You’re Opening A Bar! An Essential Buying Guide Part 4: Garnishes, Rimmers, and Mixers

You’re Opening A Bar! An Essential Buying Guide Part 4: Garnishes, Rimmers, and Mixers

This is the forth and final installment in a series where we’ve visited all of the essential elements your new bar needs. We’re going to ensure that it is ready for success from the word GO! If you missed them, check out Part 1: Essential Equipment, Glassware and Extras , Part 2: Liquors, Liqueurs and Balancing Your Shelves  and Part 3: Beer, Wine and Other Alcoholic Beverages.

 We’re finally here!! We’ve gone through all the parts and tools that you need to make your bar work. You’ve stocked your liquor shelves. You’ve ordered kegs and are are tapping them into those new beer lines. But we have just one more step, garnishes and mixers. Two of these title categories, garnishes and mixers, contain fresh produce. These are by far the most perishable items that you’ll be ordering. This means that you need to work out good pars to ensure that you always have enough. However, you also never want to have to throw food away because it’s gone bad.


You’re Opening A Bar! An Essential Buying Guide Part 4: Garnishes, Rimmers, and Mixers

Firstly come limes, lemons, oranges, olives, and cherries;anything else in this section is secondary to these five pillars of bar garnishes. Slices, wedges, wheels, peels, twists, squeezed, skewered, and muddled, these fruits (yes, olives are fruits) will garnish the majority of your drinks. Make a note, there are two types of cherry, the real maraschino and the imitation with the same name; the imitation is the bright red one you’re probably used to. If you’re opening a high end cocktail bar you’ll be wanting the real, bandy soaked, deal; for anything else you can stick with the over-sugared forgery. You’re going to need these next four garnishes in your bar as well.

Celery – A bloody mary does not look complete if it has not had a bushy celery stalk potted in it. We discuss bloody mary garnishes more below but celery, along with slices of lemon and lime, and some olives, make up the principal garnishes for a bloody mary.

Whipped Cream – For hot chocolates, and coffees; both spiked or un-spiked. Some bars will also put it on smoothies , milkshakes, and blended cocktails in the summers.

Pickled Onions – Not everyone has them, but when you do have them they keep for a long while. You will use these for the infrequently served gibson martini.

Mint – Mint juleps, mojitos and whiskey smashes call for this fresh herb. Over the warmer months you should definitely mint behind your bar.

From here on out what additional garnishes you keep on hand will depend on what you want to do with them. Ff you have a kitchen you can cross-utilize ingredients as garnishes. You can get creative here. All of these additional garnishes will fall into three categories.

Fruits – Berries are always good to use to make variations of classic cocktails. During the summer, pineapple wedges are a common garnishes for piña coladas at this time of year. Fruits are seasonal so remember that prices will fluctuate. However, if you can stay on top of it, this allows you to get garnishes cheap when you can and switch it up when prices rise.

Bloody Mary – This is really just the crazy category, and you can place almost anything vegetal or savory here. Pepperoncinis, pickles, carrots, jalapeños, bacon strips, shrimp, onion rings, sliders, cheese cubes, and jalapeño poppers are just some of the things that you can use to garnish bloody marys. This will help them stand out from the crowd. These items don’t go on any other beverages, just bloody marys, just keep that in mind when making your bloody mary garnish decisions.

Spices – Cinnamon sticks and cloves are excellent garnishes for your hot toddies and other hot beverages. Some keep cinnamon powder behind the bar for putting atop the whipped cream on hot chocolates and coffees.

Rimming Salts and Sugars

You’re Opening A Bar! An Essential Buying Guide Part 4: Garnishes, Rimmers, and Mixers

Salt and sugar are necessary for rimming margaritas and cocktail glasses however some will mix up their own to add some flair to their cocktails. Think of a bloody mary with an Old Bay Seasoning salt rim, or an appletini with an apple sour sugar rim (crushed apple sour candies mixed with sugar). The possibilities are quite endless -and low cost- just ensure that whatever you do is in keeping with your brand and your image.


You’re Opening A Bar! An Essential Buying Guide Part 4: Garnishes, Rimmers, and Mixers

There are a wide range of mixers and additions to cocktails and beverages. We cover all of those in this section. These are some of the main flavoring ingredients of your drinks and cocktails so quality is key here.

Sodas – One of two big brands will supply you. They’ll install the gun for you and often provide maintenance on the equipment also. Here you’re going to want a cola, a lemon and lime soda, and from thereon our the choices are yours, root beer is a popular one, as are iced teas and lemonades. Cranberry juice is also a popular drink to find on a soda gun.

Bloody Mary Mix – You can buy this or make it in house. Some buy the mixes and jack them up, others start with a base of tomato juice and build their own. The best are always house-made.

Sour Mix – Again, you can buy this or make it in house. It’s also possible to have this in your soda gun. The ones out of soda guns are good however, as with bloody mary mixes, homemade is much better. A combination of lemon and lime juices, along with simple syrup will be all you need; some use only one juice. Head out to other bars and try their sour mixes,see what differences you taste, then you can decide where to go with your own.

Fruit Juices – Orange, cranberry, grapefruit, and pineapple are your necessary fruit juices. Apple juice is also an option however this is mainly drunk by children, so if you’re opening a family joint then you’re going to want it, if your not expecting a huge amount of tiny customers then don’t bother with apple juice.

Citrus Juices – Lemon and lime juices are necessary cocktail ingredients and, because you have so many on hand for garnishes,squeezing your own is always an option. Just keep in mind price fluctuation and shelf life. Freshly squeezed juices can taste wildly different to pre-squeezed bottles of citrus juices; and if you’re not ready to commit to squeezing your own year round then it’s probably best to begin with buying it.

Bitters – Not a true “mixer” but this is the category into which it fits. Bitters are an essential ingredient in many classic cocktail sand you’ll find two brands specified in recipes more than any others.

Grenadine – A sticky red, sweet, sugar cordial that is often just an imitation of its former self, and is used for sweetening cocktails and coloring them red. The imitation is what everyone uses and is what everyone expects. If you’re high end you should look into getting some high quality grenadine.

Lime Cordial – Becoming less popular nowadays, this is however a versatile ingredient, it is considered by many as an essential ingredient in the gimlet and can be used to add a sweet yet tart lime edge to other beverages.

That’s it!! If you followed our comprehensive four part guide through, your bar should now be ready to rock and roll! Good luck to you in your venture into the world as bar owner and manager and please tell us how you get on. Keep checking back to our blog for more cocktail ideas and management tips.


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Benjamin Michael Beddow

Food and Beverage Professional

As a food and beverage professional for over ten years, Ben has spent most of his time behind the bar, giving him a broad and in-depth knowledge of all things drinkable and drink related. Now, as a traveling freelance writer exploring the gastronomy, drinks, and food service industry of the world, Ben has taken his knowledge and experiences to the world wide web to share with others. The love for the trade never dies and Ben can still be found running around restaurants and slinging drinks in ski resorts in the USA during the winter season.

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