Why Many Bartenders Are Swearing Off Cocktail Garnishes

Remember being a kid and saving the maraschino in your Shirley Temple for last since it was the best part of the drink? (Which otherwise, admit it, is just an overly sweet pink ginger ale.) Well, if you're now ordering stronger drinks, you may be a bit taken aback to find the cherry — and perhaps an accompanying paper umbrella if you got really lucky — replaced by cookie-cutter fruit shapes obviously meant for Instagram or sprigs of fresh herbs that serve an equally decorative function but may be even less likely to be eaten. If your drink of choice is a bloody Mary, it's possible you could be in for such over-the-top embellishments as cheeseburgers, sausages, and even an entire fried chicken, at least if you're drinking at a certain Wisconsin bar chain.

When your drink comes with an entire meal on top, at least you can skip dinner, while a cookie or marshmallow garnish does make for a nice dessert. If you get half a garden center's worth of edible blooms on your beverage, though, there's a good chance these will just go to waste, which is why many bartenders are turning away from the more complex kinds of edible garnishes. Not only does eliminating the garnish reduce food waste but, as some point out, the drinks should really stand on their own straight out of the shaker and should not require additional flavor notes from anything artfully draped over the top or stuck onto the side of the glass.

A sweet or salty rim can dress up a drink in a less wasteful way

Some bartenders these days are adamantly against any garnishing, citing statistics about climate change, global warming, etc. to justify eliminating fruits and other elements that may need to be shipped from far away. (That's not to say many types of booze and mixers aren't imported, but every little bit counts.) Other mixologists, however, opt for a more minimalist, well-integrated drink decoration: rimming the glass. This can even involve a certain amount of repurposing, as in the case where the rinds of the limes squeezed to make a margarita are dried and added to the salt that goes around the top of the glass.

Citrus isn't the only element that can be transformed from a drink topper to a rimmer as cookie crumbs will work for a sweet drink. Other sugary rimmers include crushed candies, sprinkles, pop rocks, or the honey and dried coconut combination found in our coconut martini recipe. Salt rims, too, can be replaced with other savory blends such as Tajin, everything bagel seasoning, or za'atar. If you're unsure about whether to go garnish-free or dial back in a more moderate way, you could always go with a half-rimmed drink. That way, you have the ability to decide if your drink actually benefits from the added flavor of whatever ingredient you're using. Should you prefer the plain side, then you can skip the effort of rimming the next time you mix that drink.