Ever since legendary Italian bartender Francesco Lafranconi topped a cocktail with a sliver of foie gras at restaurant Daniel in New York more than a decade ago, all bets have been off on what may turn up in your drink. Twists have almost become passé and are being replaced by anything from seafood and smoke to roasted marshmallows. Check out these 14 cocktails with unusual garnishes in bars across the country.
Mexican restaurant Tacuba, in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen as well as Astoria, Queens, has a fairly classic Margarita with an unusual rim. What might look like plain salt is actually sal de gusano, an Oaxacan spice made of ground sea salt, chile peppers and maguey worm.
Savory cocktails are on the rise these days, and at 3030 Ocean, Bombay Sapphire gin meets beet juice in a drink with a touch of lemon juice and agave in the mix. It’s garnished with a handful of candied striped beets, sweet beet chips and mint.
image: Brooke Mallory
Shigefumi Kabashima, formerly of Angel’s Share, has brought some unique cocktails to Japanese restaurant ROKC in NYC’s Harlem. This grapefruit- and mezcal-based drink is served on a bed of rocks in a skull-shaped glass. It’s garnished with a burning stick of palo santo wood to round out the drink’s aromatic profile.
Inspired by South African street food, Biltong Bar serves lots of beef jerky and booze, as well as South African handmade savory pies. And this George Dickel–rye-based drink is a flexible pairing for many of the jerky flavors from peri-peri to garlic. It’s garnished with a little pipette of additional absinthe.
image: Justin Sperry
This drink was created in tandem by Jason Kosmas and Dushan Zaric, the main bartenders at Employees Only in NYC’s West Village. It's a blend of Louis Royer Force 53˚ VSOP cognac, EO-chai-infused sweet vermouth, simple syrup, and lemon and pomegranate juice. A handful of rose petals are then scattered on top to give it more aromatic complexity.
image: Emilie Baltz
San Francisco hot spot Trick Dog changes its menu every six months with a different theme. Past themes have included Pantone colors and the zodiac. The July is a complex mix of Dale’s pale ale, shiraz, Fighting Cock bourbon, blackberry, chipotle and lemon. It’s garnished with a wedge of sharp cheddar cheese for additional complexity.
image: Sonya Yu
Brian Brissart heads up the bar program at this eclectic Midwestern bar. For the SarpaSalpa, he mixes a touch of the new Stillhouse coconut whiskey is blended with rum, rosewater, juices, cinnamon, egg white, Angostura bitters and soda. The end result is topped off with a garnish of firestick plants.
New interpretations of the Negroni have been rolling out across the country, and this savory version is a great example. This riff made with tequila, Punt e Mes, complex oyster-shell-infused mezcal and hop–infused Cocchi Americano and topped with a spoonful of sea urchin roe cradled in a cucumber slice.
An Indian-inspired milkshake comes to life in this connection by mixologist Mariena Mercer. It’s a blend of Opihr Oriental Spiced gin, mango, passion fruit, yogurt, coconut and cardamom, among other ingredients. It’s presented with a garnish of snake oil and caramelized orange chips.
Bar icon Franky Marshall, who worked at The Dead Rabbit, is behind this sweet sipper at Brooklyn’s Le Boudoir. Sprinkles top this vodka-based quaff made with Acqua di Cedro, crème de cacao, vanilla syrup, cream and lemon juice. A sweet treat like a madeleine, meringue or financier is served on the side.
image: Katie Burton
At modern Japanese restaurant Zuma in Miami, head bartender Karol Ansaldi uses some unusual garnishes. Michter’s rye is the base for this drink made with blackberries, mint, orange and yuzu cordial, and lemon juice. The garnish is a duo of a slice of dried orange paired with a puff of cotton candy.
Mixing your cocktail