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It’s the week before Thanksgiving and a perfect time to gather up some bounty and learn about how to properly garnish those holiday drinks. Ross Simon, from Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour, joined us on Saturday and poured out a plethora of drink tips for us. While Ross setup, the C-CAP students sliced fresh produce that Ross had found right there at market; from figs at the Community Exchange Table to oranges and apples from McClendon’s Select, all were sliced on a hand-made cutting board on loan from one of our vendors, Sanja at Artisan Cutting Boards. He was also able to collect beautiful pomegranates and sprigs of Asian Basil from Maya’s Farm.
As the crowd began to form, Ross started giving us tips on how to use each item he had at his demo station. We loved seeing how engaged all of you were and Ross was ready with answers to all of your questions. It was wonderful seeing how simple it is to add character to your drinks and many of those garnishes don’t require much effort. Ross went over how to utilize dehydrated fruit, different kinds of bitters (he used local AZ Bitters Lab), fresh fruit, zest, herbs and more.
Starting with the fresh fruit from he showed us how to score up an apple and create a fan using a cocktail pick. This would be a great way to spruce up that apple martini or maybe a punch. He used his peeler on some TJ Farms cucumbers and after peeling 4 strands, he folded them over and created a ribbon. This he used to put into the cup as garnish and the rest of the cucumber he suggested using to flavor your cucumber water.
Two things he made clear when making your drinks, never be afraid of adding more ice. In fact, add ice and then add more ice. No, it does not dilute the drink like you might think. It actually helps to keep that drink at the right temp and to not have the ice melt as fast. The second tip, add your straw to the drink before you garnish. If you were to add it after, you’ll push the ice and the garnish around. You want everything to stay in place once you’ve finished garnishing that beauty.
Want to prep some mint for your mojitos before guests arrive? Here’s Ross’ tip, strip the mint leaves off except a little at the top and save those for muddling or something else. Then put the rest of the mint on the stems into a glass of water but make sure not to cover the leaves up. This will help the mint last the whole day. If you see the leaves turning a bit brown, they’re no good. Sage is also a good option for garnishing drinks, it’s got a nice flavor and looks pretty too.
Ross also went over the art of zesting and grating as the perfect way add aroma and color to a drink. Use a handheld grater to add nutmeg or a little lemon or lime to the top foam of a drink. If you want to peel the citrus, he found his at McClendon Select and Taste of Summer, make sure to cut off a little of the bottom to create a stable surface. After you’ve done that, take your knife and carefully peel the citrus following its curves. The white part or pith is no good for flavor, it creates bitterness, so carefully cut that off the slice you’ve got. Once you see those holes and not much white or pith, you’re good to go.
Another easy tip, use the cocktail picks to add fruit, he picked up the berries used from AJ’s. Put one strawberry on the end, followed by a smaller blackberry, followed by an even smaller raspberry, throw some powdered sugar on them and voila. Ross also used some gorgeous dried hibiscus flowers he found at the market from Farm Phoenix to garnish champagne flutes. Pour a bit of cognac in the flute, add the bubbles and throw in that dried hibiscus and you’ve got glam! If you want more of Ross’ tips, we suggest heading downtown to Bitter & Twisted where you can find him slinging drinks and we also recommend trying some of Chef Bob Tam’s food – dumpling burger anyone?
As a thanks to all of you, we raffled off 2 $50 and 4 $25 gift cards to Bitter & Twisted. Thanks again to Ross from Bitter & Twisted for taking the time to share his expansive knowledge on drinks and supporting our market. Next week at the market will be Chef Jared Porter of Clever Koi. Stay in the know by subscribing to our weekly e-mail list and follow us on social media (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram).