Whitney Miller Garnishes the Holidays with Sweet Ciders

Garnishes aren’t just for presentation anymore. Whether they’re for food or drinks, garnishes should be used to enhance the dish and highlight flavors. One of the first things my competitors and I were told by the judges on MasterChef was to not add purposeless garnishes to the dish. Remember that once-popular huge sprig of parsley on your plate that went untouched?

My advice for garnishing is simple:

  • Garnish with an herb to let your guests know what’s in the dish.
  • Garnish to add color and flavor (i.e. chives add a peppery, onion bite and a touch of bright green).

The same garnish tips can be applied to drinks. Think about what can enhance a drink or stimulate the senses before sipping — like an aromatic orange slice perched on the rim of your Entertaining Collection drinkware. Or tickle the taste buds with sugar or salt rimming the tumbler’s edge.

A great example is how well rosemary honey works with the pear in my Blushing Mocktail. The rosemary’s earthy and piney flavor cuts the sweetness of the pear juice and adds dimension to this drink. The addition of cranberry juice awakens the taste buds with its tart flavor. To garnish the mocktail, add a rosemary sprig to let guests know what to expect.

Blushing Mocktail
1 cup pear juice
3 cups cranberry cocktail juice
Rosemary honey (recipe follows)

Combine the pear juice and cranberry cocktail juice in a pitcher. Add the rosemary honey to taste for sweetness. Stir until combined.

Chill and serve. Garnish each Stout tumbler with a rosemary sprig.

Serves 4

Rosemary honey
1 cup honey
1 teaspoon chopped rosemary

Combine the honey and rosemary in a small saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh strainer over a bowl. Allow to cool completely and store in an air-tight container.

If you entertain during the holidays, try a drink station. Set out beverages and garnishes and allow your guests to serve and garnish their own drinks. For my fall drink station, I created a Sipping Cider that I serve chilled, instead of hot like a typical cider.

For garnishes, use cinnamon sticks, orange twists, and cranberry-infused sugar.

A cinnamon stick adds a warming spice to the beverage.

The orange twist — when rubbed around the edge of the tumbler and dangled on the rim — awakens the senses with its zesty citrus aroma.

To rim the Stout drinkware with the cranberry sugar, add a light coating of honey to the tumbler’s edge and then dip in the sugar.

The cranberry sugar’s tart, bright flavor perks up the taste buds.

Sipping Cider
3 cups 100% apple cider
4 tablespoons cranberry juice
1 tablespoon (or add more to taste) fresh orange juice

cinnamon sticks
orange twists
cranberry sugar

Combine the apple cider, cranberry juice and orange juice in a pitcher. Add the honey to taste for sweetness. Stir to combine.

Chill and serve with a desired garnish.

Serves 4

Whitney MillerWhen she was just 22, Whitney Miller won the first U.S. season of the Fox show MasterChef. She is the author of Modern Hospitality: Simple Recipes with Southern Charm. While working on her second cookbook, she frequently travels around the U.S. and as far away as China to conduct cooking demonstrations and culinary classes. For more, visit whitneymiller.net, connect with Whitney MillerH on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @whitneymillerH.