Ever since Smirnoff started pushing the chocolate martini, bartenders have been going wild trying to come up with garnishes for this drink. This has included everything from perching a Hershey’s Kiss at the side of the glass, to frosting the rim with chocolate Jell-O pudding powder to dropping a chocolate covered coffee bean at the bottom of the glass. Some bars, such the Turtle Creek Mansion in Dallas, mold their own chocolates specifically to accompany drinks, such as their white chocolate martini that has a triangle shaped piece of white chocolate drizzled with chocolate as the garnish.
An old trend that has come back involves soaking your own cherries in a liqueur and then use that as a garnish. A chocolate martini in that case could be garnished with a cherry that has been soaked in kirsch or Kahlua; an old fashioned cocktail or martini could be garnished with a cherry that is pickled in dry French vermouth.
Another huge trend is star fruit. It has replaced the kiwi of the garnish “of the moment.” This is an oval tropical fruit that once sliced vertically, concedes a beautiful yellow star shape. This fruit is used to garnish everything from the simplest of martinis to the most foamy of tropical drinks.
As the twenty first century also brought in with it the key word “simplicity” many bartenders are simply dropping a single cranberry, pomegranate seed or blueberry into the bottom of cosmopolitans or Crantinis to give the cocktail a sleek but minimalist look.
A bartender named Kathy Casey at Seattle’s Andaluca bar came up with one of the most creative and elegant garnishes ever to grace a martini. She drops edible gold flakes into the martini to give it a “lava lamp” effect. This is the same stuff that is used for cake decorations.
Another popular trend is to replace the olive with just about any other savory fruit or vegetable imaginable – as long as it is spiced. Long green and yellow beans stuffed with pimento, pickled mushrooms, almonds marinated chili peppers, white pickled asparagus and pickled artichokes are making their appearance as martini garnishes across the country.
Bloody Marys and Bloody Caesars have also had a bit of a makeover, boasting asparagus spears, very long green beans, bunches of tall herbs such as thyme or oregano and vertically cut cucumber strips and carrots as “stirrers” in the drink. This is quite a far cry from the usual celery stick. At some bars, such as the Hoghead McDunna’s in Chicago, some bloody drinks have been practically turned into a meal; guests are served skewers loaded with cheese squares, salami curls, pickles, radishes and multi-colored peppers. Some bars even garnish these drinks with smoked and raw oysters doused in pepper vodka.
Other unusual garnishes include rum drinks that are served with a stick of raw sugar cane, vermouth drinks that are pepped up with a clove stuck into an orange segment or crystallized ginger, and gummy bears and jelly beans that are dropped to the bottom of a glass.