The Edible Garnish Is Booming - And Becoming More Complex

If you've ever subtly stolen a maraschino cherry or juicy orange slice from a friend's cocktail to help wake yourself up with that bite of fresh tartness, then you know a good garnish can really complete a drink. Even when you're at home, sipping on an iconic spirit from your home bar, a simple garnish can add a lot: an orange twist in a Campari spritz, an olive in a glass of vermouth, or, of course, the classic wedge of lime in a Tanqueray and tonic. But let's say you're hankering for a cocktail, a fancy one at that.

To be honest, you probably won't have to go too far. Bars across the board are stepping up their cocktail programs, and naturally, the thought, creativity, and preparation behind garnishes are following suit. The edible garnish first started as a sort of functional pairing for the flavor profile of a classic cocktail (think the orange twist accompanying an Old Fashioned or a fresh lemon slice for a Tom Collins). Then the tiki craze took over after Prohibition, which introduced non-edible flourishes to drinks. It was an important development in drink culture because it showed that drinking is not just about imbibing, but about the full experience a drink affords.

Elevating cocktails with edible garnishes

Fast-forward to modern mixology, and we find that bartenders are nodding to the past by combining form and function, elevating cocktails with edible garnishes that are also designed with the complexity and unique profile of the drink in mind. Bartenders are putting the spotlight on the garnish, serving up eye-catching creations like a homemade Oreo filled with coffee and chocolate ganache (served on a French toast-inspired drink at Double Chicken Please in New York) and the popcorn-infused rim that graces the Cinema Highball at the Punch-featured Deadshot in Portland, Oregon.

In addition to the visual appeal and experience of the cocktail, the trend towards complex edible garnishes is also a result of stiff competition as the space gets more and more crowded. Bars compete for customers' attention and business not just on the street anymore, but online, too. Having a little cookie hanging off your espresso martini makes the customer happy, but it also garners buzz on platforms like Instagram. Fancy garnishes are practically born for social media. Even classic cocktails like the gin and tonic are getting an upgrade with dehydrated fruits. Patrons have their conversation starters, bartenders their craft, and writers their muse.