongs in your fridge, but in the trendy cocktails that you order or decide to create. Mixologists should be excited by the prospect of coupling an alcohol with a unique and original garnish, while maintaining the aforementioned apocrypha and aura associated with a great bartender.
At FoodSeattle.com we say Cheers! But always remember to drink responsibly.
By: Andrew Zappavigna
Edited by: Sheila LoGuisto
Images courtesy of Absolut Vodka
Articles on Food Seattle: