Finishing your drink with the right garnish can make or break your cocktail. (And no one wants a broken cocktail! I mean, I'd still drink it, but I wouldn't enjoy it as much.) As a bartender, I've met plenty of finicky people whose order is so detailed, especially specifying the garnish. They not only are the visual finishing touch to a cocktail, but the taste of the garnish effects the drink. So if you're stocking your bar, you want to make sure you have these accouterments ready to make the best cocktail service for your visitors!Lemon slice
These are probably the most popular, usually added to gin and tonics, but can be requested for various other drinks. You want to cut off both ends. Then slice the lemon in half. Lay each half down and cut in to half-moon slices. Lay each half-moon slice down and cut in to the flesh at the middle, only halfway, so that the slice will stay in place on the glass's rim.
This is primarily the rind used for its essential oil. To make lemon twists, cut off both ends of the lemon. Insert a sharp knife or spoon between the rind and meat of the lemon and carefully separate them. Cut the rind into strips. The outside of the lemon is where the flavor lies. When adding a lemon twist to a drink, slowly rim the edge of the glass with the outside of the lemon twist and then drop the twist into the cocktail.
Lemon and lime wedges
Some people like these in their water or other non-alcoholic drinks. They also may need them at the bar for food items. Many people prefer wedges to slices because they like their drinks extra lemony/limey. At any rate, it's good to have them as an option. Slice the lemon/lime in half the long way. Lay the cut halves down and then slice them in half again. Cut wedges from the lemon or lime quarters.
Cut your slices from a Persian lime, the most common type, not a key lime which is smaller and yellower. They are similar, but have two different flavors. Cut the limes as you need them, not before hand, to keep them fresh. The lime slices are cut the same as lemon slices.
Use stemmed maraschino cherries, because they're easier to get out of the glass; some bar patrons may also enjoy tying the stems in knots inside their mouths. Do not get cherries soaked in rum or other alcohols; make sure your cherries are alcohol-free, as even small bits of alcohol can be extremely dangerous for drinkers with alcohol allergies. You'll need a lot of cherries.
Orange slices are another popular garnish. Cut the ends of the orange, then cut the orange in half. Cut each half in half again (lengthwise). Cut the orange quarters into wedges.
This is a cherry speared onto an orange slice. A "sex on the beach" uses this garnish as do many other mixed drinks.
Traditionally, olives should be green, pitted, and without pimento. If Martinis are very popular at your bar, you want to keep a good supply of olives in stock. Nowadays it is common to find olives stuffed with pimentos, as well as different cheeses, such as gorgonzola, blue cheese, and provolone. Jalapeño stuffed olives are also gaining popularity in the South-West region of the United States. I prefer a stuffed queen with pimento. But that's me.
Small cocktail onions, the size of marbles, are used for Gibsons or even martinis. Not many people order Gibsons but it's good to have them around. They sell cocktail onions in jars, but you can also freeze plain onions, giving the savory garnish to your drink the added icy touch.
Mint leaves are required to make certain mixed drinks such as a Mojito and a Mint Julep. Mint leaves should be fresh, wrapped in a damp paper towel and refrigerated. You want to go easy on applying mint to drinks, because a little goes a long way -- especially when muddling. When you garnish the top of the glass with mint, don't use muddled stuff -- keep it fresh with a nice sprig. And don't forget to "spank" the mint to release it's aroma! (We all like a good spanking, right?)
Some drinks can use spices, such as cinnamon or nutmeg, as a garnish. Keep these around in colder months, as is more common for customers to order during that season. These are particularly common in dairy-based drinks, like egg nogs, white Russians, and Alexanders, among others.
Many other kinds of fruit can be garnishes, but are less likely to be used: pineapple wedges, watermelon, apple, etc. These are used for more unique concoctions like tropical drinks and specialty martinis. You probably won't encounter them as much.