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Mix Up Your Garnish Game With These Unexpected Flora

Go beyond the tried-and-true cocktail garnishes with these unique ingredients straight from the farm.

Charlotte Voisey mixes up cocktails with The Chef's Garden farm-fresh ingredients at Tales 2017. Charlotte Voisey mixes up cocktails with The Chef's Garden's farm-fresh ingredients at Tales 2017. Photo by Jennifer Mitchell Photography.

As the Executive Chef Liaison for The Chef's Garden in Huron, Ohio, Jamie Simpson is no stranger to exploring new flavors and unexpected combinations. The fact that he lives smack-dab in the middle of a working farm with more than 700 varieties of vegetables at his fingertips gives his test kitchen a plethora of ingredients to play with.

Simpson attended Tales this past summer to showcase some of the farm's unusual and unexpected crops — many of which grow in miniature form, making them the perfect garnish to perch on the edge of your next drink. Whether he's working with bartenders or executive chefs, Simpson thrives on introducing his clients to the farm's bounty of beautiful produce.

Below, Simpson suggests a myriad of herbs and flowers to replace the standard orange peel or sprig of mint. These garnishes, while not as commonly known, are both visually pleasing and packed full of flavor. They're also adaptable for whatever the next "it drink" or trendy spirit may be. "As far as trends go, lately we're seeing many sour ingredients, mostly high in malic and oxalic acids, take off," Simpson noted. "This includes begonias, sorrels, and rhubarb."

So the next time you reach for a standard lemon wedge to top off your Bloody Mary or an orange wheel in an Old-Fashioned, consider one of these farm-fresh and unexpected garnishes instead.

Try a Lemon Stick instead of a cocktail stirrer.

For lemon flavors

  • Lemon stick: "By far my favorite substitution for cocktail skewers with a bright lemon acidity."
  • Lemon verbena: "Good for lemon zest or lemon oil."
  • Lemon balm
  • Citrus begonia
  • Red hibiscus
  • Wild rhubarb
  • Lucky clover

Citrus Lace has a long shelf life. Citrus Lace has a long shelf life and a flavor reminiscent of orange soda.

For orange flavors

  • Citrus lace with bloom: "Orange zest and orange soda flavors; a beautifully balanced herb study for cocktails, and a long shelf life."
  • Black mint
  • Marigolds
  • Marigold sprigs

Basil blooms from the Chef's Garden. Basil blooms from The Chef's Garden are intensely flavorful.

For basil flavors

  • Mixed basil blooms: "An assortment of eye-opening, intensely basil contributions for any glass."
  • Cinnamon basil
  • Micro Basil

The Chef's Garden grows more than 20 varieties of mint. The Chef's Garden grows more than 20 varieties of mint.

For mint flavors

  • Mountain mint: "Size-to-flavor ratio is off the charts here. Spearmint, English mint, mint oil, all crammed into one tiny unassuming purple and green leaf."
  • Pineapple mint
  • Banana mint
  • Chocolate mint
  • Pineapple mint
  • Orange mint

For tomatoes

  • Sweet pea currant tomatoes: "Great for a Bloody Mary."

For celery

  • Petite celery whole head

Cuke with bloom from the Chef's Garden This miniature cucumber ups your garnish game in any gin cocktail.

For cucumbers

  • Cucumber with bloom attached: "A favorite for gin lovers."
  • Borage blooms
  • Cucamelon

For spice

  • Nasturtiums, yellow or red: "These sweet peppery blooms are show-stoppers and attention grabbers."
  • Shishito peppers

Popcorn Shoots are a tender, sweet garnish. Popcorn Shoots are a tender, sweet garnish.

For sugar

  • Micro popcorn shoots: "Whiskey lover's choice every time."
  • Green corn shoots
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