One of the great aspects about Halloween cocktails is that you can have a lot of fun with the presentation. This is the occasion in which you can think of your cocktail garnishes just as you would your costume and there is virtually no limit to where your imagination can take you.
Below are a few simple suggestions to get you started in creating the creepiest of adornments for your drinks.
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The eyeball is a creepy organ and there is no time better than Halloween to bring them out. There are many ways to construct eyeballs to use for garnishes and which you choose is going to depend a lot on the style of drink you are serving.
One of my favorite eyeballs is in the picture and goes with the Mad Eye Martini, though it can compliment any number of light flavored or fruity drinks. This one is made with a lychee, a blueberry, and fruit preserves, which create the veins. It is a great... concept and the lychee is the perfect candidate for the casing because of its texture and membrane-like feel. A detailed tutorial can be found here: DIY Lychee Eyeball Garnish.
Another eyeball you might try for savory drinks involves a radish and an olive. The idea is part of this Vampire Juice drink. Here is a detailed tutorial with a few (much needed) tips: How to Make a Radish Eyeball.
These eyeballs inspired another version that uses onion and olive, which you can see in this YouTube video: drEYE Martini.
So the effect of your eyeball creations is not lost, don't drown them in the drink, but skewer the eyes and rest it on top of the glass. Another option is to use them as ice by adding them to a full tray of water and freezing overnight.
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Take your pumpkin carving skills to a smaller medium by carving your garnish. This is a neat little trick that can go with almost any cocktail and is pictured here in this Jack O' Lantern made with (of all things) Jack Daniel's .
All you need is a knife or channel knife, a little patience, and some fruit to practice with. The orange is a perfect candidate because of its color and thick skin. The trick is to carve out the orange peel, leaving a thin layer of the white pith visible. The... second trick is to carefully peel the circle you cut from the fruit. Like I said, a little patience and practice and you have a great garnish.
Try this technique with other citrus fruit as well, or you can do the same with hot pepper garnishes, cutting through the entire skin. Another great addition to the orange face is to burn it as you would any burnt orange peel.
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This is a clever and easy garnish that can be used in a multitude of drinks, especially those with a concentration of orange juice, like this Jack O'Lantern Cocktail. By having the orange colored drink as a base and serving it in a short, round glass the full effect of the pumpkin can be achieved.
Constructing this garnish is simple: Cut an orange wheel and a small lime peel. Twist the lime and poke it into the middle of the orange. This faux pumpkin cap will float on your drink and if you... add a straw to one side of the orange, the cocktail below easy to drink.
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We're not really talking about "slime" here, but more of a swampy sludge look that can be added to your drinks. This technique works best with drinks that include egg like the Bayou Slime pictured because of the foam that is created when shaking and straining these drinks.
The thick, white film that floats atop egg drinks is the ideal palate and any complimentary herb (in this case, mint) can be torn and scattered on top to complete the garnish. If an appropriate addition to the... drink, add grated nutmeg or cinnamon for the look of dirt as well.Continue to 5 of 11 below.
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Colored Sugar Rim
Drinks that call for a sugar rim, or that could be enhanced with one, can be transformed into a slightly creepier version for Halloween. This can be created by simply using red or black sugar as the Vampire Kiss Martini demonstrates.
There are two options for colored sugar. You can usually find it in the baking section of the grocery store. It is typically used for decorating sweets but makes a colorful rimming option well. The alternative is to add just a few drops of food coloring to white... sugar to make any color you want. For Halloween, I prefer the latter because the liquid turns the sugar into more of a gooey substance that sticks easily to the glass, though it does also clump more.
Also, try running the rim through grenadine for a red base before the sugar for a more dynamic effect.
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We are going to use another Vampire's Kiss cocktail to demonstrate another bloody effect.
Essentially, you are going to use a red or other dark syrupy liquid to drizzle over the finished drink to create the look of dripping blood. Grenadine and raspberry liqueurs are perfect for creating this look and are thick enough to suspend in the drink a little longer.
You can also freeze a red syrup inside the glass to create a foggy, bloody scene like this Melon Eye-tini demonstrates.
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I will admit, this is probably the most difficult garnish to pull off depending on your approach, but if you can get the technique down, your drinks will be stellar. There are a few ways to create the look of spider webs inside a glass...
The more interesting and far trickier is demonstrated in the Spider's Kiss and involves drawing the web with chocolate syrup. The key here is to work fast and freeze the glass immediately to avoid too many runs in your syrup. Then again, dripping chocolate... can be an interesting effect as well.
The other technique is seen in one of mixologist Victoria D'Amato-Moran's other Midori cocktails. In the Green Ghoul, she uses black licorice strips placed along the sides and these are held in place by a generous pile of ice cubes.
Now, one last option is to put the webbing on the outside of the glass using glass markers, which can be found at most craft stores. Pick up some cheap glasses to paint and have fun creating the webbing, even adding highlights like the glass pictured.
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Here is another very simple, yet effective, "garnish." Essentially, you're just adding a glow stick to your drinks like the Halloween Hpnotist demonstrates. The dual advantage here is that you get a cool looking drink and a stir stick. An alternative to this is to wrap a glowing necklace or bracelet around the stem of a glass, securing it with glue on either end.
This cool effect does need some warning. The chemicals inside a glow stick are nasty so be sure that the sticks you use are... not leaking before placing them in a drink. The other point - and I would hope this would go without saying - is, please rinse the sticks before putting them in anyone's drinks... it's simple sanitation.Continue to 9 of 11 below.
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Dry ice is an ideal way to add a foggy atmosphere to a party and is perfect for use on a drink table or display.
A classic way to incorporate dry ice is to use it under a punch bowl illuminated by black lights. The foggy drink and punch bowl hands are two of my favorites.
Though it may be a neat effect, not everyone (myself included) enjoys dry ice directly in their drink and it has been known to have dangerous side effects. This is primarily due to drinkers unknowingly consuming the ice, usually... because they do not realize (or are too drunk to know) that it is too cold to consume. Use caution when serving dry ice.
A unique dry ice idea comes from Nick Tether's La Dame Blasee cocktail. He uses dry ice as an aromatic back to the absinthe and vodka cocktail. A similar foggy cup could be used to compliment almost any cocktail.
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The disclaimer first: Do not play with fire if you have been drinking. Also, be very careful anytime you light a drink on fire and be aware of surroundings, people, and other flammables nearby.
"Parental" warnings aside, fire is cool and drinks on fire are also cool. There's no dispute in that. You could try this Goblet of Fire, a classic Blue Blazer, a Flaming Spanish Coffee, or (for the more daring) a Flaming Dr. Pepper to add a little spark to your party.
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Ice is essential in cocktails and if your Halloween drink menu includes a few that are served over ice, you may want to use some ghoulish ice. One can find ice molds and trays in a variety of shapes, from skeletons and ghosts to fangs and pumpkins. It's a fun little addition to the party.
You can also add fruit to ordinary cubes to add the illusion of mysterious floaters.
Those that I would avoid are the reusable ice cubes. They may be fun, but the ice in our cocktails is not there for the... sole purpose of keeping the drink cool. The ice's adds to the drink, mellowing it over time and that is something that plastic ice cannot do.