I believe that culinary experiences, including drinks, are all about the senses. Namely, the sights, smells and tastes. I came to the realization recently that I enjoy cooking mostly because it usually makes the house smell so good and fresh ingredients have vibrant colors.
Back in the old world when we used to leave our houses, I used to joke that my goal after work was to at least have the garlic simmering in the pan before my husband got home. In my opinion, it’s the best smell ever to come home to.
Alas, this post is in no way about garlic. But it is about other organic and aromatic ingredients that you can top your seasonal drinks off with! Even as the twinkling lights fade and we pack our holiday decor away, these ingredients will elevate any cocktail or mocktail to a delight for the senses.
What is a garnish?
Working in the restaurant industry acquainted me with the concept of a garnish. I used to think they were more for looks, rounding out the appearance of a dish or adding a pop of greenery.
That was until I started cooking and making more drinks at home. You can buy the seasonal garnishes listed here year-round, but they pair especially well with holiday imbibements.
Some ingredients can be incorporated into the drink during the muddling or shaker stage of cocktail-making, while others are a nice addition to the top of a drink. Sometimes it’s not about actually tasting the garnish as much as it is catching a whiff of its earthy goodness as you enjoy your drink.
Holiday season drink toppers to keep on hand
Tis the season to cozy up to a warm fire with a festive drink.
I recommend stocking up on seasonal ingredients year-round, especially around the holiday season. These ingredients make a great homemade potpourri and are useful for seasonal baking and cooking.
Worth noting, I have been grabbing the first 3 or 4 ingredients listed here in the ethnic spices area at the store. Seems like you get a ton more for a lot cheaper. I’m sure other markets have them for cheaper too, and someone recommended Food City recently as well.
Did you know that cinnamon is made from the bark of a tree? I recently started looking into it, it looks like a whole thing! But cinnamon sticks not only look and smell pretty, but they also make good drink stirrers. Functionality with my garnish? Ok!
I’ll be completely honest, I’m new to the star anise club! Recently, I made Half Baked Harvest’s Thanksgiving Sangria and became acquainted with it. The star-shaped dried-fruit pod begins as a piece of fruit on a small evergreen tree (what?!) and adds a beautiful licorice-like aroma and detail to any cozy or holiday drink.
Ok, learning about these ingredients is kind of blowing my mind. According to thespruceeats.com, cloves begin as an immature flower harvested from an evergreen tree called a “clove tree.” The dried young flowers render the little spikes that we buy at the store.
Recently, a recipe called for allspice berries. I was confused as to if it was an actual berry that I would find in a produce section. After a quick search at the store, I found them in the spice section. They resemble little peppercorns.
A quick google scan informed me that they are of Jamaican origin. These are great muddled with other ingredients or sparingly sprinkled on top of your drink for aromatics. Just know they have a really strong taste and you don’t want to go too crazy with them.
You definitely want to have these on hand during the holidays, beginning around Thanksgiving. In addition to making your cranberry sauces and jams, they add a fun pop of color and tart flavor to any drink. We also used some to make our festive dried citrus garland.
What’s a pomegranate aril you ask? Well, of course, that’s what most normal people call a pomegranate seed. We have a pomegranate shrub and it’s vibrant-colored kernels add a whole new level of festive feels to any drinks. I shared recently that I learned there are over 500 variations of pomegranates, which continues to blow my mind.
Now, you know I have plenty of this lying around! The Flower Bungalow has quite a few citrus trees in the yard, which I absolutely love. Fresh citrus makes a sensational garnish, but so does dehydrated citrus.
Any of your typical herbs pair well with most drinks. Remember to wake your herbs up before using them in your drinks by clapping or pinching them between your fingers. My friends at Iconic Cocktail Co. taught me to take a mini clothespin and pin it to the side of my glass. Any of these are perfect:
I hope you are inspired or learned something new about these seasonal garnishes to add to any festive drink. If you take any of your drinks to the next level with these ingredients, be sure to let me know how they come out!