If (because) gin makes the world go round, then knowing your garnish makes the ride even smoother! Here’s our guide to gin garnish to make your life easier.
What is garnish? Anything used as a decoration for a prepared food dish or drink (yes, that did sound like it came from a dictionary, didn't it!). The basic idea is that it adds to, or contrasts with, the flavour of your lovely gin. Sometimes they also improve/contrast the color, or just generally make the cocktail look fabulous.
Lemon and Lime
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. Adding a slice of lemon or lime brings out the citrus and also adds a splash 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 come through. Fishers Gin and Gordon Castle are 2 gins that will work equally well with lime or lemon.
Orange is a citrus garnish that's growing in popularity. Orange is often used as the citrus botanical in London Dry gins so adding it as a garnish enhances the flavour. Gins that work well with orange or orange peel garnish include Cuckoo Gin, 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.
Another citrus garnish that is hugely popular is pink grapefruit. It pairs particularly well with some of the modern Spanish style gins that are a little sweeter. We love it with Brockmans Premium Gin.
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 that are fabulous with a cucumber garnish include Premium Harrogate Gin and Two Birds.
Juniper is the base botanical of all gins it's no surprise that juniper berries are one of the most popular garnishes out there. Adding juniper berries as a garnish amplifies what makes gin.. well gin? Brands like Whittaker's and 5th Gin Water are both examples of gins who use this garnish to enhance the wonderful dry taste of juniper.
This garnish not only makes your G&T perfectly sweet but adding frozen peaches keeps 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 mediterranean 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 house but trust us. lavender creates a warm and aromatic gin and tonic. Try it with Aviation.
How To Choose The Right Garnish
Choosing the right garnish is all down to what the dominant botanicals are in the gin. Taste your gin neat and see if you can identify which word most fits its character. Is it lively and full of citrus, delicate and floral, herby and savoury or mouth puckeringly bitter and dry? Would you like to boost that flavour or add a contrast?
Once you know the character of your gin, use this list for some guidelines on which garnish to choose.
Gin with a strong citrus flavour such as Wicked Wolf can be beautifully balanced with savoury garnishes. Coriander, basil and thyme enhance the herby 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 recommend 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 (pink grapefruit, orange, lime or lemon). The peel is actually more fragrant than a slice so you only want to use a small amount.
Alternatively, try adding a sprig or rosemary or lavender, it really brings out the floral flavour and makes a gorgeous looking and fresh G&T. Jensen's Old Tom and Aviation recommend rosemary and lavender as garnishes. Tarquin's Single Estate Cornish Tea Gin uses hibiscus flowers to enhance the gorgeous floral notes of its honey and tea botanicals.
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 pink 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 as the perfect garnish to their gin.
So there you have it - we hope our guide helps make your gin life a bit easier!
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