Did you know that February 20th is National Toothpick Day? No? Well, thanks to the wonders of Google, we did, so here at The Manual, we put together a list of some of the most essential things to ever grace a toothpick—cocktail garnishes.
We’re not talking about skewering a burger or a fried chicken, putting it on top of a Bloody Mary, and calling it a day. No. When we think garnishes, we’re thinking the best of the best of the drink world—the accoutrements that make a cocktail go from oh to oh damn. Below, we’ve highlighted some of the essential garnishes you need to keep on hand for your home bar so that the next time an unexpected guest arrives, they’ll be able to take away tales of your wondrous and masterful mixology. Or, more likely, you’ll just be able to make a damn good cocktail from glass to garnish.
Related: How To Smoke Your Own Manhattan
- Olives—Perhaps one of the most iconic garnishes ever, the olive’s saltiness blends perfectly with the spirit flavors in drinks such as Martinis. But the green olive with pimento inside isn’t the only olive that can bring to the table. Cured olives, with their intensity and meatiness, can offer a delightful complement to full-flavored, garden-style cocktails.
- Fruit Peels—You can express them, you can light them on fire them, you can rim the glass with their essential oils—the list of things you can do with fruit peels seems nearly endless at times. Keeping lemons, limes, and oranges (don’t forget grapefruits and other fruits with peels, too!) will allow you to add subtle citrus flavors to some of your favorite classic cocktails at any time.
- Herbs—Cocktails with herbal components are becoming more and more popular as distillers and bartenders deepen their knowledge about the role of herbs and herbal flavors in spirits and cocktails. Most often, herbs like rosemary, basil, or mint will pop up in cocktails with spirits such as gin or vodka, but why not mix it up a little? Think about how herbal notes might work in a darker cocktail. What would go best with that rum you’ve been saving? What about your favorite bourbon? Crack out your Chia herb garden and find out. (Note: This is also a great way to impress significant others; you can easily grow your own herb garden in a window box.)
- Spices— No, we’re not talking about dumping pumpkin spice in a Manhattan and calling it a fall holiday treat. Spices, when done right, highlight the complex nature of spirits, allowing certain heretofore untasted flavors come to the forefront. Chances are, if you’re reading this piece then you probably care enough about yourself that you already have a decent spice rack in your house. If you don’t, go out and develop one, then, start experimenting. Spices like cinnamon and clove are great this time of year for drinks meant to warm you up, but what about ground ginger or coriander? Try it and see what happens.
- Fruit Soaked in Booze—This one may be a no-brainer. What better way to end a drink than with a piece of fruit soaked in more booze? Brandied or whiskied cherries are a nice addition to any home bar and you can get them in most good liquor stores. You can also easily make them yourself, ensuring that whenever you need, you’re ready to skewer a soft, plump whiskey cherry over the top of a perfectly-made Manhattan.
Bacon(!)—Any red-blooded American knows that meat can be made to go with most things. With bacon happy hours popping up across the country, our nations love of salty, fatty pork knows no bounds. From the Bloody Mary to whatever cocktail you so desire, a slice of bacon—with its delicate crispness and the pieces of fat that practically melt in your mouth—can make just about any cocktail better.