The One Thing Your At-Home Cocktail Is Missing, According to a Mixologist

And it's bigger (and more fun!) than you think.

Photo by: Fred Cole

Fred Cole

Some people might tell you that you need a fully stocked bar with all different sorts of liquors. Others might say you need the proper tools. Chef and mixologist J.Chefé, who has over a decade of restaurant and bar experience, thinks that’s all well and good, but wants you to consider something else: DIY garnishes. Don’t limit yourself to the typical lime, lemon or orange slices. B-o-r-i-n-g. Whether you’re making 2-ingredient mixed drinks (hello vodka sodas and G&T’s) or cocktails, unexpected garnishes instantly make any drink dazzle. They bring the fun and delight. And don’t we all want a little more of that in our lives just about now?

Take one look at J.Chefé’s Instagram feed, and you’ll understand the expression, "you eat with your eyes first." You’ll see that his garnishes range from whole flowers to fruit sliced in new ways to Swedish Fish cleverly dangling down in the drink from fake hooks. He certainly has a talented eye, and here are some tangible ways to channel his whimsy into your home at happy hour.

1. Go giant.

"Most people like small garnishes, but I enjoy big ones because people aren’t accustomed to seeing those," J.Chefé explains. Instead of topping glasses with fruit slices, for example, think about using whole or half fruits for a bigger impact. Prop up halved kiwis and doughnut peaches on the rim of the glass, or drape an entire bunch of grapes off the side. Likewise, reach for large flowers like (washed) sunflowers or hibiscus flowers.

2. Turn to your favorite candy.

Believe it or not, the candy aisle holds drink garnishes galore. Recently, J.Chefé went to his Dollar Tree, found some Peach Rings and lined them up along the rims of glasses. In the past, he has also threaded gummy candies onto cocktail straws. "Everyone has their gummy bears or their candy that they’re familiar with and love," J.Chefé says.

3. Draw inspiration from your favorite dishes.

When J.Chefé was in Thailand, he noticed that sticky rice was sometimes topped with mango cut in an eye-catching way. Later, he came across some baby mangos, cut them similarly and used them as cocktail garnishes. "I was paying tribute to what I saw on the streets of Thailand," J.Chefé explains. And you can do the same with dishes that catch your eye, whether it’s something as simple as that perfect swirl of whipped cream on your favorite dessert or a summery lobster roll (there must be a way to mash-up lobster rolls with bloody Mary’s, right?!).

4. Rummage around your kid’s toy cabinet.

In case you haven’t caught on, J. Chefé explains his secret: "Tap into your younger, more playful self." This could include taking a cue from your kids, and garnishing glasses with little figures like plastic butterflies or birds instead of limes. Or you could even hook your garnishes off of them — the sky’s the limit.

5. Gather some small clips or hairpins.

On a super practical note, you’ll need a way to structurally support and attach your fun garnishes to your glasses. In order to attach something like a large flower to the side of a glass, you can use hairpins — or if you’d like to get fancy, cute small metallic clips from a craft store.

Now...is anyone else feeling a little thirsty?

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