cocktail inspiration by
RISA WEAVER-ENION
GARNISHES + RIMS

cocktail inspiration by

RISA WEAVER-ENION

OUR MIXOLOGY MAVEN's GARNISH + RIM SERIES

Here's a spirited series on cocktail garnishes and rims by Risa, our cherished mixology maven. Drawing inspiration from a unique spice or seasoning each month, she'll craft an imaginative garnish idea perfectly paired with a complementary cocktail recipe. With her unmatched wit, charm, and boundless creativity, Risa is set to share her monthly explorations into the art of drink dressing.

Risa is a mixologist with a knack for turning the ordinary into the extraordinary. Risa's profile page offers a glimpse into her wide-ranging recipes. Highlights include her clever wine-less mulling spice mix cocktails, perfect for those who wish to enjoy holiday cheer without warm wine, and her refreshing summery cocktail collection, which showcases her Summer Spa Day, Herbal Infusion blend collaboration as a distinctive accent.

You'll also find links to Risa's social media accounts from her profile, allowing you to stay up-to-date with her latest creations and adventures in mixology. She's worth following for more than just other cocktail recipes; she also shares insights from her visits to vineyards and breweries, as well as information about spirits in general. Among her publications is Cocktails for Everyday Drinking, which is filled with approachable recipes for even beginner home bartenders. For those who love to celebrate with a drink in hand, Risa has also developed the Boozehound Calendar, marking all the alcoholic holidays of the year, providing a fun way to follow along and celebrate with thematic beverages.

Please enjoy this series by Risa Weaver-Enion. Cocktail photography on this page is ©Risa James Photography.



2024 june
SUMMER SPA DAY - HERBAL BLEND
DRINK DRESSING = RIM
A COCKTAIL GARNISH WITH:
Summer Spa Day - Herbal Blend The word "garnish" technically means to decorate or embellish something, especially when it comes to food and drink.

There's a sustainability movement in the craft cocktail industry to only garnish drinks with something fully edible (so, no mint bouquets, citrus peels, or dehydrated citrus wheels, all of which have to be tossed or composted after the drink is consumed). I can support that.

But sometimes I really just want to garnish a drink with something artistic, impractical, and totally not edible.

June 2024
THE INSPIRATION

My Summer Spa Day Herbal Blend from Selefina Spices is fabulous infused into spirits or made into a syrup, but I wanted to use it as an over-the-top garnish, so I decided to paint some honey on a glass and sprinkle the herbal blend right into it.

Fun fact: if you let this drink sit for too long, the honey/garnish will eventually slide down the glass and end up in a pool at the base of the glass. I learned this the hard way while photographing this cocktail, lol.

The herbal blend contains lavender, hibiscus, and rosemary. I decided to play up one of those ingredients by infusing some gin with dried hibiscus leaves in order to end up with a bright red cocktail. Mission accomplished!

THE INFUSION

Hibiscus imparts a lot of color in a short amount of time. I infused my gin for less than three hours and it was a deep ruby red. Infusions with herbs can be tricky, because if you leave them in for too long, they can turn bitter. So I taste my infusions every hour or so until I’m satisfied that I’ve extracted enough flavor and color while preserving the original spirit.

THE GARNISH

Some garnishes can serve double-duty as a snack, such as the olives in a martini, or anything garnished with berries. Some garnishes are mostly to add aroma—like a bouquet of mint. This garnish is purely for show. It looks fancy, but it’s actually really easy.

You only need three things to do this at home: some honey, the herbal blend, and a small paintbrush that you can find at any arts & crafts store. You literally just dip the brush in the honey and paint a line onto the glass. Then you just sprinkle the herbs over the honey. It helps to press them in a little to make sure they stick.

Now this isn’t something I would do if I were just making cocktails at home for myself, but if I had company coming over, it certainly would kick off the evening in style! (Again, I can’t stress enough that you shouldn’t let the glass sit too long after applying the garnish.)

THE COCKTAIL

I originally had a vision of using this garnish on a Nick & Nora glass for a cocktail served up, but summer is Highball season (drinks served in tall glasses and lengthened with a bubbly element) so I went with a tall glass (interchangeably called a Highball or Collins glass). I’ll just have to create a different recipe and use this garnish again!

THE FULL RECIPE

Summer is Highball season, when everyone wants a crushable, refreshing drink. By infusing gin with dried hibiscus petals, you get a vibrant and flavorful base spirit. The Summer Spa Day herbal garnish makes things even more festive.

Summer Spa Highball
A hibiscus-infused gin recipe
a cocktail + garnish recipe using:
by Risa Weaver-Enion





2024 may
INDIAN BAY LEAF
DRINK DRESSING = GARNISH
A COCKTAIL GARNISH WITH:
Indian Bay Leaf Baking spices such as cinnamon, clove, and allspice are frequently used in cocktails, either as garnishes or infused into syrups and liqueurs. But savory herbs can be used as well. Sage pairs well with tequila and grapefruit. Thyme is perfect with rhubarb and just about any spirit. And bay leaf goes well with bourbon.

But did you know there are two types of bay leaf? I only recently discovered this, so don’t feel bad if you’re in the same boat!

May 2024
THE INSPIRATION

Laurel Bay Leaf (Lauris nobilis) is the more commonly seen type, but there’s also Indian Bay Leaf (Cinnamomum tamala), which is the leaf of the cinnamon tree. Laurel bay leaf is more common in Italian cooking and has a bit of pine and lemon in its scent. The Indian bay leaf is, perhaps not surprisingly, used in Indian cooking, and has a fragrance of cinnamon and cloves.

I originally created this recipe for a bourbon that had been finished in Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon barrels, which imparted a hint of (Laurel) bay leaf to the bourbon. So I garnished it with a whole bay leaf and cinnamon stick, to play off the cinnamon syrup. But when I discovered that there’s such a thing as Indian bay leaves, and that they smell like cinnamon, I realized they would make an even better garnish than the Laurel bay leaf.

The selection of Indian bay leaves I received from Selefina had a wide variety of sizes. One of them was at least six inches long! I don’t recommend using one that big for a cocktail garnish. Fortunately, they also come in more reasonable, garnish-appropriate sizes.

THE GARNISH

You can garnish by placing the bay leaf and cinnamon stick on top of the ice cube, but it’s a little easier to drink if you place them down inside the drink. Just don’t eat the bay leaf. Not that you would.

THE COCKTAIL

This cocktail recipe is not really based on an Old-Fashioned and not really based on a Vieux Carré, but you can see elements of both here. We start with a base of whiskey (bourbon, in this case), add a little sweetness via crème de cassis, maraschino liqueur, and cinnamon syrup, but then temper it with some bitterness from the Campari.

Crème de cassis is blackcurrant liqueur. It’s deeply flavorful, quite rich in taste, and super dark in color. A little goes a long way, much like maraschino liqueur. I kept the quantities of each ingredient fairly low so together they didn’t overwhelm the bourbon.

This drink works well either before dinner or after. It’s only about 2 ½ ounces in volume after stirring with ice to dilute, so it’s a relaxing little sipper. And if you’re wondering about the name, the original bourbon I used is called Athenaeum, which is derived from the Greek goddess of wisdom, Athena, and is “a building or room where books, periodicals, and newspapers are kept for use.” So...a library, lol. I imagined myself sipping this in a wood-paneled library while reading a classic novel. Not that I have a wood-paneled library, mind you. But one can dream.

THE FULL RECIPE

Three words: Indian Bay Leaf. The lesser-known bay leaf is from the cinnamon tree, and it smells like cinnamon. And cinnamon is a great pairing for bourbon, so let's put them all together in a delicious cocktail!

a cocktail + garnish recipe using:
by Risa Weaver-Enion





2024 april
CRYSTALLIZED GINGER SLICES
DRINK DRESSING = GARNISH
A COCKTAIL GARNISH WITH:
Crystallized Ginger Slices I created this recipe several years ago for Star Wars Day, which is May 4. Even if you are not a Star Wars fan, you’re probably familiar with the saying, “May the Force be with you.”

Well, some clever person designated May 4 as Star Wars Day and now we can all say, “May the Fourth be with you.”

April 2024
THE INSPIRATION

You actually do need to be a Star Wars fan to get the reference I make in the name of this drink. Han Solo (Harrison Ford’s character) is a spaceship pilot/smuggler. One of the items he smuggles is glitterstim spice, which is mined on a moon of the planet Kessel. It happens to be quite close to a cluster of black holes, making the route in and out of Kessel rather treacherous.

When Han Solo first meets Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi (who are trying to hire him to fly them off of Tatooine), he brags that his ship is the one that “made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs.” As an homage to both the glitterstim spice and the Kessel Run, I created this recipe.

[Selefina editorial: If you're old enough to mix this drink, you're old enough to know #HanShotFirst]

THE COCKTAIL

Rye whiskey is known for its spicy flavor profile. While bourbon is rather sweet because of its high corn content (at least 51% of the mashbill is required to be corn), rye whiskey is spicy because at least 51% of its mashbill must be rye. Since I was trying to design a cocktail to honor a made-up spice, rye whiskey was an obvious choice for the base spirit.

I modeled this recipe on a classic Old-Fashioned template, so I needed to get some bitters and some sweetness in there. Allspice dram is a liqueur made from a base of rum, with cinnamon sticks, allspice berries, and sugar added during the infusion process. It’s one of my favorite liqueurs, and I’ll take any excuse to use it.

Ginger liqueur was another way to get even more spice into the mix. I didn’t want the cocktail to be too sweet, so I took the typical half-ounce of simple syrup from an Old-Fashioned and split it evenly between the allspice dram and the ginger liqueur.

I wanted to keep the Angostura bitters in the recipe, but I also added cardamom bitters to get yet another spice in there. The brand I used is The Bitter Housewife out of Portland, OR.

THE GARNISH

Selefina’s Crystallized Ginger Root makes the perfect garnish for this drink! Not only does the garnish reference the ginger liqueur in the recipe, but it also makes a tasty snack when you finish your drink. I like to place the crystallized ginger down into the cocktail as I sip it, and then it’s soaked in whiskey by the time you finish your drink.

The crystallized ginger is nicely pliable, so it’s easy to run a cocktail pick through it. You also could do without the cocktail pick and just toss a piece of crystallized ginger right into the glass.

THE FULL RECIPE

This riff on an Old-Fashioned honors Star Wars and Han Solo by incorporating as many spice-based cocktail ingredients as possible. Mix one up to celebrate Star Wars Day on May 4, and May the Fourth be with you!

The Kessel Run
a Rye Whiskey Cocktail
a cocktail + garnish recipe using:
by Risa Weaver-Enion





2024 march
BLACK CACAO POWDER
DRINK DRESSING = GARNISH
A COCKTAIL GARNISH WITH:
Black Cacao Powder Sometimes things don’t go quite as you planned. I had a vision in my head of a perfectly shaped dusting of black cacao powder on top of this espresso martini. I bought a cake decorating stencil at Michaels and wanted to use the scroll design for this garnish.

Alas, the design was so big, and the black cacao powder was so fine, that in the end it was just sort of a blob of cacao on top of the drink. But at least it still tasted good!

March 2024
THE COCKTAIL

Let’s back up to the beginning. When I saw this new product on the Selefina website, I immediately wanted to use it on top of a foamy drink. Because National Espresso Martini Day is March 15, it seemed like a good choice, and coffee and chocolate are great together.

If you’ve ever had a freshly made espresso at a coffee shop (or at home), you know there’s a foamy top layer called the crema. It’s formed by microbubbles of carbon dioxide that attach to the oils and fats in coffee and rise to the top. When you make an espresso martini, you lose some of the crema effect due to the temperature change, but there’s still usually a layer of foam.

The traditional garnish for an espresso martini is three coffee beans on top of the crema. In order for the black cacao garnish to fit in better, I used an espresso martini recipe that includes some chocolate bitters. There are quite a few variations on the espresso martini recipe, but this one comes from the book Homemade Happy Hour by Katy McAvoy.

Admittedly, making espresso martinis at home is best done with access to a fancy espresso machine, but if you don’t have one of those, you can use a stove-top Moka Pot or cold brew coffee. (Note that cold brew coffee may not give you the foamy crema.) You also can go buy an espresso at a coffee shop if there’s one nearby. You want the espresso to be cold before using it in the cocktail, so it won’t matter if you have to carry it home first.

[Uses a recipe from book "Homemade Happy Hour" by Katy McAvoy. Check out @katymcavoy for more inspiration.]

THE GARNISH

Some tips for using the black cacao powder as a garnish:

  • It doesn’t come packaged with a shaker cap, so I transferred it to a (rather old) metal shaking tin.
  • Be sure to get your stencil as close as possible to the surface of the drink. The further the powder has to fall, the more opportunity it has for dispersing outside the boundary of the stencil.
  • Use a small stencil pattern! This is where I went wrong, lol. (You could skip the stencil altogether and just sprinkle a little bit of black cacao on top.)
  • Don’t get carried away with the cacao garnish. A light dusting will do just fine. On my second attempt at the garnish, I used even more powder than the first time, and by the time I finished photographing the drink, it was basically bubbling like black lava! It was funny, but not quite what I was going for.

THE FULL RECIPE

The Espresso Martini has been having a moment for at least a couple of years now. There are a variety of recipes out in the world, but this one by Katy McAvoy uses chocolate bitters to give it an even dessert-ier feel. A light sprinkle of Selefina Black Cacao Powder leans into the chocolate notes.

a cocktail + garnish recipe using:
by Risa Weaver-Enion

In order for the black cacao garnish to fit in better, I used an espresso martini recipe that includes some chocolate bitters. When you make an espresso martini, you lose some of the crema effect [of a freshly made espresso] due to the temperature change, but there's still usually a layer of foam.

It doesn’t come packaged with a shaker cap, so I transferred it to a (rather old) metal shaking tin. Be sure to get your stencil as close as possible to the surface of the drink. Use a small stencil pattern! This is where I went wrong, lol.
Don’t get carried away with the cacao garnish. A light dusting will do just fine. (You could skip the stencil altogether and just sprinkle a little bit of black cacao on top.)


2024 february
FLEUR DE SEL + GUAJILLO CHILE
DRINK DRESSING = RIM
A COCKTAIL GARNISH WITH:
Fleur de Sel & Guajillo Chile Powder A salted rim is a fairly common technique when it comes to margaritas. But what if you want something just a little more interesting than plain salt? Selefina’s Fleur de Sel and Guajillo Chile Powder make an excellent pairing to up-level your margarita rim.

February 2024
THE GARNISH

Guajillo chiles are not really spicy, rating a “mild to medium” on the Scoville scale. I find that they add a little bit of earthy smokiness when I use them in cocktails. Not like campfire smoke though, more like the subtle smoke in a mole sauce.

The advantage of a guajillo-sea salt rim is that you get not only the salty taste as you sip the drink, but also a nice aroma from the guajillo each time you raise the glass to your mouth. Eating and drinking are as much about aroma as taste, and the guajillo adds a level of complexity that regular salt cannot achieve.

And because the guajillo powder is a deep red, you get a nice pink salt mixture after combining it with the white sea salt. This adds visual interest to your drink, which is also important! We eat and drink with our eyes before anything gets to our stomachs.

THE GARNISH HOW TO

Before mixing your drink, you’ll want to prepare your glass with the salted rim. First, cut a lime in half through the long end, then cut each half in half again so you end up with four wedges. Slice a diagonal slit across one of the wedges—this is the wedge you’ll use to wet the rim of your glass.

Pour a small amount of fleur de sel into a small bowl. I find that a set of glass Pyrex prep bowls is super useful for this sort of thing. Add as much guajillo chile powder to the salt as you like, then stir to combine. Sprinkle the mixture onto a small plate so that it forms a pile in a line.

Tuck the rim of a rocks glass into the lime wedge with the slit and rotate it around so that about half the rim is covered in lime juice. Dip the wet rim into your pile of guajillo-sea salt mixture and gently dab it while rotating until the rim is well salted. Set the glass aside while you prepare the rest of the recipe.

I like to salt only a portion of the rim because not everyone wants salt with every sip of their margarita. When preparing drinks only for yourself, you can do whatever you want. But if you’re preparing drinks for friends or family (or strangers!) it’s nice to give people some flexibility.

One last tip: the fleur de sel is fairly large grains of salt. If you prefer smaller grains, and if you have a mortar and pestle (or a spice and coffee grinder), you can feel free to crush or grind the sea salt to a finer texture before combining it with the guajillo powder, which is very fine.

THE FULL RECIPE

You can easily jazz up a margarita by salting the rim of your glass with something other than plain salt. By adding some guajillo chile powder to sea salt, you get a subtle earthy smokiness that complements the vegetal notes from the tequila.

a cocktail + garnish recipe using:
by Risa Weaver-Enion

Pour a small amount of fleur de sel into a small bowl. I find that a set of glass Pyrex prep bowls is super useful for this sort of thing. Add as much guajillo chile powder to the salt as you like, then stir to combine. Sprinkle the mixture onto a small plate so that it forms a pile in a line.

Tuck the rim of a rocks glass into the lime wedge with the slit and rotate it around so that about half the rim is covered in lime juice. Dip the wet rim into your pile of guajillo-sea salt mixture and gently dab it while rotating until the rim is well salted. Set the glass aside while you prepare the rest of the recipe.
I like to salt only a portion of the rim because not everyone wants salt with every sip of their margarita. When preparing drinks only for yourself, you can do whatever you want. But if you’re preparing drinks for friends or family (or strangers!) it’s nice to give people some flexibility.


2024 january
CLOVES + CINNAMON
DRINK DRESSING = GARNISH
A COCKTAIL GARNISH WITH:
Whole Cloves The short days of winter are prime time for baking, and the warm winter baking spices—think cinnamon, clove, star anise, and allspice—are delicious in cocktails. You can use them as ingredients, whether via a spiced syrup or allspice dram, or as garnishes.

For this cocktail, I decided to focus on clove as a garnish. But cloves are tiny, so how do you garnish with them??

January 2024
THE GARNISH

A twist of orange peel is the traditional garnish for many classic cocktails. Studding the orange peel with whole cloves is an easy way to up-level a twist, so that was the jumping off point for the rest of this recipe. With cloves in the garnish, I wanted to work them into the recipe as well. I decided to make a clove simple syrup, but then at the last minute, I tossed in a whole cinnamon stick too, because clove & cinnamon are a match made in heaven.

THE COCKTAIL

Once I had the cinnamon-clove syrup, I started to think about a base spirit. The Old-Fashioned template is one of my favorites to play with. It’s mostly spirit, with a bit of sweetness and a bit of bitterness. It’s usually made with whiskey, but you can swap out that base spirit for any other aged spirit and have yourself a totally different drink.

Cinnamon and clove both go well with rum, so I split the base between two rums, one from Hawai’i and one from Jamaica. Gold rum has a bit more body and flavor than white rum, and the Smith & Cross Jamaica pot still rum has a distinctive aroma and “funk” to it, which is why it’s used in a smaller quantity.

I wanted the orange to be present in the drink itself, and not just in the garnish, so I added a bit of orange liqueur. Then I decided to bring some banana liqueur to the mix to amp up the tropical feeling of the whole thing. Mole bitters completed the picture, further adding some warmth and spice.

THE GARNISH HOW TO

This garnish may look fancy, but it’s fairly easy to make. First, peel a long, wide strip of orange peel using a Y-peeler (or vegetable peeler). Trim all four sides of the orange peel with a sharp knife to create straight edges in the shape of a parallelogram. Poke the sharp end of a clove into the orange peel at intervals. Don’t place the cloves too close together, or you won’t be able to twist the orange peel. I find that 4-5 cloves is usually the right number, but it depends on how long your orange peel strip is. Wrap the clove-studded orange peel around a whole cinnamon stick and balance it on top of the ice cube in your cocktail.

THE FULL RECIPE

Tropical aromas of banana and orange meet the warming spices of cinnamon, clove, and mole in this robust take on a Rum Old-Fashioned.

Welcome to the Jungle
A Rum Cocktail
a cocktail + garnish recipe using:
by Risa Weaver-Enion

The warm winter baking spices—think cinnamon, clove, star anise, and allspice—are delicious in cocktails. You can use them as ingredients, whether via a spiced syrup or allspice dram, or as garnishes.

Peel a long, wide strip of orange peel using a Y-peeler (or vegetable peeler). Trim all four sides of the orange peel with a sharp knife to create straight edges in the shape of a parallelogram. Poke the sharp end of a clove into the orange peel at intervals.
A twist of orange peel is the traditional garnish for many classic cocktails. Studding the orange peel with whole cloves is an easy way to up-level a twist, so that was the jumping off point for the rest of this recipe.



garnish + rim:
SPICES USED
MAKE-A-COCKTAIL SPICE COLLECTION

A quick list of all the spices Risa used in this series.

5.0
(Tej Patta)
whole, various sizes
Commonly used in Indian and South Asian cuisines. It has a distinctive fragrance and a warm, slightly sweet flavor. NOT to be confused with bay laurel bay leaves.
1.5 oz - REFILL $4
5.0
crystallized
slices
Crystallized ginger root is tender and sweet with a spicy bite. Add chopped crystallized ginger to dishes for chewy texture and a bit of sweet spiciness.
2.5 oz - REFILL$4
8 oz - REFILL$12
2.5 oz - REFILL $4
5.0
low fat (10-12%)
powder
Black Cacao Powder, with its deep black color and smooth flavor, is perfect for visually striking, richly flavored baked goods and desserts.
TRY ME - SAMPLE$0.75
2 oz - JAR$4
2 oz - REFILL$3
8 oz - REFILL$9
TRY ME - SAMPLE $0.75
4.8
gourmet sea salt
flakes
This gourmet artisanal finishing salt is harvested by hand from the coast of France. This bright white treasure is comprised of snow-like crystals and has a slight hint of violets. Use only a pinch of this to enhance dishes just before serving.
TRY ME - SAMPLE$0.75
3 oz - JAR$7
3 oz - REFILL$6
16 oz - REFILL$29
TRY ME - SAMPLE $0.75
4.9
powder
Powdered dried guajillo chiles have layered flavor notes that add complexity to dishes without overpowering them. This chile's powder is sweet and fruity with a mild heat. Used frequently with ancho and pasilla chiles in Mexican cooking.
TRY ME - SAMPLE$0.75
2 oz - JAR$6
2 oz - REFILL$5
TRY ME - SAMPLE $0.75
4.9
whole
Whole cloves are intensely aromatic dried flower buds that will impart a warm pungency. It has a slight sweetness on the tongue balanced by a spicy bite.
TRY ME - SAMPLE$0.75
1.1 oz - JAR$5
1.1 oz - REFILL$4
6 oz - REFILL$14
TRY ME - SAMPLE $0.75
5.0
cassia
2 3/4" quills
Cassia cinnamon sticks are rigid making them ideal for aromatic crafting or for use as flavor-imbuing stirrers.
1.2 oz - REFILL$4
5 oz - REFILL$12
1.2 oz - REFILL $4