May 9, 2019 12:08 am

Shane Ridley

The Beginner’s Guide to Gin Garnishing

Do you add a slice of lemon to a gin and tonic or, like our American friends, a slice of lime? Easy, but a little boring! There are lots of way you can spice things up. There are different tonics of course. A touch of the many bitters available now. Then there are garnishes – also called botanicals – that you can add flavour, art, fun and sophistication to you G&T. Let’s get creative. Hold on though; before you start flinging garnishes all over the place, there are a few basics that are good to know.

Types of Garnishes

Gin garnishes can be fresh or dried and usually fall into four main categories: spices, herbs, fruit (including berries) and flowers. A few favourite fruit garnishes are strawberries or raspberries, apples, peaches, cucumber (yes botanically it’s a fruit) and of course a plethora of citrus fruits: the less common being kumquat, blood orange, yuzu, finger lime and grapefruit. Herbs can include rosemary, mint, basil and why not throw in juniper here. What!! Indeed, juniper is a conifer and their “berries” are actually seed cones. The main essential oil present is pinene. With spices and other dried botanicals, you can really have some fun, because there are all sorts of exotic types available. All kinds of peppers, cardamom, cassia cinnamon, star anise, liquorice and allspice are favourites that spring to mind. Spices are easy to store, look great, and will give you some incredible flavours to complement your G&T (and many other cocktails). So, we come to flowers. Yellow and pink roses, mallow flower that adds a touch a blue and hibiscus, apart from colour, does impart flavour.

Like with like

While garnishes are certainly used as a decoration, some are infused and not present in the final drink. Most contribute to the flavour of your drink, so you want to make sure that the garnish you choose will complement the type of gin you are using. Before you throw your hands up in the air and say that sounds too complicated – don’t worry, it isn’t! An easy way to do this is to simply read the info about the gin, often as tasting notes from the distillery website, or via a critique by gin specialists. They often mention its signature botanicals and even have some basic serving suggestions. Then, choose a garnish that matches one of the ingredients.

Gin has to be made with juniper, so that’s a safe bet – add some berries – squeezing them hard before dropping them in. Most gins have citrus – match them either as a slice or a strip of peel. Limes and lemons are often expensive, especially out of season. You will see more and more cocktail bars using dehydrated citrus, so try keeping some on hand. For a change try grapefruit or blood orange if you want to move away from lemon or lime. As a general rule, dry gins go well with juniper and citrus. Floral gins are suited to berries, hibiscus, mallow flower and cinnamon – and definitely a rose is appropriate flowers. Savoury gins are good with liquorice, rosemary, thyme, basil or olives. With spicy gins you can try out cassia cinnamon, star anise, peppercorns, cardamom, allspice and more.

A few suggestions 

  • Slice a fresh strawberry in two and pop it into a floral gin, and you’ll end up with a delicious pink hue. If not in season add a whole dehydrated raspberry or strawberry to the gin to soak for a few minutes before adding to G&T. Add a pinch or two of black pepper to taste. Hibiscus flower is berry-flavoured and will suit a floral gin and add gorgeous colour too.
  • Lightly crush a couple of juniper berries in between your fingers or with the flat of a knife, then add them to pretty much any gin you have on hand. Add a slice or two of apple if you’re feeling daring!
  • Cardamom can team really well with orange, so pop in a pinch of grated cardamom and then a couple of crushed pods as well and add a slice of orange or orange peel. Again – out of season dried citrus is perfect.
  • Star anise is a versatile spice that that goes well with both sweet and savoury flavours. The star shapes look great in your glass too. It can be strong flavoured, so go easy on the quantity to start with. Try a sliced strawberry perched on the edge of the glass for extra visual appeal.

If you would like to try garnishing we suggest starting with a dried citrus pouch or two and our Gin & Tonic Basic , Premium I and or Premium II, 4 Garnish Packs. If you want to throw yourself in try our cases.

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