THE FINAL TOUCH: HOW GARNISHES OPEN UP A WORLD OF FLAVOURS
THE ART OF THE HIGHBALL
Over the past few decades, as cocktail culture around the world introduced new techniques and focused on new recipes, one part of the world quietly set about perfecting the Scotch highball - Japan.
For over 100 years, the highball has been a hugely popular drink in the land of the Rising Sun and bartenders have used their experience to elevate the highball into an art form. Here, simplicity is championed with an emphasis on using quality, hand-cut ice and a fresh and diverse range of garnishes to create dynamic highballs.
COCKTAILS MADE FOR ‘SHARING’
If you have visited Japan, or research the highball culture there, you’ll know the highballs look spectacular. When creating cocktails, a reality bartenders must face today is the visual and social nature of most of their customers’ experiences today.
The introduction of garnishes can raise a serve and transform a drink. More photographable recipes will encourage customers to share their experiences with friends and followers on platforms like Instagram. Ultimately, this is a free marketing tool that promotes the cocktail, the bartender and the venue to wider audiences, helping boost sales and profitability.
Garnishes are also a great way of personalising classic recipes or offering seasonality to a menu. With Johnnie Walker Black Label, there are several characters with layers of flavours to draw from and amplify with different garnish options.
JOHNNIE, BE GOOD
Japan has led the way, but the rest of the world is waking up to the merits of the Scotch highball. Evidently, the highball is a fantastic vehicle for Johnnie Walker Black Label, as it allows a bartender to adapt and accentuate certain flavours of the incredible Scotch.
The whiskies in Johnnie Walker Black Label are drawn from some of the finest distilleries in the world and it has been said drinking Black Label is like tasting all the flavours of Scotland in a glass. This makes Black Label the perfect base for a Scotch highball, with an incredible depth of flavours for bartenders to play with.
With influences from different distilleries in Johnnie Walker Black Label, highballs and their garnishes give bartenders an arsenal to amplify and draw chosen flavours from. For example, whiskies from Caol Ila deliver deep smoky notes that can be explored further with smoked garnishes, like toasted rosemary or chipotle.
The distinctive characters of Johnnie Walker Black Label can be heightened in several ranges of flavours: fruity, creamy, tropical, smoky, spicy and fresh. We take a look at four garnishes that can amplify these flavours in Johnnie Walker highballs:
1. POWDERED RIMS
Rimming a glass is a quick and effective way of taking an existing recipe in a completely new direction and it adds a strong visual component to differentiate your highball. Consider how the rim will be the first contact for the drinker’s lips, and how it will interplay with the whisky, ice, bitters and mixer.
Johnnie Walker Black Label has tropical notes that can be easily heightened with a powdered rim like all spice and sugar, which provides a sweet and fragrant precursor to the main event.
To prepare this rim, follow these steps:
- Crush your all spice and sugar to a fine powder using a pestle & mortar and fill a small saucer or plate.
- Moisten the rim of your glass – if you are using citrus in the highball, a lemon, lime or orange wedge can be used for this. Alternatively, you can use simple syrup or a liqueur to wet the rim (just ensure it complements your other ingredients).
- Dip your glass in the saucer and twist from a vertical angle. For sharper presentation, use a clean napkin or cloth to even the rim.
2. DESICCATED COCONUT
Flavourful, easy to store and with a fantastic texture, desiccated coconut is a great garnish to have in your arsenal. Whilst it is available in pre-packaged form in many countries, the general rule of thumb for garnishes applies – fresh is best.
Desiccated coconut is prepared by removing the natural moisture in the fruit, which in turn preserves it for longer.
Johnnie Walker’s creamy flavours can be elevated using coconut as a garnish, which can be prepared by:
- Cutting a fresh coconut in half, remove its husk and get rid of any excess water. Using a fine grater, shred it.
- Spread the shredded coconut across a baking sheet, keeping it a thin layer to avoid clumping together.
- Cook in an oven on a low heat for 5 – 15min, monitoring the progress of your coconut. Timing will depend on the moisture content and the texture should be brittle when done.
3. DRIED FRUITS
Dried fruits are the fancy cousin of the standard fare of garnishes – citrus peels and wedges. If you haven’t played around with dried fruits before, you’re missing out on all the benefits they bring to a cocktail – not least in presentation.
Not only do they look more sophisticated and interesting than your standard citric options, but dehydrating can reduce your venue’s carbon footprint and help your venue’s bottom line. Dehydrated fruit can be kept for a lot longer and takes up a lot less storage room, reducing costs and workload.
Johnnie Walker Black Label has fruity notes, like raisins and marmalade that are easily amplified by incorporating dried fruits to cocktail recipes.
To dehydrate fruits, follow these steps:
- Cut your selected fruits into your desired shape, place on a baking tray and brush liberally with simple syrup.
- Pre-heat your oven (or dehydrator if you’re lucky!) to 35°C – 80°C and place the tray in.
- Let them dry on low heat for at least 12 hours, then remove.
Herbs have been a traditional fixture in cocktails for decades, but with gastro-trends and increasingly blurred lines between the kitchen and bar, new methods for garnish preparation are being used to fully use the savoury notes of herbs.
With Johnnie Walker Black Label, there are wonderful smoky elements to draw from the island whiskies involved. Using a smoked herb garnish, like a burned sprig of rosemary, for a Johnnie Walker Black Label highball delivers a new dimension of flavours and aromatics to a simple serve.
To prepare this smoky garnish, follow these steps:
- Source fresh rosemary sprigs or stalks.
- Ignite the herb using matches or a lighter and transfer to the drink quickly to catch the smoke aromatics.
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