How To Decorate Your Cocktails

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As Britain (and the rest of the world) wilts under the summer heat and we realise that global warming is here to stay, our thoughts have turned to how to keep cool in the newfound summer sun.

Traditionally, Britain is not a country that has embraced the Italian aperitivo or the French apero hour. Realistically, we just don’t have the weather for it - apart from three random days between May and June, plus possibly one or two days in July, British summers are not known for their long, languid evenings spent sipping drinks with friends. Well, all that is set to, quite literally, change. Thanks to the mess that our ancestors have made of the planet (we’re looking at you, Boomers), climate change is a real thing. This is not the place to discuss the scary implications of this, so instead at Neat & Shaken, we prefer to see the tiny sliver of silver in an otherwise very grey cloud. Which is that hot summers are here to stay.We wanted to dedicate this piece to how you can make your at home cocktails feel as if you’re sipping something a little bit sexy under the setting sun. While most of us don’t have pools in our backyards, we do have plenty of enthusiasm for pretending we’re on holiday, so we wanted to give our summer cocktails garnishes that look the part. Here’s our guide to how to best decorate your cocktails at home and feel like you’re in Portofino. Get your shakers, cocktail glasses and ice cubes packed and ready.

1. Citrus Fruits

Citrus means lemon, lime, orange or grapefruit. Let’s get this straight: zest is not the same as twist, which is different from peel and different still from slice. Get it? Good!

Citrus Zest: Zest refers only to the thin-coloured part of the citrus peel which is used for seasoning drinks. Never include the white pithy part. Zest is usually cut into thin matchsticks and dropped into the bottom of the glass to deliver flavour.

Citrus Twist: Still the fruit's skin, but peeled off using a vegetable peeler and wrapped around a couple of cocktail picks to make it curly. Look great on the side of lip-smackingly sour Cosmopolitans, Negronis and Martinis. 

Citrus Slices: Slices are a great addition to mixed drinks and are not just to look good. By having the slice of fruit in the glass, you release a subtler taste into the drink (think of how lemon juice enhances a Bloody Mary). Cut the fruit using a sharp knife and keep the slice on the edge of the glass when serving; there’s plenty of time for the drinker to drop it in later if they want. Perfect for Gin and Tonics - use lemon if a standard G&T, but don’t hesitate to use lime, grapefruit or orange if you’re using a citrus-based mixer. 

2. Exotic Fruits

Fresh fruit is by far our favourite cocktail garnish. The more exotic, the better in our book: scoop out a passion fruit and add the puree to Margaritas (no salted rim here please), add some rambutans to add a bit of tropical punch, and even the humble kiwi or pineapple get a glow up when mixed in a tall glass with gin. 

3. Fresh Herbs

You already know that Mojitos and Juleps need mint to give them their va va voom, but what else is herbaceous delicious? Adding herbs to your cocktail shaker opens up a new realm of flavour possibilities. Think basil in your Gin and Tonics, rosemary in your Prosecco and lavender to your Bee’s Knees.

4. Egg Whites

Egg white is the cocktail version of frothy milk in your coffee. It looks good. The egg white doesn't really change the drink's taste but it does create a cool, silky foam that makes each sip sexy. The trick to creating the best foam is to dry shake first to aerate the proteins and make that meringue-like glossy topping. Goes great with Gin Fizz, Whiskey Sours and Classic Amaretto Sours.

5. Edible Flowers

Fresh herbs and fruit are all very well, but if you really want to make your cocktails look the part, then get yourself some flower power. Lots of blooms can be added to your drink; think violets, roses, pansies, hibiscus, nasturtiums, daisies and marigolds. Use them raw, dried, or candied, and you’ve got yourself one pretty cocktail!