Some say gin makes the world go round. We say garnish makes it go round even smoother! Add to your garnish knowledge with this guide to gin garnish.
What's a garnish? Garnish is any item or substance used as a decoration or embellishment accompanying a prepared food dish or drink (yes, that did sound like it came from a dictionary, didn't it.) In many cases, it may give added or contrasting flavour. Some garnishes are selected mainly to make your food or drink more aesthetically pleasing, while others are selected specifically for the flavor they may impart. In some cases they enhance the color, give a color contrast or make a cocktail more visually appealing, such as when a cocktail umbrella is added to an exotic drink, or when a Mai Tai is topped with any number of tropical fruit pieces.
Gins should almost always be served with a garnish accompaniment to enhance the flavour and either exaggerate flavours that are already present in the gin or add a complementary and contrasting flavour.
Easily the most common garnish you're likely to find with gin. Nearly every gin includes citrus as a botanical and, along with juniper, it's one of the more easy to identify and pleasant to note botanicals. Adding a slice of lemon or lime brings out this citrus and also adds a slpash of colour.
When it comes to the eternal question of lemon or lime we suddenly start to divide the entire gin loving population. It's purely down to preference, taste and the gin. Those in favour of the lime state it adds a punchy bold flavour that lemon just can't add. However, those in favour of the lemon would argue that lemon has a softer and more delicate flavor, allowing the botanicals in the gin to still come through.
Orange is another citrus companion that's growing in popularity. Orange is usually the citrus used in London Dry gins which is why many distillers opt for a complementary lemon or lime instead of more orange. Gins that garnish well with orange include Martin Miller's, Brighton Gin and Liverpool Gin Valencian Orange. What all these gins have in common is that they have sweet and fresh citrus notes running through them, as well as savoury notes of herbs like rosemary, olives and thyme.
The most famously cucumber garnished gin has to be Hendricks. Hendricks definitely set the trend for using cucumber wheels as a garnish, adding refreshing and perfectly mellow tones to your G&T and amplifying the cucumber peel they use when distilling the gin. Other gins using cucumber as a garnish include Steam Punk and Two Birds.
With Juniper being the base of all gin it's no surprise that juniper berries are one of the most popular garnishes out their. Literally no gin is missing juniper berries, so adding them as a garnish amplifies what makes gin.. well gin? Brands like Whittaker's and 5th Gin Water are both examples of gins wanting to enhance further the wonderful taste of juniper.
This garnish not only makes your G&T perfectly sweet but adding frozen peaches acts as a cooling agent, keeping your gin cooler for longer. Perfect for long hot summer evenings. Try in Thompson's Bordelais.
When your gin fills you with a creamy and buttery mouthful; adding vanilla is the perfect complement. It amplifies the sweet silky flavours and adds a feeling of sophistication to a G&T.
Star anise is one of the most versatile spices out there, working well with both savoury and sweet. The menthol kick and intense aroma of the spice creates a perfect balance of flavour and the beautiful star-shaped seeds create a picture ready G&T.
If you've come across Black Tomato gin or are a fan of a red snapper you may not think this so unusual. However, you're still more likely to get a gin with a lemon slice than a few tommys. Basil and tomatoes are the perfect partners for a summer inspired G&T.
Opihr and Le Gin 1 And 9 are finished perfectly with a little chopped chili. Not only do the chilies give your G&T a peppery and spicy kick, but, by bringing out botanicals such as star anise and cumin they create an extremely aromatic gin and tonic.
Lavender is your new best friend if you love a floral, aromatic G&T. It may smell like your grandma's closet but trust us lavender creates a warm and wildly aromatic gin and tonic. Try it with Aviation.
Choosing the right garnish depends upon the dominant flavour of the gin and the botanicals used to create it. Taste your gin and tonic first and try and identify which word most fits its character. Is it lively and full of citrus, delicate and floral or mouth puckeringly bitter and dry? Would you like to amplify that flavour or add a contrast?
Once you know the character of your gin, consult this list for some rough guidelines for what to choose.
Gin with a strong citrus flavour such as Wicked Wolf find balance with savoury garnishes. Herbs such as coriander, basil and thyme enhance the herbaceous and floral notes the gin has to offer so that it is less dominated by citrus.
Alternatively, many gin drinkers adore that citrus bite and some distillers would prefer you ramp up the citrus with an old fashioned slice of lime. Bombay Sapphire, JJ Whitley London Dry and Porters Gin all suggest a lime pairing.
With light floral gins like Geranium, you don't want a garnish that will be too overpowering and disturb the light, delicate aromas. We suggest a wheel of cucumber (which Hendricks is paired with perfectly) or a little citrus peel (grapefruit, orange, lime or lemon). The peel is actually more fragrant than a slice so you only want to use a small amount.
Alternatively, to accentuate the wild floral notes, adding a sprig or rosemary or lavender creates an aesthetically pleasing and fresh G&T. Tarquin's Single Estate Cornish Tea Gin uses hibiscus flowers to enhance the gorgeous floral notes of its honey and tea botanicals. A few other gins like Jensen's Old Tom and Aviation recommend rosemary and lavender as garnishes to amplify the flowers used in their distilling.
The dominant flavours in aromatic and herbaceous gins like Ancient Mariner cry out for some fresh herbs to be added so that they pop even more on the nose. Savoury garnishes such as rosemary or rocket smell very strongly of fresh grass and pepper, which pairs well with both the herby botanicals and with the juniper.
If the dryness and pepperiness of these isn't to your liking, try a slice of apple to add a little sharpness. Apple is a slightly less common garnish, and often suggested by gins that use an apple base spirit like 1911 and Williams Chase Elegant Crisp.
Cloves really pack a sensory whollop and are great for amping up the spice level in your G&T! Alternatively add orange or pepper which compliment botanicals such as cassia and cloves, creating a warming and soft gin and tonic.
Opihr is a perfect example of a spicy and aromatic gin. The suggested garnish is bell pepper, creating a truly interesting G&T. Lemon and peppercorn together are used to garnish Colombo 7 to really amplify the spicy notes and Le Gin 1 and 9 is another amazingly spiced gin that is garnished with chilli pepper (and topped up with ginger ale), creating a perfectly sweet and spicy combination.
We all know that the perfect partner to a London Dry Gin is a slice of citrus. Whether that be lime, lemon, orange or even grapefruit you can really transform your G&T. This is because the dryness of the gin comes from the lack of sweeteners and flavours added to the gin during distillation. Bulldog and Slingsby both use pink grapefruit to garnish their gin.
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