Thursday, November 13, 2008

Stumped...By a Cherry!

Recently, I was questioned by a patron regarding a specific form of "Cocktail Etiquette." Something that I have always secretly questioned but never answered.

To set the scene, it was a calm monday evening. The drink was a Blood and Sand and, I had thrown together a garnish of Orange Zest knotted on a cocktail stick followed by three cherries, a tie-pin for the glass if you like. Not too traditional but why not?

Why not indeed? I had shot myself in the foot...You see shortly after serving, I was asked this question:

"Im sorry, but am I allowed to eat the garnish?"

I replied, cautiously, "I would never tell you that you can't but I was always taught that its bad manners..."

The next question, inevitably was, "Why?"

For the first time, in a long time...I was stumped, because I couldn't for the life of me, find a valid and sensible reason to explain it. I couldn't even remember who had told me in the first place!

Now, I have always stuck to the rule that the majority of garnishes are married to at least one of the ingredients in the drink and they are generally used to add or emphasise flavour. Im not talking about eating garnishes such as chillies or citrus twists (even though I once had the pleasure of an old english lady who loved to eat the lemon twists from her Lemon Drops) but how many people do you see resisting the olive in their Dirty Martini, or those shiny red bauble-like cherries in their Old Fashioned?
Personally, I have always resisted the temptation. As a Bartender I always maintain that the garnish is for decoration only but being a good host will tell you never to tell the customer that they cant eat it, especially without a good reason!

The thing that got me is that when asked "Why?" I could not give an answer! I do not know why we are not supposed to, or why it is frowned upon by many others. I have never read an account/story or heard of any official rules. However, every other Bartender I have quizzed has the same opinion as me...unless they are deeply into Molecular Mixology but thats a different set of rules entirely...

Does anybody know why? If so then please share because I am still, truly stumped!




  1. I personally find this amusing, and the notion that a bartender could actually be offended a client eating the garnish in a drink also categorises something I don't like about the industry today - the fact that many professional bartenders think they're artists and brain surgeons. And don't get me started on Flairers. Yes, what we do takes a degree of talent, but should by no means cause us to turn our noses up at one another.
    I agree with the writer on this one wholeheartedly in his assertion that a garnish is married to one or more of the drink's ingredients and is there to improve it - it's a sound one and leads me to my point.

    Opinions are like arseholes; everybody has one, and I present mine with great pride: I always thought the aim was to make a drink for someone that they personally enjoy. Is that wrong? If it makes the customer happy, and they believe that for them it compliments the drink, they can eat the garnish, the cocktail stick or the glass. End of. If you don't want them to eat the garnish, carve it out of granite. That should give them the idea, but it may be a little time consuming ..

  2. A response by "goat"...more commonly known as Tom Goatly, one of the people I consider to be a true all round bartender and one that shares the same view as I do about Bar Monkeys...I mean flair bartenders...;)

  3. New to me.

    Generally, I won't eat a twist, but other than that if a garnish is edible, why not eat it?

    Especially if the cherries are those delicious Luxardo cherries or house made brandy cherries.

    I mean, sure, if the garnish tray is a mess and the bartender's hands are dirty, I'll ask them to skip the garnish altogether. Or, well, probably order a beer.

  4. I agree with you Sirs. The garnish should be married to one or more of the drinks ingredients and should improve it.

    For example: a fine Marschka Cherry soaked with the best brandy and Marschino should never be in a Gimlet (This one ist for Guido who did this always -> xou are a narcissistic "know-it-all" and the worst Bartender I ever meet)

    My personal "classic" opinion is: A twist or a wedge gives flavour and a additional taste - but it is not for eating. Cherris, Berries, olives etc are also there to be eaten by the guests.

    In a classic bar you only should do a decoration, if there is a reason (additional Taste) for it.

    The rest belongs to the Concept of the Bar .... If you serve Pina Coladas ... Pine Apple - even Coconut could be a great Addition ... but it should always be prepared and serve to give the guest the possibilitiy to eat it.

    I "hate" regular Cocktail Cherrys - but if they are fine done, they are a perfect addition to a whiskey based drink -> I eat them!

    And if you concept is PORN BAR . 80's Drinks with lots of melony, pienappple and other decorations ... it not classic, I hate it.. but if it makes sense in the concept ... it o.k.


    Try NOT eating these garnishes!

  6. I like my guests to enjoy the garnish. It gives another twist to the drink experience and is (most of the times) healthy.

    ..and one more thing Gentlemen:
    the sidenotes about flairers or flair bartenders is -although possibly based on personal experiences- as useless as me pointing out that "classic" bartenders are boring and do slow service.
    There are many good and bad bartenders in the industry -"bottle flippin´" or "old fashioned stirring to death" ones.


  7. Fair point Mr. Weiss, but there is always the bonus that the "old fashioned, stirring to death" Bartender will make you a nice opposed to a Bacardi Razz and lemonade that takes ten minutes!
    Flair is impressive, at the right time, in the right bar with the right customers...when I first started out, I loved flair...but then the thirst for knowledge took over...


    Gabe Toldi aka Strainer

  8. Apologies Mr Weiss...that came across a little harsh...

    My personal views aside, the truth is that as long as everybody has passion for what they do...and they do it for themselves then it doesn't matter if it's Flair or Mixology or anything else... we are all entertainers and salesmen and we do what we can too keep patrons happy...

    I think as long as you care about your work, then other people will too....


  9. well said! Nothing to add from my side, apart from the fact that I myself am not much into Razz as well.

    The funny side is that some of the most talented bartenders/mixologists being asked if they flair will answer like "ooh NOO!!" and when I watch them work at their bars they do nice working flair all the time. Flair is not about big jugglers moves at a bar, that is exhibition stuff for shows. It is about moves incorporated in the process of making a drink with style. A nice (and clean!) pour and cut, the way you stir...-these things.
    I think many in the industry love the idea of the "2 worlds - flair vs classic" too much to look over the fence to see what the others do. (That is especially true for Razz-shakers that take forever to serve a drink.)


  10. btw. your description of your personal evolution from flair to the thirst of knowledge is VERY common to many bartenders I have spoken to.
    Among the older flair bartenders it is known as the "Notteboom-cycle", named after Stephan Notteboom, a brilliant bartender from Belgium who worked in UK. He was a flairer and when he was really really good at it more and more people approached him and said:" Yeah, you are a cool flairer, but you know nothing about good drinks!" He took that serious and started to study and suck in every little piece of knowledge he could grab. After a while when he got really good in making superbe drinks, people started to tell him:"Well your drinks are great man, but your flair, you know - kinda slow, we´ve seen better ones." He started to practise more and he made it to the finals of Legends of Bartending, the most prestigious technical event in bartending world wide.
    Notteboom Cycle.