Moody Mixologist is a collection of original and classic cocktail recipes, tutorials and photography focused on sharing the beauty of botanical ingredients and exploring unusual syrups, infusions and techniques.
It’s rosé season! I’m a fan of frosé, but there are so many more rosé cocktails to enjoy this summer! Here is a collection of the rosé cocktails I’m mixing up these days, including my very favorite, and incredibly easy, Rosé Paloma. This recipe is as casual as they come, simply combing equal parts wine and grapefruit soda (my favorite by far is Q Mixers, available at most grocery stores) and a squeeze of lime. Go boozier by adding an ounce of tequila or mezcal!
Next up is a rosé Aperol Spritz with a twist. This upgraded spritz features sparkling rosé instead of Prosecco, and a splash of Heath-Ade Kombucha’s Bubbly Rose Kombucha. I love this pretty, pink, floral kombucha, but feel free to substitute another kombucha if you can’t find it. Some great alternative flavors are lavender or hibiscus. If you’re a fan of sparkling rosé, you’ll enjoy my next cocktail, a Rosé Summer Punch, made with cognac, lemon oleo, a unique elderberry and lavender flavored spirit, and muddled strawberries. The last two cocktails are simple Collins-style drinks combining rosé wine and rosé wine aperitif with lemon juice and flavored syrups, and made tall with the addition of club soda or plain old water (you gotta stay hydrated, afterall!)
Instructions: Muddle strawberries in a cocktail shaker. Add the first four ingredients and ice and shake until chilled. Fine strain into a goblet filled with ice and top with sparkling rosé. Garnish with a strawberry.
*Lemon Oleo Saccharum: Oleo saccharum is made by tossing citrus peels and sugar. The sugar coating the peels draws out the oils, turning the mixture into a syrup-like liquid with an incredible citrus flavor. You can eyeball it (my current method), or be precise by measuring (by weight) equal parts fresh, washed, organic lemon peels, white sugar, and water. Toss the lemon peels and sugar together, coating the peels, cover, and let sit at room temperature for about an hour. Once all of the sugar has dissolved, add the water and stir, then strain out the peels. Store leftovers in a jar in the fridge for up to two weeks.
Shake first three ingredients with ice until chilled. Strain into a wine glass filled with ice and top with club soda. Stir gently and garnish with a hibiscus, if desired. You can get hibiscus blossoms from Gourmet Sweet Botanicals.
Rosé Strawberry Lemonade
4 oz dry rosé wine
1 oz lemon juice
1 oz strawberry syrup
Water, or club soda
Instructions: Build in a wine glass over ice. Top with water or club soda, depending on if you prefer sparkling or still lemonade. Garnish with strawberries and mint. Wine glass from Fferrone Design.
Today I’m sharing a wine and hors d’oeuvres pairing that’s perfect for warm summer evenings! Although I don’t write a lot about wine, I love it just as much as cocktails, and thanks to my wine-loving family, I’ve been enjoying it and learning about it for years.
I recently tasted the Louis Jadot Pouilly-Fuissé for the first time, and I was inspired to share a little about this lesser known Chardonnay and pair it with a bite-sized appetizer. Pouilly-Fuissé is a dry white wine made in the South Burgundy region of France with only Chardonnay grapes. The unique terroir of the Pouilly-Fuissé area produces a very distinct wine with flavors of apple, citrus, nuts, and a hint of minerality that makes it a great wine to enjoy with dishes containing shellfish.
The Louis Jadot Pouilly-Fuissé is a lovely pale golden-green color with aromas of lemon and apple, and a pleasant balance of smoothness and acidity. This acidity makes it a nice pairing with creamy dishes and cheeses, but I wanted to create an accompanying hors d’oeuvres that would feel fairly light. This led me to choose shrimp and avocado as the starting point for my canapes, and upon tasting, I decided to add a hint of ripe peach to bring out the subtle stone fruit flavors in the wine. The play of acidic and umami flavors that makes avocado toast topped with tomato so enjoyable is enhanced with a sprinkling of freshly cracked black pepper and flake sea salt. The Pouilly-Fuissé draws out a subtle sweetness in the peach-avocado topping, making this combination of wine and small bite satisfying to nearly all of the tastes (sweet, salty, umami, sour).
These super simple canapés can be made in about 10-15 minutes, depending on how long it takes to toast your bread rounds and mash up some avocados! You can opt to cook and chill the shrimp yourself, but I like to just pick up some pre-cooked cocktail shrimp to speed things up. I used a high quality, rustic loaf of Italian bread but you could also substitute a baguette sliced into rounds in a pinch. I love this recipe for a last minute get together or a prelude to a lobster dinner.
Pouilly-Fuissé with Shrimp & Avocado Canapés
24 1” white bread rounds (cut with a canapé cutter or cookie cutter) or sliced baguette
24 cooked and chilled cocktail shrimp
1 large ripe avocado
1 very ripe yellow peach
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
8-10 cherry tomatoes
Flake sea salt
Arugula micro greens, for garnishing (optional)
Preheat to 350° F. Toast bread rounds for 5-10 minutes, or until crisp and slightly browned.
Meanwhile, in a small mixing bowl, mash peeled and de-stoned avocado with lemon juice until smooth. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Peel, de-stone, and dice a very ripe peach. Add it to the avocado and mash until well combined.
Top each bread round with about 1 teaspoon of avocado-peach mixture. With a sharp knife, cut each cherry tomato into three to four slices. Place one shrimp and one thin slice of tomato on top of each canapé and sprinkle with freshly cracked black pepper and flake sea salt.
It’s almost officially summer, and wild cocktail ingredients are flourishing all around yards, fields, and forests in the northeast. June is a fantastic month for foraging in New Hampshire, and it seems that every day a new plant is popping up around my backyard. Dandelions, violets, plantain, daisies, yarrow, milkweed, wood sorrel, and many more wild edibles are easy to find this time of year, and growing in abundance.
Foraging for cocktail ingredients is really fun and quite easy if you have access to any land not treated with pesticides or other chemicals, but it can be a little harder if you live in a city. So with that in mind, these three cocktail recipes are made with ingredients that are incredibly easy to find, grow, or buy online!
I chose The Botanist gin as my muse for these recipes because it’s a wonderful Scottish (Islay) gin that’s made with 22 locally-sourced, hand foraged botanicals, making it a great match for these summery, plant-focused cocktails.
First up is a simple martini riff that adds a touch of rosewater and chamomile-infused dry vermouth to the classic recipe. I also added some exquisite Grapefruit Mint bitters by Wisecraft Mixology, but you could substitute a basic grapefruit bitter or even orange or lemon, in a pinch. Chamomile is very easy to grow, even indoors, and even easier to locate in your local grocery store. For the infusion, use dried flower blossoms or tea sachets.
Instructions: Stir first three ingredients with plenty of ice and strain into a chilled martini glass misted with rosewater. Garnish with a lemon twist and a rose petal. To infuse the vermouth, combine about 2 tbsp or 2 tea bags of dried chamomile flowers with 6 oz dry vermouth in a mason jar and let sit for two hours. Strain and store any leftovers in a sealed jar in the fridge. Glass is the Sofia Tall Medium from Fferrone.
Next is an easy gin and tonic with an extra botanical boost. I chose Fever-tree Elderflower Tonic for it’s fantastic bittersweet, floral flavor, and garnished with lime, mint, bee balm leaves, and a tiny rosebud from my garden. Gently ‘spank’ your mint leaves before placing them in the drink to release the oils. Bee balm is an herb in the mint family, and the leaves are known for their oregano-like aroma. I find it more akin to a mix of fresh oregano, mint, and thyme, with a gorgeous complexity that brightens up flavors in many gin-based cocktails. If you can’t source bee balm, try a blend of fresh oregano, mint, and thyme!
Botanical Gin & Tonic
2 oz The Botanist Gin
4-6 oz Fever-Tree Elderflower Tonic Water
Squeeze of lime juice
Bee balm, mint, edible flowers, lime, to garnish
Instructions: Fill a tall glass with ice. Add gin, tonic, and a squeeze of lime juice. Stir gently and garnish with fresh botanicals. If you can’t source bee balm leaves or blossoms, try a mix of fresh oregano, mint, and thyme.
Last is a really fun cocktail that uses one of the easiest to identify and easiest to enjoy wild edibles in the US. Wood sorrel (oxalis) are a group of plants that resemble clover, but have 3 distinct heart-shaped leaves that close in cool weather or rain. They often have small yellow flowers and grow all over yards, driveways, fields, and forest floors. The great thing about wood sorrel is that there are no poisonous plants that resemble it, making it a great introduction to the world of foraging. Wood sorrel has a crisp, lemony flavor, and the flowers, leaves, and stems are all edible and quite tasty. For this riff on a basil gin smash, I grabbed a handful of fresh wood sorrel leaves and flowers from my backyard and muddled them with green apple, lemon juice and simple syrup. Add a little gin and you have a super crisp and summery garden-to-glass cocktail.
Wood Sorrel & Green Apple Gin Smash
2 oz The Botanist Gin
.75 oz lemon juice
.75 oz simple syrup
2 thick slices of green apple
A handful of wood sorrel leaves and flowers (about 1/4 cup)
Instructions: Muddle green apple and wood sorrel vigorously with lemon juice and simple syrup. Add gin and ice and shake until chilled. Fine strain into a rocks glass filled with cracked ice and garnish with an apple fan and wood sorrel. Glass is from Hospitality Brands.
This Gin Basil Smash is eye-catching because of contrasting colors and shapes.
One of things I get questions about all the time is how to take better cocktail photos for Instagram. Being a photographer and having studied fine art photography in college, it’s something I’m always excited to help people with! The following mini crash course is an excerpt from my new Ultimate Guide to Instagram Growth. Find more tips on improving your social media content here.
Left: underexposed / too dark overall. Right: overexposed / too bright overall.
Exposure & Lighting
The first priority when creating a picture is your exposure. Exposure refers to how bright or dark the image is when it’s taken. A good photo is not too bright and not too dark, and you know this because you can see details or texture in both the bright areas (highlights) and the darkest areas (shadows). Sometimes, we shoot to intentionally under or over expose our images, for stylistic reasons, and that’s totally ok. But generally speaking, especially if you’re new to photography, aim for a properly exposed image with a well-let subject. If at all possible, use daylight! Indoor lighting at night combined with cell phone cameras rarely produces great results. If you’re not able to use daylight, pick up a set of inexpensive continuous photo lights with softboxes on Amazon. You will immediately improve your images by using lights that you can easily control that are a cooler color temperature. When lighting your subject, think about how light interacts with it. Is it highly reflective? Is it transparent? Would it look better if it was backlit, side-lit, or lit from above? Experiment until you figure out what makes your subject look best. If you’re shooting food or beverages, I highly recommend first trying lighting with only one light and placing it so that it is to the side and slightly behind. This will give drinks a glowy vibe and will let most food look natural and appetizing.
What angle and lighting makes your subject look its best?
Composition, Angle, Focus
After lighting and exposure, the next most important element is the composition, or arrangement of your image. How are the objects situated in the frame? Is the main subject placed in such a way that the viewer can immediately identify it as the most important object? Is the entire subject in the frame, or did you cut parts of it off? If so, is it intentional and stylistic, or is it distracting or confusing? Always think about what you want your image to be conveying, and try to arrange the objects or people in the image in such a way that they tell that story. When shooting, look all around the frame to make sure that nothing is cut off or that anything superfluous is in the picture. When arranging the objects in the picture, make sure that the angle of your camera is the best for the subject. What angle will make your subject look its best? Head on, top down, from the side? When setting up your shot, ask yourself if the angle and composition are what truly make the subject look best. Don’t be afraid to try multiple setups until you find the right look. Even as a professional photographer, I sometimes find myself trying many different setups and tweaking small details until the shot looks just right. And taking the time to do that will really pay off.
Lastly, put a lot of thought into the focus of your shot. A lot of the time, the best looking shot is one that has a very shallow depth of field. What this means is that the main subject is sharply in focus, while the background and foreground are blurry. This instantly draws our eye to the area that is sharp, and makes for a very natural, visually pleasing image. A lot of cell phone cameras have a Portrait mode that allows you to create this effect, but it’s also completely possible to create it artificially with editing apps (more on those later). If using a manual DSLR camera, you can create a shallow depth of field by using the widest aperture / F-stop option possible. Even if you’re not able to play a lot with depth of field in your images, make sure that the focus of your shots is clear. A viewer should immediately know what object you want them to look at and it should grab their attention.
A final word on composition - choose one aspect ratio and stick to it. This means go with either square format images or portrait (vertical) images. Square is the IG classic format, but honestly it’s not ideal. Squares are limiting and are notoriously more difficult to compose within. I now always post vertical 2:3 size images to Instagram because I find it looks better with my content, and most importantly, it gives you greater visibility. Have you noticed that vertical images on Instagram take up nearly the entire screen when you’re scrolling? Take advantage of all that visual real estate in your follower’s feed and use vertical images. I recommend against using landscape images if at all possible simply because they are presented so small on phone screens and can be so easy to scroll past.
What is the story you’re telling with you image? What do the objects in the frame tell us about the scene that’s unfolding?
Styling & Storytelling
Next we need to ask ourselves, what is the story we’re telling with this image? What do the objects in the frame tell us about the scene that’s unfolding? Styling is one of the most fun (and also most challenging parts) of food and beverage photography, and it’s something that you will continue to get better at the more you do it. A great place to start is to go study some beautiful images by or others in your field or niche. What is it about the images that works? It can be really helpful when getting started with styling by emulating the work of others, and practicing recreating their compositions so that you can understand why it looks good. I’m definitely not saying that you should go out and start copying other peoples’ photos. Rather, use them as a starting point and a template that can make your own images better. I like to spend time now and then browsing some of the most popular images in food hashtags on Instagram. Quickly, you start to see patterns and trends that are making for really eye-catching images.
Styling is all about telling a story through visual cues. Each object that you place in your image should have a role to play and a reason for being there. Eliminate all clutter from your compositions and only add items if they add value to the story being told. An example of this is shooting a cocktail that’s being poured. The glass and cocktail shaker are key to the image, and having a few other objects around them, such as ingredients or other tools, reinforces the story. But having other random bottles or miscellaneous bartop items in the shot isn’t necessary and can create visual overwhelm. Simplify, whenever possible. The smallest details can give us a ton of information. For example, a prop could be the cork from a wine bottle rather than the whole wine bottle. It’s giving us the same information but in a smaller package. Also consider color when you’re styling. Use similar colors, or maybe contrasting ones - but don’t overdo it. In food and beverage particularly, you want the main subject to be the primary source of color and it’s often best to use neutral colors or subtle accent colors for your props so that they’re not competing with the main subject. Once you’ve decided what objects are important to your story, the next task is to arrange them in a way that looks best to the camera, not necessarily to your eye. I shoot with a tripod most of the time, and this allows me to work on a setup and then check the frame on the camera, back and forth until the image looks right. If you don’t check with your camera periodically as you’re styling, it will be much harder to visualize how the final image will look. The first step is to decide on the placement of your main subject, and then choose positions for any additional items by considering the foreground and the background. A nicely balanced foreground and background will help to offset the main subject. Another great technique is to use when styling and creating your composition is leading lines. This means that you arrange the composition in such a way that props or other elements subtly point or lead the eye to the main subject.
Notice how the buds on the plant on the left are ‘pointing’ to the main subject. These are subtle leading lines. The plant is also helping to frame the subject.
Attention to Detail
Now that you’ve successfully composed and styled your image, give it a good once over for any small details that are out of place or need some adjusting. For me, this means inspecting the parts of the table in the shot for dust or marks that will be distracting in the final image, and looking for reflections or condensation or the positioning of my garnish. How does your main subject look? Is it being captured from the best possible angle? Is it clean and looking fresh? Is there a glare or unappealing reflection? Make sure that you double and triple check all the details to avoid having to reshoot later. Always give the final image a good inspection before moving on. I shoot dozens and dozens of images when I shoot. Don’t be afraid to take plenty of extra shots to make sure you’ve got at least one good one!
Edit Your Images
Now that you’ve put all this work into making a great image, it’s time to make it even better. No matter how good of a photographer you are, or how great your camera is, all images benefit from post-processing. I use Photoshop (and sometimes Lightroom), because that’s how I was trained in art school, but there’s really no need to buy any expensive desktop software unless it’s your thing. There are a ton of great photo editing apps out there. I also always use the Instagram editing tools (not the filters) when posting an image. No matter how perfect the picture is, whenever I post an image, I always (bypass the filters) and tap Edit, and then use Adjust, Brightness, and Sharpen. Use Adjust to make sure the picture is sitting in the frame correctly and maybe zoom in a tiny bit. It’s all about getting the framing just right. Next is Brightness. When posting to Instagram, set the brightness on your phone at max, and then adjust the Brightness option in Instagram until the picture looks it’s best. This will drastically improve the chances that your picture looks great on any device it’s viewed on. You can go ahead and adjust things like Highlights and Shadows, or add some stylistic blurring with the Tilt-Shift option, and when you’re done, head to Sharpen and add at least +10 just to give it an extra punch of sharpness. No need to overdo it, just slide up a bit until it looks its absolute best. My favorite app for editing photos on the go is Seedsnap.
Today I want to talk about a topic near and dear to my heart - Instagram!
Chances are pretty good that if you didn’t end up here via a Google search, you found this site via Instagram. Moody Mixologist began on Instagram, in January of 2018, and turned into this blog a few months later. Prior to becoming a full-time cocktail blogger, photographer, recipe developer, and Instagrammer, I owned a small skin care business, and before that I worked in marketing for about 10 years. When I started this cocktail adventure on a whim, I decided to put everything I knew to the test, and see where it would lead me. Less than 6 months after I posted my first cocktail pic, I had 10k followers, a growing blog, and I was making a decent side income.
Over the past year and a half-ish since I started this journey, I’ve had a LOT of friends, family, and followers ask me how I was able to grow my Instagram so quickly, what advice I have about their accounts, and then of course the ever-popular, ‘how in the world can you make money from an Instagram account’ question. I’m actually quite confident that most of my family still has no idea what I do all day. Anyway, last week my Instagram reached 50k followers, and I decided it was the perfect time to share my top tips for rapid Instagram growth, as well as my brand spanking new Instagram Guide + Workbook! The following are the first pieces of advice I give anyone looking to expand their audience and grow an engaged community:
Know your niche
The quickest way to grow a following is to be hyper specific about who you are and the kind of content you share. Trying to appeal to a very wide audience will make it harder and slow your growth. Who are the most influential accounts in your niche? What do those accounts have in common? Understand what is already happening in your niche on Instagram so that you can find ways to differentiate and offer a unique value proposition.
Engage authentically and consistently
My number one piece of advice? Be an authentic, friendly, kind, presence in your niche who contributes value to your community. Engage with your followers and also accounts that don’t follow you. Explore hashtags in your niche and interact with new people. Engage with a wide range of accounts consistently, and do so authentically. Don’t leave throw-away comments on peoples’ posts, just for the sake of commenting. Take the time to get to know people and their content, and leave thoughtful, valuable comments. Ask yourself if you’re being a conversation starter or a conversation ender with your interactions.
Posting daily is pretty much the best thing you can do to improve engagement and grow a following. Keep your content fresh in peoples’ minds. Demonstrate value and start conversations! Remember, with the massive amount of content out there every day, if you’re not rightin front of people, they’re not thinking about you.
Develop a personal style
If you want to be noticed and set yourself apart from others in your niche, you need to develop a consistent, visually pleasing, personal style. You don’t have to be dramatically different to succeed. Analyze your most successful posts. What do they have in common? Are there visual themes, photo angles, or a color palette that people seem to respond the best to? Create a look and feel to your account that is uniquely, recognizably you.
Network and continually seek increased visibility
I’ve seen some Instagram accounts experience crazy rapid growth after getting coverage on a larger Instagram account, a feature in a magazine, or a guest post on a well known blog. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and seek press coverage! Network with others in you niche to support and promote one another. Look for out of the box ways to bring visibility to your account.
Want to know more about how I grew my following and exactly what steps I took to get to 50k+ followers today? Check out my brand new Ultimate Guide to Rapid Instagram Growth + Workbook! This no-BS guide will tell you what you need to know and exactly what you need to do to gain followers and to do it quickly. We’ll cover not only how to increase your reach and engagement, but how to actually make better content, including a mini Instagram photography course with my top tips and an actionable plan for creating consistently beautiful images.
This post is sponsored by the National Peanut Board.
It’s been a while since I shared a dessert cocktail recipe, and lately I’m all about that magical combination of sweet + salty. And the first thing that pops into my head when I think sweet and salty heaven is chocolate and peanut butter!
When I was a kid, there was no better treat than peanut butter cups, and to this day, they’re my favorite candy and first choice topping on ice cream. I’ve been blogging a lot about flavors lately, and particularly about enhancing them, balancing them, and understanding the relationships between contrasting flavors. If you’ve ever done any baking, you know that a pinch of salt is so important for enhancing the sweetness of a recipe, and the same is true even in cocktails. Sweet and salty flavors amplify one another and make for a more flavorful experience, which is probably why we love them together so much!
Today I’m mixing up a creamy treat in the style of a Brandy Alexander. The Brandy Alexander is a classic cocktail that combines equal parts cognac or brandy, cream, and crème de cacao. It’s the ultimate in decadent, chocolate cocktails, but I find it benefits quite a bit from a modernized approach to the ratio of ingredients (a boost in the quantity of cognac). Chocolate and cognac is a magical thing, but we’re kicking things up a notch and adding a homemade salted peanut butter syrup.
This syrup is amazing in dessert cocktails, but you could also drizzle it over your ice cream, brush it on a layer cake, or even put it in your morning coffee. I definitely recommend swirling it in combination with chocolate syrup into any coffee or espresso-based beverage.
To make the peanut butter syrup, simply combine equal parts white sugar and hot water and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Then add a hefty scoop of natural peanut butter and mix it really well. I recommend using an oil-free one with an ingredients list of just peanuts and salt. Once mixed, you can strain out any particles with the same fine mesh strainer you’d use to strain a cocktail. This syrup is delicious and it’s a fun way to add a little of that salty, peanut buttery flavor to an otherwise ordinary Alexander.
Peanut Butter Alexander
Yield: 1 cocktail
Prep time: 10 minutes
2 oz cognac
1 oz heavy cream
.5 oz peanut butter syrup*
.5 oz crème de cacao
Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a chilled coupe and garnish with a peanut butter wafer cookie (dipped in chocolate ganache, if desired! You can easily make chocolate ganache by mixing equal parts real chocolate chips and heavy cream. Microwave the mix for 30 second intervals and stir until you reach a smooth, dippable consistency.)
*Peanut Butter Syrup
½ cup sugar
½ cup hot water
¼ cup salted natural peanut butter (I used smooth, all natural, just peanuts and salt!)
In a mason jar, add ½ cup of sugar and ½ cup of hot water. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add ¼ cup of peanut butter and stir until incorporated. Screw the lid on the mason jar and shake hard to fully combine. Strain mixture through a fine mesh strainer to remove any larger particles. You can strain through cheesecloth for an even silkier end result. Store any leftovers in the fridge for up to two weeks.
STEP ONE: Add hot water to sugar in a mason jar
STEP TWO: Stir until the sugar dissolves.
STEP THREE: Add natural, smooth peanut butter and stir to incorporate.
STEP FOUR: Screw on mason jar lid and shake well.
STEP FIVE: Strain the syrup through a fine mesh strainer to remove any large particles.
If it’s possible that there’s one thing I’ve become a bit known for in my little corner of the internet, it’s making a pretty cocktail garnish. As a photographer and a highly visual person, I have always been immediately drawn to a drink (or a plate, for that matter) that is beautifully presented. It’s in our nature to be drawn to beauty, to seek it, and even to be influenced by it. Yes, in many ways, beauty truly is power.
Perhaps my most favorite cocktail photograph, a Coconut Daiquiri garnished with a simple, yet strikingly beautiful Bridal White Star dianthus.
Beauty is powerful
The way a cocktail is presented to us is a critical component of the drinking experience. We begin the experience with the preparation or ordering of the cocktail, developing anticipation. As the drink is carefully prepared, our senses begin to take in all of the sights, smells, sounds, and feel of the process. Finally, once shaken or stirred and strained, we garnish. A delicate spray of citrus oils from a twist, a single plump green olive submerged in a bath of gin and vermouth, a drip of mellifluous Luxardo cherry syrup from three perfect, glistening cherries - these are small moments that crystallize the cocktail crafting experience and signify completion. The garnish is the final touch, meant to accentuate the drink’s flavors, tie them together, contrast with them, or perfectly complement them.
Vessel + garnish = presentation
Now, we take in the drink with our eyes. Like picking out our clothes, the garnish styles the drink and helps to showcase a bit of its personality. Think of a petite, sharply pointed lemon twist perched on a long-stemmed up serve, or an abundance of fresh mint and edible flowers atop a mountain of crushed ice in a tiki mug. Our drinking experience is activated with taking in the beauty of the finished cocktail, and then transformed with our first sip. The relationship between the look, feel, scent, and taste of a cocktail is like a carefully crafted dance, and when perfectly balanced and executed well, we go from simply having a drink to really having an experience.
If you’ve ever made or been served a really memorable cocktail that just stuck with you, that’s what I’m talking about here. These cocktail memories bring to mind the good company or events of the evening, in the same way that a certain song or scent can instantly transport us back to another time. Our memories and emotions are wrapped up in our senses, and one of the reasons a cocktail can be such an incredibly enjoyable thing is because of how it’s such a complete sensory experience.
Presentation = marketing
A garnish is defined as a decoration, an embellishment, an accent. And while I agree with this basic definition, I think that cocktail garnishes are much more than that. Garnishes can serve many purposes. They can be simple or extravagant, edible or inedible, large or small, dropped in a drink or perhaps discarded altogether. In a bar environment, it makes sense to keep things mostly practical, but as a home mixologist, I can experiment endlessly. (Which, full disclosure, is pretty much what I do all day.) In a bar, the presentation of a cocktail should enhance the drinking experience and also help to market the drink. Garnishes and the overall cocktail presentation are really a form of marketing. Who doesn’t love a beautiful, even Instagrammable drink?
Presentation affects perception
What continues to fascinate me is the relationship between liquid, vessel, and garnish, and how when these three things align perfectly, the experience can be extraordinary. I’m continually amazed by how presentation affects perception, and how our perception can be greatly influenced by seemingly very small details. In many ways, creating a cocktail has become a deeply fulfilling thing for me, and the more I’ve experimented and explored the rich history of cocktails, the more I’ve come to understand just what an art form a well crafted drink really is.
The point is this: a good drink is much more than just the sum of its parts!
Let’s talk about the types of garnishes. I like to classify them by basic groups: twists, fruit, leaves, flowers, food, and objects. I keep twists separate from other fruit garnishes because their purpose is specifically to add the oils from the citrus peel to the drink, rather than to add subtle fruit flavor or simple visual appeal.
Sunset Strip cocktail featuring a carved orange peel garnish.
The citrus twist is a very simple and yet very special thing. Gently peel off a strip of orange rind with a vegetable peeler or a sharp knife, fold the edges inward with peel facing out and watch as a mist of glistening citrus oils spray from the peel. This simple application of oils can greatly enhance the flavors of a cocktail, and it can also dramatically cut through the sweetness of syrups or liqueurs. It’s a magical thing really. A great example of this is to pour a simple glass of sweet vermouth, any brand, on the rocks. Tasting it before and after adding a lemon twist is one of the quickest and easiest ways to understand the power of the twist. What may have seemed quite sweet before now tastes perfectly balanced, and the citrus aroma filling the glass adds opens up and adds depth to the flavors of the vermouth.
Beach Bird, a variation on the classic Jungle Bird, garnished with mint, pineapple frond, and a flower shaped slice of mango.
This category includes everything from a fresh bunch of mint to pineapple fronds. The leaves of herbs like rosemary, thyme, or lavender add flavor and aroma, while leaves like pineapple are used purely for their visual appeal and to alert the drinker to a flavor present in the drink. I enjoy using even non-edible (important: they need to also be non-toxic so as to not leach anything into your drink) leaves such as the leaves from roses or lilacs to add a bit of fresh green visual flair. Because I love to forage for wild edibles, I’m always discovering new plants to use either in flavoring or garnishing a cocktail. A favorite is the super common wood sorrel, a small green plant with characteristic shamrock shaped leaves that taste lemony. It goes without saying that you should always do your research before eating any wild plant, but wood sorrel is a nice safe plant to start with because there aren’t any poisonous plants that resemble it. You can read more on this subject here. Personally, I love leaf garnishes. Greenery can make a cocktail look lush and fresh, while pleasing, symmetrical patterns draw the eye. I like to combine leaves with fruit or flowers to enhance the lush factor. A great taste test for this category of garnish is mint. The addition of mint adds a cool freshness that makes many, many cocktails taste even better, but a great example is a classic Mai Tai (2 oz aged rum, .75 oz lime, .5 oz curacao, .25 oz orgeat, .25 oz simple syrup). Taste it before and after adding a fresh sprig of mint and you’ll be sure to notice how the mint adds a whole new dimension to the drink!
Tomorrow’s Garden, a gin cocktail featuring a small garden of edible flowers.
Ah, edible flowers. Of all the things I’ve been intrigued by or obsessed over in my life, edible flowers are one I keep returning to over and over again. Before embarking on the full-time photographer and blogger life, I owned a small natural skin care line. I spent years researching botanicals for their benefits for skin and health, and I always found flowering plants to be especially inspiring. Today, learning about and growing plants and flowers that are good to eat has become a real passion of mine and I also enjoy sharing what I’ve learned.
Before we get into this category, let’s talk about safety and why it’s a concern. A while back, this thing called social media (ahem, Pinterest) came along and people started sharing all kinds of pretty images of food (for example, wedding cakes) decorated with seemingly harmless flowers. However, some of those flowers were not at all safe to eat, and some of those images were/are circulated endlessly. This spreads bad information, and can turn into a real problem. It’s important to know that plenty of common flowers and houseplants are not safe to eat or have contact with your food, and some are actually quite dangerous. Let’s think for a moment about a substance containing toxic chemical compounds sitting in a bath of alcohol - a solvent. This could quickly turn a pretty drink into a deadly cocktail. So always do your research, purchase from trusted sources, and maybe most importantly, don’t assume that something is edible just because you’ve seen it on social media. :)
Here’s a quick guide to edible flowers. There are more edible flowers than listed there, but it covers the basics. You can order edible flowers online, buy them at local markets, or even grow your own. There’s a wide variety to choose from, and you can pick them for flavor, aroma, or perhaps most commonly, just for their beauty. Some of my favorites are lavender, dianthus, roses, and orchids. There is nothing quite like a beautiful, delicate flower adorning a fancy coupe. Some flowers are sweet (for example, violets), some spicy (nasturtiums), some citrusy (bee balms), some vegetal (hostas). For more information, check out my edible flower guide.
PBJ Proof Margarita, featuring an almond butter and raspberry jam sandwich garnish.
This is a really fun category and consists of, well, food. I recently made a friend’s peanut butter and jelly-inspired cocktail that called for a sandwich garnish and it was AWESOME. Who doesn’t love a cocktail that comes with a snack?? Some other food based garnishes include paper cups of nuts clipped to drinks, the meal in a glass Bloody Marys adorned with hot wings or whole fried chickens, and lovely after dinner drinks served with a wedge of dark chocolate. The possibilities are pretty much endless, and only limited by the real estate of your glassware, or your appetite, or your creativity. I love creating food and drink pairings, so this category of garnish is one I’ve explored time and again.
A Mezcal Mule garnished with a carved lime twist and a chicken feather.
The final category is reserved for items that serve one purpose: to add visual appeal. These objects are not edible, and that’s (hopefully?) clearly understood. They adorn a cocktail in order to tell a story, add some personality, or to get a laugh. Some object garnishes I’ve seen are playing cards, tiny rubber duckies, feathers, gemstones, and origami planes or animals.
Want to learn more about cocktail garnishes?
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My rendition of an iconic Hee Chung cocktail. See the original and more of Hee’s gorgeous drinks here.
It’s officially #GarnishWeek! All this week, I’ll be sharing ideas and inspiration about all things GARNISH. Head over to Instagram to join in and follow along!
We can’t talk garnishes and cocktails without talking about the King of Garnish, Hee Chung, also known as @onedrinkaday. Since I started my own drinkstagram adventure (like, literally since day one) I’ve followed Hee and been completely amazed by his out of the box garnishes and incredible knife work. The man has mastered all manner of fruit roses, which let me tell you, is no small task. I still cannot manage to make a decent cucumber rose, which is probably why edible flowers have become my friends. In addition to roses, Hee has done some incredible carving work, floral ice cubes, and even created tiny landscapes within his glasses. I’m excited to share this interview with Hee, and get to know more about his background, inspiration, and techniques.
Amy: Your garnish game is amazing. How did you get started crafting such beautiful cocktails and garnishes?
Hee: My background in bartending started when I was 16 years of age. I did a 6 week service training program over the summer holidays because I really wanted to get a job at a bar/restaurant and thought the training would give me an advantage. I wasn’t meant to taste the drinks because I was underage but the trainer let me sneak in a few sips haha. I learnt just the basics of bartending, coffee making, food handling, customers service etc. The training did help me get a job at my local pub/bar but of course I was not allowed to work behind the bar because I was underage! So I waited 2 years before starting and by starting I mean collecting empty glasses. At the same time I was studying at University so working at a bar was perfect. I finally got to the point of serving drinks (basic mixes and set cocktails) but around this time I graduated and so my hospitality days were over (which was sad).
Even though in a professional sense I left the industry I definitely continued my passion for cocktails and food at home. It was 2 years ago that I decided to document everything on Instagram. Given the platform is very visual I combined my love of art, food and drink to create everything you see on One Drink A Day. It really should be renamed One Drink A Day (minimum)
Every day you seem to be coming up with something new and out-of-the-box! What inspires you?
I don’t really know what inspires me. I’m sure there are a heap but if I was to narrow it down I would say other social media pages (cocktail and food based ones), cool patterns that I see e.g. in a painting , and I think I try to translate what ever I see into a garnish e.g. I’ll look at a dress and think about how I can make a dress garnish. Sometimes it’s an epic fail but other times it presents amazingly!
Do you have any favorite tools for garnish-making?
The tools that I used most often are:
A sharp paring knife
Peeler - honestly this peeler is like nothing you’ve used before. Think about the sharpest peeler then multiply the sharpness by 100. Now you have a bit of an insight into the peeler I use. Its perfect for the thin cucumber slices (to create roses) or to peel the rind off citrus fruit.
I also use toothpicks a lot . This helps me with securing certain garnishes (for example cucumber succulents).
Then there are custom cookie cutters that I always look out for on Etsy. You’ll be surprised to find what is actually available . The honey comb apple garnish that I’ve made has become super time efficient thanks to the small hexagon cookie cutters from Etsy.
What’s your favorite garnish you’ve created?
My favourite would have to be the cucumber weave garnish. I believe it was in May of 2017? when I created it. Over time I’ve refined the technique so that bars could potentially see it as a valid garnish. Fast forward to today I’ve definitely seen (on social media) this garnish being served at bars! Also my cucumber weave video that was reposted on LTD is currently sitting at nearly 2.5 million views which I’m super shocked and thankful for.
I love that as gorgeous as your cocktails are, they are simple and never pretentious. The world of craft cocktails can be intimidating, and your creations are accessible and could be enjoyed by anyone - which explains why you have over 130k+ followers on Instagram! What’s next for One Drink a Day?
Thank you! I definitely want to continue to create more innovative garnishes and concepts. I also want to run garnish classes where I can teach people how to create what you see on my page.
I do get a bit of criticism on garnishes that are a bit out there. I want the audience to know that my page is not really a typical cocktail page but rather a creative mood board (to pick ideas from) which you can use to enhance your own craft.
If I can somehow make One Drink A Day really show this in future, people may understand what I actually offer which in turn may lessen the criticisms (or not lol). I realize what I do deviates from the traditional methods but at the same time the mixology is constantly evolving and maybe I can contribute to this progression in some way. At the end of the day I do what I do because it’s a massive passion of mine and I’m so thankful to the community and my audience.
I think it might be wine time now…..I definitely want to do more wine time going forward.
Thank you Amy for allowing me to be a guest blogger here!
This post is sponsored by Amaro Lucano. All words and opinions are my own.
Spring is a really wonderful time for cocktails in New England. When we finally come out of the endless winter chill, there’s nothing like enjoying those first few outdoor cocktails on the patio! Today I’m sharing an incredibly simple and very delicious drink for just that purpose, featuring Amaro Lucano.
When the afternoon sun is warm, and the days are getting long, I love to wrap up work early and fix a nice low-ABV sip to have on the patio or out in the back field while my daughter runs around. We have a nice big field out back, and that stretch of flat land makes the sky above look so big. Once it’s warm enough, there’s nothing I love more than fixing a drink and plopping down in an adirondack chair, just watching the clouds drift by.
Lower-ABV cocktails are great this time of year, when you want something easy and refreshing that won’t slow you down. A great simple cocktail formula is a duo, or a drink containing just two ingredients. A while back, I tried a one-to-one duo of Amaro Lucano and sweet vermouth, with a couple dashes of bitters, and it was heaven! Fast forward a couple of months, and switch up the bitters, and you have a great patio cocktail that’s easy to make for one or for a group. I like this petite drink served up, but it’s also very nice served on the rocks, because as the dilution increases, the drink changes and different flavors come through. Try it whichever way suits your taste!
Amaro Lucano is a really versatile amaro, so if you’re not sure where to start with amari, this is one of the bottles you’ll want to pick up first. The more amari that I try, the more that I appreciate Amaro Lucano’s well-balanced bittersweet flavor. In my opinion, it’s right in the middle of bitter and sweet, leaning perhaps a touch to the bitter side in the best way possible. When mixed with just some vermouth and bitters, all of the wonderful herbal flavors are showcased at center stage. This is a great little aperitif to serve at a cocktail or dinner party, or a digestif to enjoy at the end of a meal!