Hey Good Looking @ TOTC 2013

Earlier this year, William Grant held the May Mix Off at the JW Marriot, in downtown LA. The five week long competition pitted LA bartenders against each other for a chance at an all-expense paid trip to Tales of the Cocktail. At the finals, judge Charlotte Voisey eyed my cocktail and smiled, “If you win, I’m inviting you as a panelist on my seminar at tales”. 

My winning cocktail was called No Pain – No Gain. I designed it as a playful variation on a Painkiller. Instead of using a coconut cream, I made a cream from guava puree, heavy cream and a delicious California wild flower honey. The ROOT added some baking spice notes which held up really nicely to the heat from the Sailor Jerry. The remaining ingredients gave the cocktail the tropical flavors it needed to be bright and refreshing.

No Pain – No Gain 

2 oz. Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum
.25 oz. ROOT
1oz. Fresh Honey Pacifica Creamy Wild Flower  Honey & Guava Cream
1oz. Orange
1oz. Pineapple
1/4 oz. Lime Juice
2 Dash Angostura Bitters
Shake with crushed ice, dump & fill with more crushed ice in a tiki glass
Garnish Lavishly

Fast forward to New Orleans and Tales of the Cocktail 2013, where I had the privilege of participating in Hey Good Looking, a seminar about garnishing at the Royal Sonesta. A packed house settled in as Charlotte Voisey and Francesco Lafranconni introduced themselves, Jacopo Falleni, and myself.

A deck of playing cards from the famous London bar, Nightjar, awaited everyone at their seats.  A picture of various cocktails adorned every card. It was a great souvenir to take home!

I had been called on the panel to talk about competition & tiki garnishes. I decided to bring the two together and make an over-the-top tiki competition garnish!

At the seminar, Francesco, Charlotte and Jacopo shared their great garnishing ideas.

With the help of live demonstrations, they showed various garnishes that had practical applications behind the bar. Using a variety of  straws, pics, swizzles, and fruits they made some really cool garnishes that impressed the audience.

I was invited on stage and gave a live cocktail and garnish demo. While my cocktail No Pain – No Gain was passed out for everyone to enjoy, I spoke a little on the fun that can be had with tiki & competition garnishes. While you have limitless possibilities when it comes to garnishing, it’s important to set some boundaries.

Some good starting off points to create a memorable and creative garnish are:

  • considering the theme of the competition
  • your setting
  • the spirit or liqueurs used in the drink
  • something abstract like a mental scene you want to recreate

The big reveal came as I assembled the finished garnish. I drew inspiration for this garnish from the idea of sailors landing on foreign ports while traveling. Their experiences must have put them face to face with exotic ingredients, new people and breath taking scenery. I wanted recreate that in miniaturized form.

I started off by building a mini satellite looking garnish, complete with orange and meyer lemon peel fins. A kiwi fan was held together by a paper umbrella and in the center off it all a cucumber ship holding a flag was being looked on by a lonely blue mermaid. The bamboo straw was held in place by a neatly trimmed orange peel.

This guy needs to drink that mini bottle atop of him.

To finish it off, a small bar of dark chocolate alongside a miniature bottle of Sailor Jerry rested atop a lime. It was all served in one of my favorite mugs from Tiki Farm, a grumpy looking native, knife in hand, surrounded by the skulls of his victims.

Thanks for all of your help, Laura!

To close the seminar, I decided to make a fun on-the-fly garnish. A radish creature with a green mop top & tongue outstretched took residence on the rim of this glass. I had a great time participating in the seminar &  sharing my ideas & creativity. It was one of my personal highlights of this year’s Tales of the Cocktail.

  • Jim


    Great post! Let me know if you ever have an opening as your barback. ;) My garnishes could use a pick me up.

    • Edwin Cruz

      Thanks! Next time you’re around. I’ll have to give you a garnish 101 mini class.

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