One Cocktail, Please, Heavy on the Garnish

When I became interested in cocktails, especially rarer and more creative varieties of mixed drinks, I focused almost entirely on flavor, strength and composition. I judged cosmopolitans on their icy smoothness, sidecars on their subtle orange notes, and corpse revivers on that little whiff of absinthe.

Recently, however, I have been more concerned with the decorative component of my cocktails. A fancy drink requires an equally fancy garnish, and sometimes the latter outshines the former. At a hotel bar in Madrid, for example, my underwhelming martini was paired with a cute branch of delicious red currant. The juicy berries almost made up for the fact that I had spent more than 10 euros on a beverage that tasted eerily similar to NyQuil.

During a sunset drinking fest at Anvil, I marveled at the rich flavors of my delicious Black Betty (Rye, Bonal, Italian & mole bitters). Then I took a bite of the black cherry skewer, and the drink took on a whole other dimension, as the fruit brought out the bitter cocoa taste of the mole bitters. Suddenly, Black Betty was a bit sweet as well as strong: a perfect combination.

I even enjoy the simple lemon or lime wedge affixed to my glass rim, though both seem pedestrian compared to other, more creative garnish possibilities. Small, fresh and edible, I think, is the key to a good garnish. I will pass on those little umbrellas, plastic swords, and massive chunks of pineapple that inevitably topple over into your drink, splashing half of it on the table.

Recommendations for cocktails in Houston adorned with particular intriguing or adorable garnishes greatly appreciated. Any salt sculptures, perhaps, floating in giant margaritas?

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Joanna O'Leary