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Cocktail glass decorating 101

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Cocktail glass decorating 101

It’s often said that we eat first with our eyes. In the spirit of boosting your cocktails’ visual appeal, here are three mixologist tricks for serving up drinks that’ll really make a splash!

Published on October 31, 2023

There’s nothing wrong with garnishing your glasses with a maraschino cherry on a cocktail skewer or a twist of lemon—or even a paper parasol for a retro look—but if you really want to impress your guests, here are some pro tips to take it up a notch.

Decorate your ice cubes

A great way to liven up your cocktails is to use decorative ice cubes filled with fruit, edible flowers, spices, or fresh herbs. For the holidays, why not play around with pine needles and pomegranate seeds? Not only will the ice cubes be pretty to look at, but the aromatics will be released into the drink as they melt!

For the best results, use a silicone mold instead of a traditional ice cube tray (the kind that comes with the fridge). And since most of the items listed above tend to float, freeze your ice cubes in two steps: First, place the ingredients at the bottom of the mold and fill it halfway with water. Put it in the freezer until the ingredients have set, then top up with water and put it back in the freezer. That’s all there is to it!

Another option is to cut fresh fruits (strawberries, pineapple, melon, citrus) into cubes and freeze them on a baking sheet, then place them in a resealable plastic bag and store them in the freezer until needed. They’ll add a splash of colour without diluting your cocktails, plus they’ll absorb some of the alcohol as they thaw. Delicious!

How to make clear ice

Looking to make crystal-clear ice cubes like the ones you see in cocktail bars? Well, it’s not so easy!

There are many molds on the market specially designed for making clear ice cubes or ice balls at home, but they can be pricey and only produce a small amount of ice at a time. 

However, there’s an easy and more economical way to make ice cubes that are clear (or almost—it’s not foolproof!) at home. Simply boil the water before pouring it into the silicone molds. This will allow some of the nitrogen and oxygen bubbles in the water to escape, which helps prevent white clouds from forming in the ice.

The Picasso of cocktail

Let your inner artist out by decorating your cocktails with a masterful stroke of a paintbrush! Modern and minimalist, this technique will give your creations some panache without overdoing it. 

For best results, choose vivid colours like red, yellow, pink, blue, or even metallic hues.  Edible paints are an option, but you can easily make your own colour palette by mixing equal parts alcohol (of your choosing) or lemon juice with corn syrup, and then adding a few drops of food colouring. A homemade fruit reduction (see recipe below) is also a great—and delectable—option!

With a steady hand, sweep your brush along the inside or outside of the glass, depending on the desired effect. Inside if you want the “paint” to gradually release its flavour into the cocktail, or outside if you want it to last longer.

Homemade fruit reduction

It’s easy to make your own fruit reduction to decorate your glasses. Ideally, choose colourful fruits like blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, or cranberries. 


Ingredients

  • 4 cups fresh berries or fresh fruits, diced
  • ½ cup water or alcohol of your choice
  • ½ cup granulated sugar

Preparation

  • Dissolve the sugar in the water or alcohol in a saucepan over medium heat
  • Add the fruit and cook for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the mixture become syrupy
  • Strain the mixture to separate the liquid (set the solids aside for use in a dessert or crumble—no waste!) 
  • In the same saucepan, bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer until the consistency is like a very thick syrup
  • Allow to cool to room temperature

Festive all around (the rim)

Rimming a glass is a quick and easy way to elevate the look AND taste of your cocktails. 

The salted rim of the classic Margarita comes to mind, but salt is only one of many options when it comes to rimming. For an extra tasty Bloody Caesar or Pisco Sour, use a blend of spices or hot pepper flakes. For a light, floral cocktail, opt for a mixture of sugar and dried rose petals. The epitome of chic: a Martini glass or champagne coupe rimmed in edible gold flakes. The possibilities are endless, so let your imagination run wild! 

For the rim garnish to adhere to the glass, you’ll need some liquid. Lemon, lime or orange juice is a popular choice, but you can also use syrup (such as simple, agave, maple, or grenadine) to add a touch of sweetness, or even egg white or water for a neutral flavour.

Cocktail rimming 101

  • Pour a small amount of your rimming mixture into a small dish or saucer (just enough to cover the bottom).
  • Moisten the rim of the glass by dipping it in the liquid or rubbing it with a citrus wedge. To prevent the rimming mixture from ending up in the cocktail, only moisten the outside edge of the glass.
  • Dip the glass vertically or gently roll it in the rimming mixture to coat the moistened surface.
  • Shake off the excess and use a cloth to wipe off the glass, as needed.
  • Add your cocktail and serve!

Tips

  • Not sure if your guests will like salt or hot pepper flakes with their cocktail? Just rim one side of the glass, so they can sip their drink how they like!
  • For more precise results, such as adding a vertical or diagonal brush stroke to the inside or outside of the glass, dip your brush in the liquid, then gently sprinkle the mixture on the moistened surface.

More cocktail inspiration here